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Keeping Up with the Mazzolas

She Doesn't Even Go Here…

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A question I get a lot is Why do you like Alabama? You didn’t even go there. You went to Clemson. Why don’t you like Clemson? I will clear this up for y’all today, in honor of rivalry week and Iron Bowl Saturday.

Today we ventured into enemy territory. We went into a Gamecock/Clemson shop donning our Bama jerseys (in all fairness, we were there to buy a birthday present for a sweet boy that just happens to be a USC fan). I didn’t even do it on purpose. I realized once we rolled up that this was going to be an awkward experience. I’ve got to hand it to y’all, though– Carolina and Clemson fans– none of you gave me a hard time at all. In fact, a couple of people even commented on how darling the boys looked in their matching Bama jerseys. Thank you for being classy fans. Class and kindness is always appreciated. I promise you it goes a long way. I love that the people we came across today are friendly in spite of the rivalries that run so deep here, because that is how I want my boys to be raised. Humble in victory and defeat.

We just so happen to be sitting pretty on the cloud of victory a lot these days, but let me tell you, it was not that way when I was growing up. My memories of Alabama stem from them being on probation for something or another, and the Mike Shula years (we were bad, y’all). The last National Championship was won in 1992, and then we had a drought until 2009. Practically my whole childhood, Alabama was a so-so team. With such a beautiful pedigree, I consider myself a die-hard Bama fan. Yes, I understand I didn’t go to school there (not by choice, but by a mistake on my high school guidance counselor’s part having to do with a scholarship application not being submitted). That landed me at Clemson.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved my time at Clemson. The campus is absolutely beautiful, and I loved the small college town feel of it. I didn’t get as involved in my sorority (ZTA) as I probably should have, but I’ll attribute that to being sad that my now husband was in school in Philadelphia. Long-distance relationships are hard. Especially when you just know that person is your soulmate. Depression probably hindered me from doing a lot of things I should’ve done in college. And I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I did know that I wanted to be a mother though. I felt that even then. I knew I was supposed to have kids with Matt.

Clemson gave me some of my very best friends, so God certainly knew what He was doing there. And the space between Matt and me was probably a good thing– we got to explore our options and play the field (wink wink), only to realize we weren’t interested and we were destined to be together. I wouldn’t change my college experience for the world because it’s what’s led me here.

Back to football. My heart just wasn’t in it when I went to Clemson games. I had a blast, and I proudly donned the orange and purple, but at the end of the day, my heart was in Tuscaloosa. It’s just how I was raised. I grew up going to Alabama games, after all.

My parents always made sure that no matter where we lived, we got to go to at least one game a year. We spent time walking around campus with our Alabama gear on and saying Roll Tide to everyone we passed. We went in the sorority houses where my mom and aunts and cousins lived when they were in college. We ate barbecue and danced to the band at the fraternity house where my mother met my daddy (after he almost didn’t show up for his blind date because her yearbook picture was so bad– I promise, she’s gorgeous, and he thinks so too). The atmosphere was just magical to this little girl. I grew up with all of this, and I fully blame my parents.

Being exposed to all of that for so long during my formative years, can you blame me? I hope not. We’re so hardcore that we say Roll Tide at the end of the blessing before we eat supper. So hardcore that I was able to convert my former Gamecock of a husband to a full-on Alabama fan (though it took 10 years). So hardcore that when I got to shake Nick Saban’s hand as a 15-year-old, I seriously considered never washing it again.

This, my friends, is why I am and always will be an Alabama fan. I love my Clemson family, but I cannot pull for your football team. I will cry if you beat us, but I will also humbly accept defeat with grace and dignity. Because that’s what I want my boys to do.

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