Arkansas (84) vs. Alabama (86) 02/25/2023

Game #119 of 362 32% complete

This is my final game of the Alabama trip and more notably the final game of the season for my Operation 351 travels. I was fortunate to get in 15 games this year compared to an abysmal 8 games last year due to Covid-caused cancellations. I arrived early at the Alabama campus to walk around and experience the excitement of a major football power school and now, this year, a candidate for the best team in college basketball.

I was hoping to get a bite to eat at the famous Rama Jama’s, as the place to be before an Alabama game. After waiting in a line that did not move 15 minutes and watching enviously patrons eating on picnic tables, I made the decision to exit and wait for the concessions in the arena.

Another reason that I came early to the Alabama campus was to visit the Paul Bryant Museum. I saw some folks inside and was glad that it was open. As I approached the front door, I was greeted by a sign “Closed for a Private Event”. My eight years of traveling on my Operation 351 trips have taught me to shrug off the unavoidable events and just “Breathe in, Breathe Out” as Jimmy Buffet sang in one of his hits. Now that I had plenty of time to kill, I hung out in front of the arena for a while because the doors did not open till 45 minutes before game time. It was nice day, so it was time to chill.

The song “Sweet Home Alabama” blared (what else?) as the white-shirted crowd settled in for a great game. These two rivals put on a show for the fans. I was fortunate to sit next to an elderly woman who introduced herself as Nita. She was the one who sold me her extra ticket on Stub Hub. We had nice conversations throughout the game. She was very knowledgeable about Alabama basketball. She joked that her second husband on their first date said that he was a holder of Alabama season tickets. She said that it was love at first sight.

Nita pointed out Alabama football coach Nick Saban sitting under the basket at the far end. Next to him was a man with a backwards sitting cap showing a movement in a golf swing. It turns out that this gentleman was Alabama alumnus golf pro Justin Thomas. Thomas came out during a time out to cheer the crowd on.

Alabama freshman star Brandon Miller had an outstanding game with 24 points with several key points down the stretch. Notwithstanding the current controversies regarding this young man, his quickness and shotting prowess for his size will make him a lottery pick next year. Nita mentioned that during one game, she sat next to Brandon’s agent and scouts from the Orlando Magic.

I hope that all my followers will have a healthy and happy year. Strap yourselves in for another suspense filled March Madness run! I bid you farewell for this season with a picture of myself adorning a free Alabama shirt handed out before the game. Till we meet again!