Viewpoint: A disappointed Blazer football fan

By on November 19, 2013
Legion Field

Being a Birmingham native, I’ve seen my share of pigskin in this city that was once the “Football Capitol of the South”, but, that is clearly no longer the case.

Birmingham has in my opinion, purposely relinquished and lost its essence in regards to the sport that once made it famous.

In fact, there are occurrences that have taken place over the years that lead me to feel that those who claim to be our leaders and front liners are willingly clueless and impotent when it comes to doing what it takes to improve the climate of the gridiron culture in this city that actually represents the city of Birmingham (Hint: like UAB and Conference USA), instead, it caters to those who have abandoned our city (SEC) because of our inferior sports venues, namely, the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center (or Convention Complex, take your pick), Bill Harris Arena (right next to the CrossPlex) and of course, the ultimate “albatross” around Blazer football & this city’s neck, “historic”, “iconic” Legion Field.

Please pardon my laughter.

It’s only “historic” or “iconic” to SEC pundits, especially those who worship University of Alabama football, which I can assure you, I do not, that place is a leftover, abandoned “Bama Shrine.” Otherwise, no one really wants to be there anymore (and if I need to remind anyone that follows Blazer football about what happened in November 2011, then you’ve really been asleep at the wheel), it does nothing more than hamper UAB Football’s recruiting efforts and attendance, and if any place fits the description of obsolete, substandard or devoid, it is Legion Field.

Yet, our Blazers are forced to endure it for an indeterminate amount of time, because, in my opinion, of bureaucratic and political obstruction.

The stadium issue is a “political football”, plain and simple, and both UAB Athletics and the city of Birmingham have failed miserably in regards to this. Here we are in the 21st Century, and I cannot count how many other cities have torn down their outdated stadiums & built new ones to accommodate teams and fans alike, but, no, not Birmingham. Stuck in a time warp, are we?

Sure, the CrossPlex Track & Field Arena and the recently completed Regions Field Baseball Park are remarkable accomplishments, and long, long overdue if you ask me, and I’ve enjoyed attending events at both facilities, but football is the one spectator sport that thrills me and brings me and many other Birminghamians more enjoyment than any other.

In spite of several epic football-related fails, this is still gridiron country first and foremost.

For our program to have to be one of that place’s few remaining “hostages” (need I make a list out for that one, too?) for the “foreseeable future” speaks huge volumes to Legion Field’s glaring unattractiveness, no matter how many banners they have hanging around the fence barrier, dinner tables in the end zone, or fancy light fixtures out in front of it, its’ glaring inadequacies cannot be disguised.

It reminds me of when our Blazers softball team had to endure disgusting, neglected Green Springs Park as its ‘home’ for the longest until something was done about it and they were given the facilities and resources they needed to be competitive and ultimately, successful.

Need I say more about UAB softball’s track record in the last three seasons since getting their on-campus venue including three straight trips to the NCAA tournament?

Moving on, why is our football team being denied, time and time again, the necessary “tools” it needs to be the best it can be in Conference USA?

Mayor William Bell vowed to join Blazer Nation in its’ fight to have a 27,500 seat on-campus stadium built, but, has been conspicuous by his silence when asked (by me in a letter) about what’s being done to improve the quality of the football culture besides purchasing hand-me-down equipment from Bryant-Denny to put in a stadium that practically no one wants to be in anymore?

I just don’t get.

Is it the absolute main reason why UAB Football has been symbolic with the phrase “the culture of losing” around here for nearly a decade now? No, not completely.

The players in place, particularly on the defensive side of the ball and the coaching staff, simply have not played their part. So, how am I supposed to react to all of this? Wait till next year again? At what point will the wait be over?

Guess that’s an option, especially after what happened at the Homecoming game with Middle Tennesee State last week, in spite of their best effort, finding yet another way to let a winnable game slip away.

A golden opportunity to get back into the divisional chase of the conference, gone by the wayside, with closing the season out at “home” against surprising Rice, and winless Southern Mississippi.

When I say “winless”, I mean as in over a year and a half without a victory, which is meaningless when it comes to rivalries.

And like every other game the Blazers has played, there’s no game off for them, and this one can just as easily “go sideways” as the Troy, Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee.

Just asking, because when I question some UAB fans about why the football team, again, particularly the defense, is in a constant state of “crash and burn”, they get defensive and say, just “play your part” and show up. Sorry, that’s getting to the point where it’s not good enough anymore.

Just how much is a fan or fan base supposed to endure?

I don’t know of any in this entire country that has had to meet the most unrealistic of expectations without the necessary facilities needed in order to be competitive and successful in this conference, in this city, in this state than UAB.

No one wants this team or this head coach to succeed more than I do, but, with the obvious lack of autonomy this athletic program has, at least from my vantage point, how much longer can one continue to “play their part” and be oblivious to the obvious at the same time?

When I mention UAB Football in mixed company, the occasional encounter of scorn and dismissal comes up, and one of the main sticking points with most who convey their displeasure is of course, Legion Field. The losing is a close second.

Some of this has come from the mouths of UAB students and employees themselves.

We already know that the local media sees UAB sports, not just football, the whole athletic program, as a punch line for their jokes, or even worse, consistently disavowing of their very existence in their radio talk programming. And don’t you dare call their stations with any UAB topic; they’ll dismiss you quicker than you can say “Go Blazers.” There is a wave of football fans that I honestly believe, want to embrace UAB as their own and support them with all their might.

But, a decrepit old stadium, a bureaucratic, oppressive and myopic governing body (see UA Board Of Trustees), a local sports media that deep down in their dark hearts, wants you to fail and fail miserably because of their blind allegiance to other programs in this state (save for a small handful of them), a disenchanted, apathetic fan base and a powerless athletic department and city government continue to stand in their way. Put, it all together and there’s your “Culture of Losing.”

I’m not even so sure it’s about winning or losing anymore, since Blazer fans have been on the latter mentioned side of the fence for so long, but, something good needs to happen for our football team and soon.

Otherwise this “culture” of which we’ve spoken of is going to become further embedded in this city’s psyche. If it isn’t already, that is. I’m not just a fan, or a season ticket holder. I’m a witness.

We’re all witnesses, whether or not we care to acknowledge it. Yet our silence speaks approval of the way things are with our athletic program, especially our Football Blazers.

As Sean Connery so eloquently put it to Harrison Ford in the movie, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, “My boy, we are pilgrims in an unholy land.” And if both the football team and the fans don’t play their part and unleash the Dragon soon, this very well may be the prelude to their last crusade.

 

A. Khalis Pride

Contributor

jazznation@yahoo.com

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  • thebama guy

    As former UAB player from the 90’s and life long Birmingham resident I’m waiting to. As a fan the truth about the defense goes back as far as Brown when the team hired the defensive coordinator from Troy Wayne Bolt. That was sabotage and continued through Callaway who actually chased away players. McGee is an offensive minded coach. That being said he tends to think his offense will win the game and defense will hold up long enough to do so. Truth is with this being a run first team he needs to think defense first or the never will improve. Build your front seven on defense and you whin.

    • Anthony Bush

      We’ll said thebama guy!

  • Jerico Little

    Gray Lady Falling Down. We can thank our paranoid UAT Bammer Board of misTrustees.

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