Away Game

In June of this year, after 18 long years of living in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, I left Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

It was time to go. In a lot of senses it was like graduating college once again: I had done my four years of undergrad, did a gap year at home in New Jersey, and then pointed my 1995 Ford Explorer toward West Alabama with the intent of staying three, maybe four years as I got my Master’s Degree. A house, a wife, a dog, a baby, and six national titles later, and it was time to take the lessons I had learned from the red clay and head north. Don’t rush a slow cook. Tornado watch means yelling at the TV to get the Mississippi border off the screen, tornado warning means yelling at everyone to get in the bathroom. And most importantly, never bet against the Tide.

I’ve been in an interesting headspace that I know many people feel very acutely–missing Tuscaloosa. As with any major life events, you find yourself looking for moments to hold onto a small semblance of your past just in case the new sparkly thing doesn’t work out. In May, I was telling people that I was definitely going to make it down for a game–Texas, maybe. LSU definitely. By the end of July the parallel life I was living: in Alabama but also not, had clearly merged into one timeline. I had Minnesota United soccer tickets. There were housewarmings to attend. Did you know how many lakes there are?

Instead, I was viewing this year’s team through a looking glass–a snowglobe if the metaphor suits you. I lived in a space where the world around me did not revolve around Tommy Rees’ affinity to run duo, and I found it baffling.

The first weekend of college football, I attended a Minnesota Golden Gophers game on Thursday night. They were playing Nebraska–the first game of the Matt Rhule era–and I was, at the very least, intrigued. I purchased one ticket at around the 40 yard line and found myself amongst season ticket holders–the Tide Pride of Gopherdom, if you will–and got to witness every little thing that I wanted out of a Big Ten West experience. Multiple punts. Anemic offense. A heartbreaking Nebraska turnover followed by a 45+ yard field goal to win the game for the home team. There were some brief high fives and a lot of “oh wow, didn’t know he had the leg on him” comments before everyone peacefully filed out of the stadium. 

Brian Oliu
Brian Oliu
Featured Writer