The Iron Bowl, this state’s annual rite of football passage, is essentially an Alabama informercial — Alabama the state, not its namesake university. Viewers in Massachusetts or Oregon or New Mexico can spend their Black Friday afternoons overdosing on our gameday pageantry.
Let’s hope they will.
Of course, today’s viewers will see only the gridiron message, the legacies of the University of Alabama’s Bear Bryant and Auburn University’s Shug Jordan and those who now carry on with these two football teams.
Perhaps that’s good, considering how often Alabama’s name has appeared recently in stories unkind to the state’s good character.
• Eleven people, including four Alabama legislators, were indicted by federal authorities in an unsightly vote-buying scheme related to a bingo bill in the state Senate during the 2010 session.
• James Bonard Fowler, a 77-year-old former Alabama state trooper, pleaded guilty to the civil rights-era killing of Jimmie Lee Jackson in Perry County — needed jurisprudence that nonetheless put the state’s uncomfortable past on national display.
• During this summer’s primaries, the television ads of Dale Peterson, Republican candidate for agriculture commissioner, became a YouTube and political-blog sensation when he toted his shotgun, railed against “thugs and criminals” who “don’t give a rip about Alabama,” and called one of his opponents a “dummy.” People laughed; not all of them were laughing with us.
• And that says nothing of Cam Newton, Auburn’s gifted quarterback and a top candidate for the Heisman Trophy, who is still dogged by allegations of a pay-for-play conspiracy that involves his father and another Southeastern Conference school. None of the allegations have been proven. Newton is eligible for today’s game.
Yes, viewers will get their fill of that story, for sure.
Nevertheless, it makes us wonder what we’d like to see today’s three-hour informercial highlight about this state. Forget the indictments and the Fowler plea and the political machinations.
Instead, the top-flight parts of our state are deserving of their 15 minutes of fame, as well. Its outdoors, from waterways and mountains to beaches and forests. Its successful public-education initiatives in math, science and reading. The resilience of its Gulf Coast residents. The engrained faith that native Alabamians have in their state and its people, even when the negative headlines pile up. And there are others, of course.
Granted, none of that will be mentioned today. Americans will instead see Alabama-style football, Tigers and Tide. They’ll likely enjoy it, regardless of the outcome.
Let’s hope they take away from it something positive about this lovely state. Its stories are worth telling, especially those of which we’re proud.