To Robert Bowers’ Family, As The Dark Side Of College Football Fandom Rears Its Ugly Head

To Robert Bowers’ Family, As The Dark Side Of College Football Fandom Rears Its Ugly Head

When die-hard love and loyalty can cross a line and a point of no return.


In SEC country, we love college football and we love our teams. No really when I say we love our football and our teams, I mean we love our football and love our teams. College Saturdays in the heartbeat of America are right on par with going to church in the Bible belt and its kind of like its own religion. Every Saturday we deck out from head to toe in our beloved university's gear as a fan, a student, or an alum and we watch our young men take the field and play in one of the most exciting but one of the most brutal sports that man has created. Then there are fanatics.

The term fan comes from the word fanatic and one of the definitions of a fanatic is, "A person with an obsessive interest in and enthusiasm for something, especially an activity." Well my friends, I myself by definition am an Alabama Crimson Tide fanatic. However, I'm also an alum. Having said that many of my friends know how much I love our team and our school. Part of this has to do with the fact I've been watching them since age four and the other has to do with the fact that I've grown up around campus off and on for most of my life having had family live here all of my life.

I've had girlfriends while I was in the military not really get it. One of my ex-girlfriends, a Californian, did not understand my passion for college football. She grew up in the Bay Area where San Francisco had the Giants, the 49ers, and the Raiders (At the time Golden State was selling tickets for like 35 dollars courtside. People forgot they had a basketball team there). Cal was never considered something to be that passionate about so she knew that she had to either cope with my avid having to watch SEC on CBS when we played or my walking around NorCal with my hat, tee, or jersey with matching socks. Luckily she not only was good with it, I "CONVERTED" her. Eventually, she would wear a fedora and start stealing my tees to wear on game day.

If you ever happen to walk into my apartment, you'd see lots of Alabama memorabilia. It makes me look like a lunatic: hundreds of elephant figurines, paintings and drawings on the wall by folks like Greg Gamble, Daniel Moore, and Priscilla Wadsworth. I just bleed crimson and I guess as the famous expression goes, "I've got too much Bama in me."

Psychologists would probably say I'm nuts and yeah, I can talk trash with the best of them. I mean come on how can you not when your team/alma mater wins five titles in nine years on the greatest run college football has ever seen? Alabama has the greatest dynasty college football has ever seen and we probably won't ever see it again.

To go even farther with my story, I was in the U.S. Coast Guard stationed in Ketchikan Alaska in 2008 and was there for two different billets and my friends would catch me at the enlisted club wearing Bama colors from head to toe watching the Tide play ball. When it was an 11:30 a.m. kickoff, I'd either try my best to stay awake after a watch or pass out for about an hour and get up to watch the rest (Coasties need shut too eye guys). However, my Coastie brethren can attest that I was still doing my thing and showing my support for my team even though I was 3,282 miles away from Tuscaloosa. One of my bar room chats happened with a friend of mine, "Frank" and we talked about my fanhood as he finally had to break down and ask. We spent hours talking about it as Frank was from Philly and only understood pro fandom.

Having said all of this, there is a darker side to college football fandom. The question becomes where does the line start and end? Are you a huge supporter like me or are you a closet psychopath with a fixed obsession? I wouldn't go as to say that all of the fans out there who do stupid drunken acts are psychopaths. Those are just stupid people. If you punch someone over the game and get caught on youtube, you've made an error in judgment.

If you go poisoning a rivals' tree even though you might not have been drunk, you did something stupid. Some people thought that was funny and some of the jokes about it in jest admittedly were. However, that's taking it way too far and that is not being a fan. That's being either stupidly drunk (no more sauce for you), or just making a really dumb error in judgment. We know of more, like when someone whips their genitals out and "teabags" a passed-out fan of the team that you play at the local Krystal. I'll say that probably had to do with a bottle of Beam or black label too. It's still crazy though folks. That's not the worst of it.

The one thing that really makes me question, where the state of college football fandom is going, is when you do something and can't take it back. There is only one thing you can do and not take it back: kill someone. We are seeing it more and more: fan gets obnoxious and another fan in a heat of passion fit of rage kills them or beats them. It's happened after Iron Bowls. Why? Why would we allow this to happen? Why do we allow something like that to get that bad and we allow fellow fans to get that far gone? We have a duty to try our best to police ourselves so someone doesn't end up in the ground and one of us ends up permanently in handcuffs.

