The taste of Cajun-style boiled peanuts, firing up "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd, the aura of pride in their football program and the tradition - I mean you have not experienced anything until you have stood with your fellow fans of 100,000 singing word for word, "Yea Alabama." Wow, I just got chills.
Now, if that is how you feel about University of Kentucky basketball, then we are on the same page.
In Tuscaloosa, football is life and Paul "Bear" Bryant is the essence that fills the air. In Lexington, basketball is life and Adolph Rupp's shoes are large ones to fill. Am I right?
We all know the disappointment Kentucky has experienced the last two years. It has been since 1992 since the University of Alabama has won the national championship. Failure is unacceptable at both state universities.
Red and Blue
When Billy Gillispie stepped onto the stage of the Big Blue Nation, we all thought this was the answer to a national championship. It wasn't long, though, before everyone sensed something was missing. Two years of Wildcat agony with Billy G. was all it took. My take on it was it wasn't just the losses, it was the attitude.
The Crimson Tide felt a similar emptiness inside. My husband and I have been a part of the Alabama tradition for the past seven years now and have at least averaged six games per season. We try to attend all SEC home games and at least one away game. We have witnessed the Mike Shula era and endured disappointment after disappointment. The University of Alabama gave him the reins from 2003-2006. Since he was a player for Alabama, he had the drive, but he still lacked something. I chalk it up to inexperience as a head coach and that of a prestigious program.
Both Gillispie and Shula did not have the tools to make a tradition-rich program run like it was accustomed to. Though they may have given their all, their all wasn't enough. For both Kentucky and Alabama, it takes a strong personality to turn such programs around.
Just look at the history of the two programs. Kentucky basketball coaching greats such as Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall, Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith. A few of the football coaches that graced Alabama's stadium were Wallace Wade, Frank W. Thomas, Bryant (1958-1982), and Gene Stallings.
Greats like these are few and far between, but Kentucky and Alabama both expect to have them at the helm of their dominant programs. We settle for nothing less than great.
Do you think anyone at Alabama flinched when they hired Nick Saban for the football head coach at $3.9 million per year? So why is it such a surprise to the Kentucky crowd that such a hefty price would be paid for John Calipari to be Kentucky's coach?
My parents always told me, "You get what you pay for."
How many times has this held true? Okay, I can buy some off-brand trash bag. I pick up the generic bag full of garbage only to have all the garbage fall out of the bottom, thus having to double bag. I go back to the store and buy a little more expensive but name brand garbage bag, and it always does the job.
So you want a winning season and assurance of a dependable coach who will come through in the clutch? You have to pay for such valued goods.
Saban is worth every penny of his $3.9 million. We were only two games from being national champion this season after two years under the Saban reign.
If you look at the successes Calipari has had, I think you will agree, "you get what you pay for."