Merry Christmas, And Happy New Year

I have enjoyed the ideal holiday with my wife, my children and my grandchildren all around on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. That's my excuse for being tardy in wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year--the New Year beginning January 2, 2009, for sure.



For several years it was my pleasure to work for Coach Paul Bryant at Alabama, and Crimson Tide football work included a bowl game—frequently a very important bowl game—every year. Many of those were Sugar Bowl games in New Orleans.

Christmas Day was generally a hectic one, because it was travel day. Those of us who worked in the department would celebrate either on Christmas Eve or very early Christmas Day. In our case it was then a drive to Birmingham to leave children with grandparents while we jetted off to the bowl site.

My wife, Lynne, also reminded me of our first Sugar Bowl, when we didn't fly to New Orleans. I was assistant sports editor of the now-defunct Birmingham Post-Herald, which always covered the Sugar Bowl regardless of whether Alabama or Auburn was in the game. In those days there was a annual train trip, the Sugar Bowl Special, which went to New Orleans. The coaches were pulled off on a siding in New Orleans and that was your "room" for a couple of days.

That was at the end of the 1969 season. The game matched third-ranked Arkansas, then in the Southwest Conference and Coach Frank Broyles, against the Ole Miss Rebels of Coach Johnny Vaught, featuring Archie Manning. Manning was too much for the Razorbacks and Ole Miss, which had been ranked 13th (including having suffered a 33-32 loss to Alabama and Scott Hunter early in the season), defeated Arkansas, 27-22.

Afterwards, Broyles said the Razorbacks hadn't been able to properly prepare for the Rebels "because we didn't have anyone who could emulate Archie."

As a part of festivities of this year's 75th annual Sugar Bowl, both Broyles and Manning will be honored.

The main feature in New Orleans, though, is Alabama football, the Crimson Tide taking on Utah at 7 p.m. CST Friday, January 2. Fox will televise the game. Alabama is 12-1 and ranked fourth in the nation, Utah 12-1 and rated sixth.

Coach Nick Saban and his staff and players will assemble in New Orleans Saturday to resume preparations.

It was always a memorable Christmas for all the staff and their wives and players (and for a few of them, their wives) to board an airplane together and fly to the bowl game. In some years there were two planes because numerous University officials, trustees, prominent alumni, etc. were included in the official party. That did not include the Million Dollar Band and cheerleaders, who traveled separately.

Coach Bryant had many friends with all the bowl games, but I always believed the Sugar Bowl was his favorite. (Now, had the Rose Bowl not been a closed shop, Pac-10 and Big Ten only, I think he would have been a fixture in the Pasadena.)

Unquestionably, Alabama had some wonderful days in the Sugar Bowl. I can almost guarantee that when Fox begins its broadcast of the game, it will include highlights of past Sugar Bowls, and that you'll see Bama linebacker Barry Krauss and Crimson Tide safety George Teague.

My all-time favorite is the Sugar Bowl at the end of the 1978 season, Krauss and company stopping Penn State with the famed goalline stand and winning the national championship. I have never known a football game with more tension, a game in which there was a feeling that the game could be won or lost on any one play.

But where was I?

Oh, yes. To all of you, best wishes from BamaMag.com and 'BAMA Magazine for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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