What Alabama Means To Me

Hi, my name is Lyell Walker, I am an Alabama fan and I am an addict. I’m crazy, passionate, intense and over all obsessed with all Alabama sports teams and I have a deep love for the University as well. Sadly, I was not able to attend the University of Alabama as a student (one of the greatest regrets of my life) but my love for Alabama goes so much deeper than sports. You could say that being a fan of the Alabama Crimson Tide defines me. I know it sounds crazy to be defined personally by fandom but it’s true.

I was born in Mobile, AL and from day one there was no question whatsoever where my allegiance would lie. There is a picture of 6 month old baby Lyell being held by my late grandfather and we both are in Alabama gear. That’s picture almost didn’t happen because my grandfather, being a Kentucky fan, didn’t exactly want to be seen in a Alabama hat.  I don’t think I can properlly describe how big of a deal this was.

So, how did I end up an Alabama fan? Take away the history of winning, the 13 National Championships, all the traditions, Bear Bryant, Denny Chimes, The Quad, Wallace Wade etc etc. Let’s be honest, at 4 years old all that doesn’t matter. I simply fell in love with the idea of Alabama and that love is as strong today as it was 29 years ago. I simply can’t fathom being a fan of any other team. You may ask yourself, if I didn’t attend Alabama why didn’t I choose another team to cheer for? Because being a fan of Alabama goes so much deeper than just where you paid tuition…

My earliest memories of Alabama started in the early 90’s. I wasn’t around for the Bear Bryant years and I simply don’t remember the late 80’s. The first game I honestly can recollect would be the 1992 National Championship game against the Miami Hurricanes. I was only 8 but I remember the game like it was yesterday. I vividly remember doing the “High Step” around the house and freaking out after the “The Strip”. One of the greatest plays in not only Alabama history but also College Football. Though the rest of the 90’s and some of the early 2000’s were filled with drama and NCAA sanctions, memories of watching Bama games on Saturday afternoons with my Dad are ones I hold close to my heart. My Father and I have always been close but it’s sports that truly connected us. Memories of grilling steaks, eating Ribs, pulled pork and watching football with my Dad are flooding my mind as I write this. To this day, we have weekly conversations breaking down games, plays and defensive blunders. Football, not just Alabama football, has been a Walker tradition my entire life and I plan on continuing this tradition with my own kids.

It wasn’t until I moved from the state of Alabama to Tennessee when being an Alabama fan defined me. Growing up in Mobile I was one of thousands, in Tennessee however I was the only one. I spent three years in Nashville and never personally knew a Bama fan (except when we went to games). I’ve lived in Tallahassee, FL and Atlanta, GA and not once did I have a friend who also was a Bammer. It’s crazy to think about just how big Bama Nation is yet I have been on an island since 1995. There is good news to this sad story as I’m no longer on this island alone. It may have taken a few years but I have officially converted my wife. (I heart her). She never misses a game, has a Houndstooth everything, screams at the TV/players during games, loves Tuscaloosa and argues with co-workers if they talk bad about our team. My favorite though is that she understands completely how much Alabama means to me …god I love her.

No matter how long I live outside of the state of Alabama it will always be my home. When I visit Alabama I feel at peace. After all, regardless of what team we pull for we are all Alabamians. I cried when the April 2011 tornadoes ripped through the state killing hundreds. When I go to Tuscaloosa for games 200,000 crazy, rabid Bama fans automatically become 200,000 of my closest friends. When I see the random Bama fan around Tallahassee, a simple “Roll Tide” is all that’s needed. I’ll never forget the first time my wife got her first “Roll Tide”. You see, being a fan of Alabama is so much more than just about cheering for a team. It’s part of who you are as a person.

Tonight will be the 3rd time in my life that Alabama plays for a National Championship (we won the previous two). I’ve already received Facebook messages, Twitter @ replies, co-workers coming by my desk, text messages and emails all asking how I’m feeling about the game. My answer? As always I’m nervous.  Like about to throw up nervous. I couldn’t sleep last night yet I have the energy to run 10 miles. I wore my Alabama tie and watch to work, the tattered Bama car flag is flying high (as it has all season long) and I can’t concentrate on anything but the game. Maybe to non-Bama fans I take Alabama football too seriously. Perhaps but to that I ask, why aren’t you as passionate about your team? Because to me this is normal. 

I hold being not only an Alabama fan but also that I was born and raised in Alabama as a sense of pride. I have a deep love for the state and feel very much connected to her even after all these years. So this isn’t about football or a University. It’s who I am. 

Roll Tide and on to #14!

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