They always play the hits eventually.
The banishment of “Dixieland Delight” from Alabama football games was never going to be permanent — after all, students grow up into old alumni someday. Still, the announcement of its return in a UA video starring Greg Byrne, Terry Saban, Crimson Tide running back Damien Harris and SGA President Price McGiffert — a cinematic classic that deserves its own column some day— immediately went viral. The campaign will be to “do Dixieland Delight right.”
That means avoiding the improvised lyrics referring to a particular attitude — to put it mildly — regarding Alabama’s SEC brethren (Auburn, LSU and Tennessee.) There was even a Twitter posting of support from reigning quarterback sensation Tua Tagovailoa. Backup quarterback Mac Jones had the same message. Clearly the idea is to have the players present a united front on an issue.
We’re bringing it back, so let’s do it the right way and keep it clean. Roll Tide https://t.co/JbjiLiltIC
— Tua. T 🇦🇸 (@Tuaamann) October 10, 2018
As far as “Dixieland Delight,” my personal position has always been it didn’t bother me and it seemed like fun for the students, the players and many fans. The opposing view has been presented to me, often. Here is one likely timeline.
Alabama students and players have been asking for the return ever since the ban was instituted following the 2014 season. For the students in particular, it was part of the experience, associated with the national championship and a bit of vulgar fun. Then, when it was taken away, it suddenly became forbidden fruit. Students and fans who wanted it now wanted even more. A few rogue units tried a capella versions in the student section but, lacking the proper amplification, their cause was squashed. When Greg Byrne took over for Bill Battle, he probably had little reason to suspect the main issue facing him would come from the Billboard Hot Country charts of 1983, but there he was. A new athletics director meant a new chance for revival but Byrne kept the ban in place last year.
But as 2018 dawned, a new issue arose and a related older issue revived. The issue was student attendance. Nick Saban looked around, and he saw empty seats, and he was not pleased. There was a call for sacrifice and attendance, and I think most students were willing to do that. But what could they be given in return? There was no short-term way to “schedule better opponents” (Notre Dame and Texas are coming, but not yet.) Like it or not, the UA administration doesn’t control kickoff times, or the shaker-melting temperatures that afflict Tuscaloosa in September sunshine. Even the ticket-holders who came had to have stamina to stay. Many did, and should be saluted. But what might induce the students to come, and stick around to the fourth quarter? What prize did Byrne have left in the cookie jar?
Whether the campaign for cleaner lyrics will prevail, I don’t know. Temptation will have to be resisted. Perhaps it will prove too strong. Perhaps there will be a mighty effort to make it last through the season, until Auburn arrives. I don’t know who will police the lyrics and make the call if, in the immortal words of Eric Stratton (an “Animal House” reference seemed appropriate here) “a few bad apples have to spoil a good time for everyone by breaking the rules.”
If they do, what song could possibly be played in its place? One possibility would be the MC5’s timeless classic, “Kick Out The Jams.” But the lyrics there might be problematic, too, for more than one reason. It’s a trifle vulgar, too. And it also contains that one four-letter word that every Alabama fan refuses to hear, the one that would brings a Crimson crowd into unified, horrified silence.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.