Just recently a Bama fan was beaten because of our complete destruction of LSU at their own home field. His name was Robert Bowers and he was 46.

It was announced on the seventh that Bowers had suffered injuries that would ultimately be life-threatening and he died in the hospital near Ponchatoula, LA. Why? This apparently was over a disagreement and fight about the game.

Burying a family member sucks. This guy was probably a father, a husband. He probably has a mother and father still alive. I can't imagine the pain they will have to endure burying their child. This holiday season he will not come home to visit family. He will not be at the Thanksgiving table or under the Christmas tree unwrapping presents. He will not be a part of beautiful hallmark like photographs with smiling faces of his family involved.

No, Robert Bowers won't do any of these things because Robert Bowers will be buried in a cemetery.

It makes my blood run cold to see a mugshot of a man that beat the crap out of another man with a smirk on his face. Yeah, you're a big man for blindsiding someone at a bar over a football game. You win macho points, dude. How about not being such a psycho and leaving the situation like a normal person? It takes a big man to cheap shot another man and then you and your buddy kick him while he's down. This type of behavior has no place in humanity much less the realm of college football fandom. This is where the line needs to be drawn.

And so I say to the Bowers family, we at the Crimson Tide nation are praying for you and we love you. Though we might not all know you, we are here for you in a very troubling time. He might not have been a student, but he was a fan and all members of the Crimson nation take care of their own. We send our deepest condolences as some of us have lost family members around the holidays, myself included. This is not what we ever want to happen.

This is the dark side of college fandom and college sports, but know that you are not alone. Every member of the fanbase, the student body, and the alumni are all a part of one heartbeat. We are with you in spirit and we have your back. Roll Tide.

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The Coach That Killed My Passion

An open letter to the coach that made me hate a sport I once loved.

I fell in love with the game in second grade. I lived for every practice and every game. I lived for the countless hours in the gym or my driveway perfecting every shot, every pass and every move I could think of. Every night after dinner, I would go shoot and would not allow myself to go inside until I hit a hundred shots. I had a desire to play, to get better and to be the best basketball player I could possibly be.

I had many coaches between church leagues, rec leagues, personal coaches, basketball camps, middle school and high school. Most of the coaches I had the opportunity to play for had a passion for the game like I did. They inspired me to never stop working. They would tell me I had a natural ability. I took pride in knowing that I worked hard and I took pride in the compliments that I got from my coaches and other parents. I always looked forward to the drills and, believe it or not, I even looked forward to the running. These coaches had a desire to teach, and I had a desire to learn through every good and bad thing that happened during many seasons. Thank you to the coaches that coached and supported me through the years.

SEE ALSO: My Regrets From My Time As A College Softball Player

Along with the good coaches, are a few bad coaches. These are the coaches that focused on favorites instead of the good of the entire team. I had coaches that no matter how hard I worked, it would never be good enough for them. I had coaches that would take insults too far on the court and in the classroom.

I had coaches that killed my passion and love for the game of basketball.

When a passion dies, it is quite possibly the most heartbreaking thing ever. A desire you once had to play every second of the day is gone; it turns into dreading every practice and game. It turns into leaving every game with earphones in so other parents don't talk to you about it. It meant dreading school the next day due to everyone talking about the previous game. My passion was destroyed when a coach looked at me in the eyes and said, "You could go to any other school and start varsity, but you just can't play for me."

SEE ALSO: Should College Athletes Be Limited To One Sport?

Looking back now at the amount of tears shed after practices and games, I just want to say to this coach: Making me feel bad about myself doesn't make me want to play and work hard for you, whether in the classroom or on the court. Telling me that, "Hard work always pays off" and not keeping that word doesn't make me want to work hard either. I spent every minute of the day focusing on making sure you didn't see the pain that I felt, and all of my energy was put towards that fake smile when I said I was OK with how you treated me. There are not words for the feeling I got when parents of teammates asked why I didn't play more or why I got pulled after one mistake; I simply didn't have an answer. The way you made me feel about myself and my ability to play ball made me hate myself; not only did you make me doubt my ability to play, you turned my teammates against me to where they didn't trust my abilities. I would not wish the pain you caused me on my greatest enemy. I pray that one day, eventually, when all of your players quit coming back that you realize that it isn't all about winning records. It’s about the players. You can have winning records without a good coach if you have a good team, but you won’t have a team if you can't treat players with the respect they deserve.

SEE ALSO: To The Little Girl Picking Up A Basketball For The First Time

Cover Image Credit: Equality Charter School

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