I flew into Birmingham from Tampa on Southwest on Friday. 85% of my flight was going to the game and probably 40% were Alabama fans. It made for an interesting atmosphere on the short 1 hour 15 minute flight. Friday we spent in Birmingham where I saw the campus of UAB and that was about as interesting as it sounds. Saturday was the event though and it didn't disappoint.
It's important to note that I attended the game with people knowledgeable about Alabama and one of them still attended school there. We headed to the stadium at 11 AM for the 7 PM local kickoff. Birmingham is one hour from Tuscaloosa and fortunately we didn't hit traffic but it must be noted that there are Bama gameday detour signs at several exist where apparently they have routes mapped out to alleviate traffic. If there was a general parking area, I didn't see it. We parked on someone's lawn for $20 which was the cheapest we saw.
The tailgating scene seemed to take place in apartments and bars as well as the quad. We started our tailgate at an apartment that some family friends had purchased specifically for game days. They were Bama boosters with a huge deck and catered food. We left with the plan to return later after we had met up with the other members of our party and I had purchased a game day t-shirt. I was pretty against purchasing a strictly Bama t-shirt so I went for some old fashion hate.
People definitely dress differently for gamedays in the south. The polo guy on a Ralph Lauren shirt has been replaced an the Alabama Elephant which several people wore. Fraternity guys wear suit jackets and khakis. No one wears hair gel in Alabama. The look to go for is a 35 year old Dad. Somewhat messy hair with shorts above the knee and a polo or button down shirt. Do not forget the old man shoes either. If you dress like this in Philly you get your ass kicked but in Bama you fit in.
Girls are not the t-shirt and jeans type either. Most class it up a bit and wear some type of dress or classy top. Girls like to wear crimson red or black as a tribute to Paul "Bear" Bryant. I saw quite a few Bear Bryant hats and even Bear Bryant earnings. The girls in generally are classier than I am used too which is good for all things except gameday.
Later we returned to our original high brow tailgate to find the father of John Brantley (QB of Florida). In my brief conversation with him and his buddies I learned that he wasn't too fond of Urban Myer and he really liked my t-shirt. Fans were nice to each other, which surprised me after reading about so much hate. I was pleasantly surprised to see opposing fans getting along and I hardly witnessed an incident. For all the passion for college football in the south it was nice to see southern hospitality win out in this instance.
The game itself wasn't not as exciting as it could off been because Florida is not a good football team. I had the opportunity to sit in the student section for $180 with some friends which was a bonus. A frat guy told us we couldn't sit where we were sitting because of fraternity block seating, but my friend and I blew him off and he later apologized. The crowd was into the game and may have been even louder if the game were tight but it does not stand out as the loudest crowd I've been in. When Sweet Home Alabama plays, fans sing Roll Tide Roll in between "where the skies are so blue" which was cool.
After an Alabama victory this awesome chant is song. It's called Rammer Jammer.
All in all the trip was definitely worth it and I had a great time. I would recommend going to an SEC game if you haven't been because its a different experience. Does different mean better? No, it was a similar overall experience as to most major programs. The after party was better, the stadium can't compare to Michigan's though and I even like Nebraska's better but the team entrance into the stadium and friendliness in the area is refreshing. The stadium feels like a pro stadium much like Penn State's does. However, it was really cool to see all the bronze statues of coaches that have won National Championships and Nick Saban's plot already laid out waiting for a statue. The tradition of Rammer Jammer is not quite in line with southern hospitality but it gets sheer points for awesomeness.