Being better off the field

My friends and I attended the exhibition basketball game on Friday in Coleman Coliseum. With it being the first game of the season, we were anxious to see what the team looked like and to get a glimpse into how the rest of the season would play out. As a proudly rowdy sports fan, I had a shaker in each hand, cheering and yelling and dancing with the band.

But then Big Al stole my shakers.

I thought he would just run around for a while and then bring them back to me, but then I saw him hand them to two little girls a couple rows behind me. Now, at first I wasn’t very happy – how do you expect me to cheer without my shakers? But then I thought of what those little girls’ dreams might be.

And then I thought about those little girls’ dreams again on Saturday morning when I heard about that awful banner put up (and thankfully taken down) (off campus.)

I don’t think we realize the impact we have on the generations after us, and truly, the entire nation. People see what we do – there was a feature story on Alabama in The New York Times this week – and they watch us closely, waiting for us to maneuver our way into yet another scandal.

The children of this area, though, like the little girls who now own my shakers, just know that this is where they want to be. They don’t realize the terrible things happening on campus each year. They don’t see The Machine and how it runs this campus. They don’t see hazing. All they know is that it’s their dream to come here.

I remember the beginning of my dream to come here. An old camp counselor of mine told us all about Alabama, and I loved the way she talked so passionately about her dreams coming true. I wanted that passion for Alabama for myself, so I made it my own – from then to my first football game, to watching the cheerleaders, to applying and being accepted to the University. I felt my dreams coming true, and it was everything I’d hoped it would be and more.

But then I had my first experience with an Alabama scandal: the racist Snapchat incident.

Just as I vividly remember the way it felt when my dreams came to life, I remember the way it felt when they were crushed with the same intensity.

This is what I don’t want to happen to those little girls and their dreams. I don’t want our decisions to affect their hearts and their experiences with Alabama. This campus is much more than a place we go to school and have fun and play football, especially to the younger ones following us. To them, this is a place where dreams come true, and they look to us to find that passion.

We must do much, much more than talk about our class; we have to show it. We know better than to put up signs attacking vulnerabilities far beyond a football rivalry. We know better than to intentionally inflict pain on each other for the sake of “tradition.” We know better than to boo the opposing team upon entrance and yell intense profanities toward rivals between (song lyrics.)

These are not the traditions I want to pass to the classes below us. I want to pass down true class, passion and pure love for the The University of Alabama. I want to see their dreams be fulfilled. That is my dream.

You learn a lot when an elephant steals your shakers.

Danielle Waddell is a sophomore majoring in journalism. (Her 
column runs weekly.)

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