The Norman Transcript

December 29, 2013

Santas in the South wear Ala. colors


The Norman Transcript

GATLINBURG, Tenn. — While sitting on a bench waiting for my family’s post-Christmas shopping to finally end, a friendship is struck with an Auburn fan who is proudly wearing his colors and letters, deep in Alabama country. (Even the Santa in a store window is dressed in Alabama colors.)

He notes my Sooner windbreaker and Sugar Bowl stocking cap and shares some advice for the Sooners as they head to New Orleans for a Sugar Bowl showdown with Alabama this week.

“Get a good timekeeper,” he jokes, noting the final second run by Auburn to defeat its in-state rivalry. Weeks later, they’re still reliving the moment. “Hey, it was them that asked for the extra time,” he says.

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It’ll take more than a friendly timekeeper for the Sooners to beat Alabama. The players and coaches will all have to bring their “A” game into the stadium. Alabama is still reeling from its loss to Auburn and will want to pound anyone it can on national television.

For traveling fans, it should not be nearly as ugly as the Sooners last bowl appearance in New Orleans. That was Jan. 4, 2004, and Louisiana State University fans seem to have made up about 79,000 of the 79,342 attending the game inside the Superdome. The Sooners lost 21-14.

LSU fans, not known for their collegiality, turned their hometown Bourbon Street into their personal party zone. We Sooners were not on the invite list.

The walk from the Superdome to our hotel was about as scary as anything I’ve experienced. Tossed beer bottles, curses thrown our way, offers to fight and a few shoves. I hate to think how they would have treated me if the Sooners would have won the game.

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The Alabama fans I’ve met are passionate, but seem to be more like Notre Dame devotees than the LSU faithful. They love their own school but respect the game and the traditions associated with their opponents. Alabama fans have done their homework and can talk Sooner with the best of us.

While in Tuscaloosa, friends told me the Alabama fans could not have been more welcoming. Open tailgates. Lots of waves and thanks, just for making the trip.

When they came to Norman, many of us tried to reciprocate. We put newspapers on the doorstep of every visiting RV in the Lloyd Noble lot and got many thank you notes.

The Sooners have faced down worthy opponents before. Sometimes, that Captain Underdog suit fits fine and motivates like no coach ever could.

Boomer Sooner.

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