Tuesday, April 21, 2020

R is for Roll Tide

I was living in Nashville and met a girl at my apartment complex swimming pool named Donna, and we became friends. We were very different; she was 7 or 8 years younger than I was (and I was 29), had never gone to college, was from Alabama, and worked for a dentist, but we hung out together at the pool and had a good time. 

By the time fall rolled around, things ended badly for her with the dentist (don't dip your pen in the company inkwell, especially when the inkwell is married), and Donna moved back home to Alabama. She begged me to come down for the Tennessee v. Alabama football game (probably the biggest rivalry in the SEC), because her brother could get us tickets. It wasn't my burning desire to do this, but Southwest Airlines was doing a promotion called "Fun Fares," and a flight from Nashville to Birmingham was only $19 each way, so I told Donna I would come.

I was always under the impression that Donna was from Birmingham, but she was actually from a tiny little town about 45 minutes outside of Birmingham, and lived in a mobile home with her mom and various cousins and siblings.The house was buzzing with people when we got there, and the moment we walked in the door, one of her cousins announced that Donna's brother had had to give our tickets to someone else. The reason for this, I found out, was because her brother was a bookie and the game was sold out, so why give away tickets for free when you can scalp them for a lot of money, right?

Donna told me not to worry about it, that not all the cousins who had tickets would want to go, but naturally, after we got to the stadium Saturday morning and met some of her cousins in the parking lot, there were no extra tickets. I was REALLY ready to call it a day and go home, especially after we heard the sounds of the game already starting.

"We'll just walk up to the stadium and see if we can tickets there," Donna said. I hadn't come prepared to purchase tickets to a football game that I wasn't excited to attend in the first place. I was a poor working girl, after all, and Donna had told me we were getting free tickets. I told her I couldn't pay more than face value ($20) for a ticket, and that's generally not the going rate with the scalpers who stood outside the stadium. 

We saw men holding tickets up as we got closer to the gates, but they wanted considerably more than face value, so we continued walking until a man shouted to us as we passed by, "You got tickets? You got tickets?"

"No," Donna answered, then asked, "How much?"

"Twenty dollars each, I can get you in," the man said.

"We don't have that much money," Donna told him. "We only have a twenty dollar bill."

The man hesitated, then said, "Okay, follow me." As we trotted along behind him towards the gate, Donna whispered to me, "Do you have a twenty dollar bill?" and fortunately, I did. As we neared the turnstiles, the man turned to us and said, "Give me the money."

Donna turned to me, "Give him the money."

I looked at her, then pulled a twenty out of my pocket and handed it to him. 

"Go on through," he said, nodding at the turnstiles, and we watched as he handed the woman taking tickets my twenty dollars as we walked through the turnstiles and into the stadium.

Once we were safely inside the stadium, we turned to each other and laughed. Donna led the way to the area where her cousins were sitting, but the problem was WE DIDN'T HAVE SEATS BECAUSE WE DIDN'T HAVE TICKETS. Donna plopped down in the aisle and chatted with her family, but rule follower that I am, I was sure we were going to get in trouble for blocking the fire exit and be asked for our ticket stubs and then have to go to some kind of stadium jail, and I was nervous and anxious to move. We sat there for most of the second quarter before I convinced Donna that we should move on (although I must note that there were dozens and dozens of people doing the same thing we were - apparently, the turnstile scam was lucrative). We walked around the edge of the field and watched halftime, then Donna suggested we go ahead and leave. Yes, please!

We found a little restaurant with outdoor seating in a beautiful courtyard, and we had a delightful afternoon, eating lunch and listening to some live acoustic music (ironically, it turned out to be someone I knew from Nashville). The rest of the weekend was uneventful, but I was more than ready to get on that plane and go home. 

I didn't stay friends with Donna, not because of this experience directly, but we were too different (my brother was an accountant) and lived too far away from each other. And while that UT/Alabama game was my first SEC football experience, it didn't end up being my last, because nearly 30 years later, I started attending games when my daughter started attending the University of Arkansas, and I think of Donna and our $20 game every time I walk through those turnstiles. Woo Pig Sooie!


  1. oh my...I would have been right there with you. Only exception is I like Alabama, but OU is my all time fav...I'd rather go not so much for football, but to what the bands!

    Great story...

    1. We watched Alabama pulverize Arkansas a couple of years ago. That was fun....
      My son goes to OU! We haven't gone to a game there. Tickets are REALLY expensive! He has student tickets.

  2. I'm such a rule follower too and wouldn't have been able to enjoy the game. Plus, I'm not big on football anyway as my husband would readily tell you.

    It is interesting how some friends come in and out of our lives for certain periods. Not everyone is meant to stay.

    Weekends In Maine

    1. I did NOT enjoy the game, and it wasn't just from breaking the rules to get in!