Rice Owls vs. UAB Blazers, 10/5/2019, 6:05pm
Final Score: Blazers 35 – Owls 20; Attendance: 23,526
Weather: Rain, Lightening, 83; Ticket: $23; Parking: $10
Bottom of the Barrel by Tree
The University of Alabama – Birmingham played at Legion Field, but was in the process of building a new stadium on campus. That is a good thing because the experience I had Legion Field was the worst I have had. Given that I had been to 82 stadiums prior to that game, it is no small feat to be the worst ever. The funny thing is it did not start out that way.
I was coming to Birmingham after attending the South Alabama game on Thursday night. I spent Friday night in town, having dinner with extended family. I was a bit disappointed that the game was at 6pm because I was hoping to either zip over to Ole Miss or get an early start on the long drive back home. In any case, I assumed that the Blazers would have the game well in hand by halftime against the 0-6 Owls. Ever the optimist, I decided to make the best of it and enjoy a relaxed tailgate with the Blazer faithful. I was looking at my tailgating options and visited the UAB game day site for some insight. As I was trying to figure out the parking, a pop up ad from the university appeared, offering online purchasing of parking lot passes right next to the stadium for $10. I could not believe my luck. Not only was the parking reasonable, it was right next to the stadium. I even tweeted out how progressive UAB was to offer such a deal. I scanned the pass and there were no restrictions listed other than I had to go to the right gate. Given how cheap the parking was, I sprung for my ticket on the University site as well. I am sure I could have got less than $23 from pregame scalpers, but it was one less thing to worry about.
Saturday morning was a relaxed one knowing all the logistics were covered. I headed over to the stadium around 2 o’clock not being sure how robust the tailgating would be. As I pulled in my worst fears were confirmed. I went to my lot and I was third car in. I knew Rice wouldn’t be a big draw, but this was pathetic. I did see some tailgating in another lot but it did not appear very robust either. Well, I thought, maybe it will pick up, and I began to set up my tailgating gear. Immediately, one of the parking lot ushers appeared and told me I could not tailgate in the lot as they would park another car right behind me. This was laughable given there was only three cars in the lot. Secondly, I pointed out that there was nothing on parking pass that said tailgating was prohibited. I knew it was fruitless to argue with that guy. He was clearly in no position to make any decision of consequence. I did recall that there was a chat option on the UAB Game Day website. I tried that and actually received a pretty quick email back. I explained my situation. They had me confirm my lot, but then it was crickets. That was particularly infuriating because they now knew my situation and had the means to fix it. They could have easily dispatched someone in a golf cart to give me a pass to park in the tailgating lot, where there was plenty of room. And, it wasn’t like I would have been hard to find. So that was it. I watched the end of the Miami VT game on my phone in my car, sullenly eating my chicken sandwich and drinking a couple of beers. It was a sad and pathetic scene.
I did eventually make my way to the tailgating lot but first I decided to make a stop at the nearest set of port-a-potties. Not surprisingly, I found them to still be locked with zip ties. Like I said, this game day experience was amateur hour. The tailgating I did find was fairly generic and not very heavy. The fans I did talk to were very nice but didn’t have much insight as to the traditions of the program. They mentioned the motorcycle leading the team on the field and a soccer style clap to start the fourth quarter. They weren’t sure of the motorcycle’s significance. They were most excited for (a) actually having a team after the program was eliminated and (b) getting the new stadium. I can’t blame them as Legion Field was a dump. They mentioned that the city did support the team quite a bit. Judging by the number of fans that came in on public transit, I would say at least that was true.
The inside of the stadium was pedestrian. There was a good mix of concessions and they sold mixed drinks along with beer and wine. A very generic souvenir cup was available for $5. There was a Blazer dragon mascot walking around and I probably could have gotten a picture with him given the very lax security. You could literally walk around the track that surrounding the field. It was a trait that Legion Field had in common with my previously worst rated stadium, Duke’s Wade Wallace Field. The stadium was not very big and I was able to sit on the 50 yard line in a very sparsely populated visitors section. The fans were pretty mellow but did have a chomping dragon type hand gesture (pretty much the same as the NC State Wolfpack gesture). There was the motorcycle entrance at the start of the game and some shooting flames when the Blazers scored touchdowns. The sound system was awful and the video scoreboard was of vintage ‘80s rec room quality. A bright spot was the Blazer band. They were good and most folks stayed to listen to them at halftime.
I mean, it’s Birmingham. I flew into Atlanta, but I am told the local airport is serviceable. My one son seems to like Birmingham quite a bit. He says it has a good vibe. I have been there several times and I would consider it to be very average. I can think of lots of other cities with FBS teams that I would go to first.
As I mentioned earlier, I was fully expecting UAB to smoke Rice. Given that I was sitting for the Rice side, I was waiting for the beleaguered Owl fans to start a “That’s alright, that’s okay, you’re going to work for us some day!” cheer before the first half had ended. However, much to my chagrin, Rice came to play in the first half. They opened a with 72 yard touchdown run to end the first quarter with a 7 – 0 lead. UAB finally came to life in the 2nd quarter, scoring on their next two drives with long touchdown passes (aided by a Rice fumble in between). While it was apparent that UAB had slightly better athletes, Rice hung around with UAB playing some sloppy defense. The Owls were only down by one at the half with a score of Blazers 21, Owls 20.
Normally, I would be thrilled to have such a back and forth game, but I was watching the clock and the ominous approaching storm clouds. At halftime, I decided to go over the UAB side of the stadium to check it out and perhaps talk to some of their fans. However, as walked across the stadium, lightning struck in the distance and the storm delay was on. I am no fair weather fan, so I started to wait it out.
After an hour and a half, I called it, leaving at 9:30 with the heavy rain starting to come down. I caught the rest of the game in my car, dry and warm. UAB dominated the second half with Rice committing a number of turnovers. It was clearly the best way to enjoy the game.
There was actually a second storm delay and the game officially ended at 12:20 am, with, I am guessing, only parents and staff still in attendance. I did note that the UAB band was the first one in Alabama that I saw with a male member in their color guard. It is a common occurrence these days, even at the high school level, but things just move a little slower in ‘Bama. I also learned it was the state’s bicentennial. Perhaps the bands from the University of Alabama and South Alabama did not think it was worth celebrating. I was just happy not to get three performances of spoon slapping and jug blowing.
One memorable sight from the game was the suffering of a member of the Conference USA chain gang. Shortly in the first quarter, he wandered away from his post holding the sideline marker and headed to a large garbage can just behind the Rice sidelines. He teetered and tottered before raining a torrential downpour of vomit into the trash can. There can be no more fitting description of attending a UAB football game. Save yourself the discomfort and stay at home.