Friday, November 28, 2008

The Tide is High

(Birmingham, AL) - As promised, the weather has been bleak at best. There was never a moment in our seven-hour drive to Tuscaloosa, and on to Brimingham, when it wasn't raining. I'm sick of being wet.
I expected to check into our hotel before we went on to official business at the University of Alabama, but that didn't work out for me. We were invited to a "casual dinner" at a yacht club in Tuscaloosa. As we sat around a Chicken Wing Place watching LSU lose to Arkansas, I sent a text message to our host asking for a clarification on "casual." That meant "no tie," I soon found out. Since I was in blue jeans, tennis shoes and a damp Polo shirt, I figured I needed to change. So, off I ran to the rent car to get my bags.
I have to admit I felt pretty silly carrying two suitcases into the men's room of the Chicken Wing Place, but a man's got to do what a man's got to do. As I walked in, I was greeted with curious stares from the wait staff and a hostess. I just said, "Hi, kids! Daddy's home!" Only one laughed. It was the smart one, to be sure. I did my best Clark Kent impersonation in a bathroom stall and emerged slightly wrinkled but reassuringly dry. Appropriately attired in slacks and blazers, off we went into the drizzly Alabama night.
This was one of those "I can't believe I'm invited to this party" moments for me. I sat at a table with the Alabama Athletic Director and representatives from the Sugar and Orange Bowls. I sort of felt like the little step brother being allowed to sit at the big boys' table. Everyone was kind and gracious and the conversation flowed well. I was one of the two youngest men at the table, so I sat all "gee whiz"-like and listened to stories mostly about Bear Bryant, which is what you would expect at Alabama.
The unspoken awkwardness came from the obvious: we are here representing a bowl game which needs Alabama's opponent to win. Yes, Traveling Companion and I are here to gladhand Auburn. That didn't stop the Crimson Tide people from being warm hosts. They even had a gift with my name on it. I'm waiting until tomorrow to open it. Maybe Christmas will come early.
Maybe the rain will stop, too. Otherwise, the rising tide you see will not be a football team, but a flash flood.

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