The war raged for three years. They battled in the aisles and under the stately oaks of The Quad. They fought on the radio airwaves and the darkest swampy recesses of Alabama Twitter. Sometimes it was neighbor against neighbor, father against son, mother against daughter until a a shaky compromise was hammered out, allowing the two sides to co-exist but not dispelling all the mutual distrust.
And that was just over “Dixieland Delight.” So imagine what it is going to be like over beer.
When the Southeastern Conference announced that its presidents had voted to modify the league’s longstanding policy about public alcohol sales at sporting events, a few of the member schools — notably LSU — were ready to light the drinking lamp almost immediately.
Others moved more cautiously. Alabama didn’t appear to budge. A release from Rose Administration (not, one might note, from the athletic department) said that the game-day atmosphere was the “best in the country” and that no changes were planned at this time. For 2019, certainly, things will go as they went for years in dry counties around Alabama. You can’t buy it, unless you are a member of a private club — think of The Zone as a million-dollar Moose Lodge — or you can creatively sneak past the sheriff (or, in this case, the gate security) with a flask hidden creatively in ways that may or may not be proper to discuss in a family publication.
That’s where Alabama stands and will stand, at least for now. There is more at stake in the alcohol debate (money, for one thing) than in the squabbling over “Dixieland Delight’s” improvised lyrics, but the lines will be drawn similarly. On the one hand, there are people who want no disturbance in their game-day experience, not from college students singing some vulgar words to a country tune and especially not from the angry guy two seats down who has had one brew too many. On the other hand, there are people who might like a frothy ale at a 3 p.m. game in September on the Blast Furnace Network and might just decide that halftime is as good a time as any to leave the premises and find a public house to take their money and quench their thirst.
A few things seem certain. This is not going to be strictly an athletic department decision, if there is a decision made in the future. Second, Alabama is going to take its time and watch what happens elsewhere, this season and quite possibly next season as well. Third, there is a window open to explore alcohol sales on a limited basis at other venues in other sports. Baseball and beer go together like Coach Bryant’s weekly TV show cola and chips, for many fans. Fourth, while there is a potential revenue stream to be tapped, there will have to be another change in SEC policy before the advertising windfall that many analysts foresee can happen. As things currently stand, only “point of sale” advertising is permitted so we are still a few years away from seeing Kentucky run into Wild Turkey Field at Woodford Reserve Stadium.
One word that hasn’t been mentioned yet is “never.” The next phase of construction at Bryant-Denny Stadium already appears headed for a bigger budget by some $15 million dollars or so than the original plan called for. The money has to come from somewhere — most of it out of donors’ bank accounts but, perhaps eventually, out of a keg as well.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.