My wife, Pat, is the essence of cool. She does not overheat if provoked or swimming in stress. She takes things as they come and fully manages them with a clear head and discerning eye, not yielding to the temptation of the moment. As a scientist with a keen intellect, she is measured and absorbed in facts, demanding well reasoned arguments. She does not suffer fools. Her dry sense of humor is fully clothed. The fact that she long ago threw in her lot with me may strike some as curious, even puzzling. However, I attribute Pat’s love for me as an example that she appreciates a guy with West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Alabama roots sporting a high forehead, weak eyes, small hands (alas), slow of foot, Welsh-Irish origins, with a law degree who did not practice law, a love for the FBI, the United States Navy, the Alabama Crimson Tide, and peanut and mayonnaise sandwiches.
Pat is a native of Talladega, Alabama, home of the big NASCAR oval, where, oval or not, all humans in Alabama and some animals must choose between Alabama and Auburn at an early age. Many emerge from the womb around the state shouting Roll Tide or War Eagle. There is no neutral gear in this pledge and declaration. No Switzerland facing 360 degrees at once.
Declare your lifelong allegiance and stand tall.
Pat chose Alabama. However, she enrolled at Samford University, Birmingham, to take advantage of a mathematics scholarship, which she parlayed into massive doses of science, voice, and piano. She played piano and sang at her home Baptist church in Talladega, and at a variety of church venues in Birmingham. Her voice
is exquisite, a blend of Pink, Ga Ga, Rita Coolidge, and Eva Cassidy, a steady, imperturbable presence on stage, mirroring her demeanor everywhere. She also embraced mixing drinks while in college, could have been in the bartender hall of fame.
When Pat and I were married, she naturally and happily resumed her lifelong alliance to the Crimson Tide, attending games courtesy of my season tickets as an alumnus of the UA School of Law. Over the years, Pat earned the title of Perfect Wife, requesting DVD’s of Bama’s most memorable victories for her
birthday and for Mother’s Day. She always knew what down it was.
The annual Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn is the nation’s most intense rivalry, a year long obsession, war, epidemic, and profane in-state battle. We can’t avoid each other, unlike Michigan-Ohio State, Notre Dame-Southern Cal, and Army-Navy. We eye each other suspiciously in church, at funerals, in the Piggly Wiggly, at hunting lodges, visiting relatives in prison, in jury pools, at BBQ’s, and over grits at the Cracker Barrel. The rest of the nation stands back and stares at us, aghast, putting us under glass and not comprehending what it sees. Pat and I are fully engulfed in this partisan saturation bombing. We make no apologies.
For the 1985 Iron Bowl, we had seats in the Alabama section in the north end zone of Legion Field, the last in the rivalry for Auburn’s heralded and peerless running back, Bo Jackson, one of the finest athletes in all of amateur and professional football and baseball. He won the Heisman Trophy that year. He was one of the reasons why Auburn was favored in the game. As usual, Alabama had a heart stopping defense and a good offense. The Tide was coached by taciturn and heady Ray Perkins, who had played for and then followed legendary Bear Bryant at the Tide helm. Former Bryant assistant, Pay Dye was the heart and soul of the Auburn Tigers, an emotional, intense fire brand, a hard nosed and winning coach.
Tickets at Legion Field were evenly divided between the two fan bases. Consequently, there was a roar on every play, the best atmosphere in college football. When the game was moved to home and away campuses beginning in 1989 at Auburn, the frenzy did not lessen, just the size of the home crowd, with the visitors scattered around the stadium or confined to a corner of the end zone.
Pat and I were cozily engulfed with friendly Alabama fans in the north end zone in 1985, ecstatic when the Tide jumped to an early lead, an omen, we were certain, that God was with us. The only blemish in our reverie was a lone Auburn fan sitting directly in front of Pat, a dude who endlessly shouted nasty things about the Tide. He had an enlarged orange and blue shaker that he never lowered, waving it constantly in front of Pat, blocking her view. She had a crimson and white shaker, which she kept under wraps. She stoically tolerated this shaker nuisance in front of her through a series of lead changes to the very end as befitted this take-no-prisoners rivalry. Auburn led, 23-22, when Alabama mounted a drive with no time outs left, getting the ball out of bounds to stop the clock with 6 seconds left. Auburn fans celebrated a sure victory. Shaker Man, delirious and deranged, kept rattling his shaker in front of Pat’s face.
Out ran Bama’s renown place kicker, Van Tiffin, sprinted to the right hash mark to attempt a 52 yard field goal into the south end zone. Many Auburn fans celebrated early and hustled down the ramps out of Legion Field for the victory drive home.
The ball was snapped. Tiffin approached the holder and blasted a kick that cleaved the uprights for a 25-23 Alabama
I yelled and jumped into orbit, came down and reached for Pat to hug her. However, Pat was not ready to receive me. She was busy. She pummeled the head and face of Shaker Man with her own shaker, bam, bam, bam, screaming at him, mocking him, laughing at him, her words lost in the din of Alabama cheers. Taken aback but fully amused, I shouted, “Go Pat!” Shaker Man fled in horror and defeat, puzzled no doubt over how this tall, beautiful lady had suddenly become unhinged. I could have told him not to underestimate the steel in a woman nursing a slow burn.