A Brief History of Football and Offspring.

My husband has had the same Alabama football season tickets since he was a wee lad of 13, making this his 25th anniversary to sit his butt in that same spot on that same bench every fall. It became a necessary relational hurdle for me to learn to enjoy/tolerate (depending on the day) the sport and the all-day affair that was tailgating in order for our romance to blossom. I became his football companion when he was 23 and I was 17, making this year my butt’s 15th anniversary on my spot on the bench, so apparently I passed the test.

And I remember that test well.

It was The Iron Bowl of 2000, shortly after Chris and I got engaged. It had been a particularly frigid November, and Saturday’s forecast was a mix of rain and sleet.

It was the first Iron Bowl I had attended (Alabama versus Auburn and THE most important game of the year, for those of you not from around here), and the game was at night.

The temperature creeped above freezing half an hour before the game, allowing it to dump a good bit of nearly frozen rain on us, soaking our clothing beyond repair. I get cold if I get rained on in a 90-degreed-July day, so getting doused in 33 degree precipitation was something I didn’t even know I could live through.

Then the temperature dropped below freezing again and the sleet began to coat over our dripping clothes, adding a crunchy texture to the already-torturous situation.

I assumed that surely we would not sit through a game in such untenable conditions. Surely we would leave early. Surely they would cancel the game. Surely there was some sort of multi-million dollar retractable stadium roof for such a hell as this.

But no. It was The Iron Bowl, and one does not leave The Iron Bowl. We sat, wet and icicled, and endured the torment of being sleeted upon.

I hunched my back as far as it would go, looked down the entire game, and nearly died that night.

Did I mention that we lost? NINE TO ZERO.

Because there’s nothing that can improve the mood of the frozen fan like a bone-crushing defeat.

I was entirely angry at my normally above-average sweet-and-doting fiancé, but it was an important lesson in expectations with regards to the realm of football. A lesson from which our marriage certainly benefited.

I married that guy anyway, and six years later, we had a kid.

We realized quickly that infants are complicated enough on their own merit, so Ali’s introduction to the family tradition didn’t happen until 2008, at the ripe age of 20 months.

2008b

It was even more challenging that we expected.

There are naps. Feedings. Dirty Diapers. A constant need for entertainment and protection from running into the street. A vigilant eye so as to not get lost in the more than 100,000 people all dressed in exactly the same colors – trying to spot anyone on gameday in Tuscaloosa is like Where’s Waldo for Mensa members.

In 2009, at the mature age of two and a half, it was better.

2009

She was a little more self-sustaining, although the need for entertainment was still ever-present, and I fought hard to make naptime happen – even while tailgating.

After all, naptimes are for Mommies.

(If I ever write a book, that will be the title.)

It should also be noted that things you would think would be thrilling for a nearly three year old are actually terrifying.

2009c

(Which makes them kinda more fun for parents.)

In 2010 we had an almost-four year old. She could go without naps if needed (although Mommies never quit needing naptime – there’s my sequel), and was much more self-entertaining, considering she had to hang out all day long under a football tent.

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…but by then, another addition was imminent. You can’t see him in this picture, but he was there. Waiting for football season to end so that he could make his appearance.

2010

Which brings us to 2011.

Ali was fully and beautifully self-propelled by then – an expert nut-collector,

2011

Dirt-Stirrer,

2011d

Dirt-Wearer,

2011e

And literary British-Waif wannabe.

2011c

But the addition.

2011b

Oh, the addition. We were back to the need for naps, nursing, poop disposal systems, and motherly exhaustion. And by this time, my quiet-room-naptime-options had been stripped from me due to a need for greater campus security, thanks to dishonorable and perhaps not-so-sober tailgaters.

I did miss naptime. Tremendously. But I tried my best to hide it for photographs, anyway.

2011e (2)

In 2012, we upgraded “High-Maintenance Baby” to “Nearly Two-Year-Old Boy Who Made us Jettison our Morals and Buy a Leash to Keep From Losing Him in the Throngs of Identically Dressed Fans.”

2012d

And naptime was…still a need. For everyone.

2012b

(Except Ali, who had by now mastered the art of Dirt Bathing.)

With 2013 came even older children,

2013d

With slightly more concentration – both pre-game and in the game.

2013

…But we still smiled with relief when we left the children behind and attended a game on our own.

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The 2014 football season has now arrived. And with it, we have an almost eight-year-old and an almost four-year-old.

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THEY’RE HUGE.

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They’re self-entertained.

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They spend their tailgating day making dirt piles,

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Then turning them into haboobs,

Haboob Slo-Mo on Make A Gif

Digging for breathtaking and one-of-a-kind buried treasure,

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And if they get tired, they simply lie down.

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Whether in tailgate or in bleachers.

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They even pose for selfies. VOLUNTARILY.

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But you’ll always be able to find it in my eyes after a long day of tailgating and football – Mommies never quit needing naptimes.

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Comments

  1. I bet holding a small child, in a crowded stadium, on a late-summer day, in Alabama, is about as hot as a person can get without self-combusting. It makes me tired just thinking about it.

    • Actually the hottest thing ever is being 8 months pregnant in a stadium in Alabama. And you must bump your belly into the back of the head of all 20 people in front of you to get to your seat in the smack dab middle of the bench.

      • Holli Ballard says:

        I will have to agree. Doing ANYTHING during the summer in Alabama is the hottest that you can be before you find yourself melting like a doused witch. I happened to be pregnant with my first child when I found myself watching a 4th of July parade in LA (Lower Alabama). While I watched my skin melt and drip off my body, I decided that I was going back home to East TN. And thankfully my husband understood that pregnant women shouldn’t be trifled with agreed. :)

  2. ALI IN THE HOUNDSTOOTH SKIRT AND HAIRBOW WITH THE RED SANDALS. Like a little mini-ADPi or something. I can’t believe you once decked her out QUITE to that degree. ;-)

    • That was her first non-Alabama-branded tailgating dress ever – it was from Children’s Place and it was my favorite. It had a bit of punk rock vibe.

      The hair bows, though, were always Chris’ fault. There were some so big and gaudy and awful I refused to use them. But he’d sneak them out for the games I didn’t attend.

  3. Wow you are SO brave! After taking a 2 year old to a baseball game this summer this whole post makes me cringe. I’m pretty sure I’d rather take a cross country trip on an airplane than attempt to corral my kids for a full day of tailgating and sitting still in a stadium. Speaking of which…are we going to try to get together next month?? It’s going to be a fast trip, but we’d love to see you all!

  4. Last year, I briefly considered going to a game, but then I remembered…..I’m pregnant with twins! Why would I subject myself to that torturous hell times 2? So I watched the games at home. In my super giant Alabama tee shirt that my father got for me (I mean, who knew how big a house I would be for those two?).

  5. I love Ali’s teeth peeking out in the selfie picture, that is too cute!!

  6. I remember that game in 2000. That was the first time we played y’all in Bryant-Denny Stadium. What a great night! ;) We took Ellie to her first game at 9 months and she did great. Except she kept wanting to play with the cow bells that were surrounding us. Benji was around the same age when he made it to his first college game, but he has yet to see the SEC play in person. Hopefully, we will get that rectified soon.

    Also, you are right about photo ops that you would expect to thrill your 2 year old and instead they decide to cling to you and wave from a safe distance. Although, afterward they are all excited that they met the mascot..

  7. We are going to a mid-day/really all-day baseball game on Saturday. I have my freshly crowned 3 year old and my new to the world 2 month old. Before I even read this I was thinking about the dreaded no nap time/down time .headed in our direction.

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