Captain Crimson brings spirit to the Crimson Tide's home games

Captain Crimson brings spirit to the Crimson Tide's home games

CW / Tajma Henderson

He’s a college student that cares enough about his socks to take them in for repairs. When he wears them inside his most uncomfortable pair of shoes for 12 hours at a time in sweltering Tuscaloosa heat, they’re bound to need some patching – especially if he’d ever like to wear them again with any fabric substance near the toe. Coady Latimer believes in tradition, down to the white and crimson striped knee socks that are no longer for sale.

They say “BAMA” down the sides, and are part of the Captain Crimson ensemble he wears to every Alabama home football game at Bryant-Denny Stadium. He debuted the persona during the homecoming game of his freshman year in 2012, Latimer said, when the Crimson Tide beat Mississippi State 38-7. He’s worn the exact same outfit to every home game since, including this season’s homecoming game against Kentucky, where Alabama won 34-6.

Latimer is widely recognized for his classic black Zorro mask. He also wears an 8-pound cape made of a white sheet, two kinds of duct tape and 38 crimson and white shakers. (“They’re pom-poms everywhere else, but in Alabama, they’re shakers.”) It stays in place by way of a lanyard attached to the cape where it connects at the neck, which is rigged to the pair of black gym shorts with red stripes down each side, also worn to every game. A crimson t-shirt with a white script ‘A’ covers the lanyard, and on his feet are a pair of light-grey Adidas with crimson stripes.

“I paid $90 for the shoes that I wear, even though they’re the most uncomfortable shoes I’ve ever worn,” Latimer said.

He adjusted his stance several times during the homecoming game this season, but superstition trumps comfort, particularly when Alabama football is involved. Latimer found out the shoes weren’t a great fit after the first game, but since he wore them that time, there was no choice but to continue. He also has particular underwear and compression shorts (from a successful soccer season during high school) that are part of the Captain Crimson outfit, but thankfully for those who sit in his section during the game, everything is washed except for the cape, which has to be air-dried.

“It’s not crazy if it works,” Latimer said, a motto about his football experience that is repeated often throughout the homecoming game.

He can name a reason for every Alabama loss since he started school in 2012 (a whopping total of six games): combinations of things like taking off the white Under Armor he wears for cold games, not wearing lucky underwear, and having friends standing in the wrong spots at the game.

“I’ve gradually learned to blame the team over time,” Latimer said.

He cheers on the Tide from a front-row seat in student section DD, in the small section to the left of the stairway entrance that faces section CC. At the top of the first two stairs, there are small pillars on each side, framing the wall in front of the student section. Captain Crimson can usually be seen standing on the one on the left.

Latimer arrived at the gates for the Kentucky homecoming game at 2 p.m., four hours before kickoff at 6 p.m. He waited with a few friends, some old, some new. He enjoys making new friends while waiting to be the first fan inside, he said. Until last year, he waited and sat inside near Hannah Stephens, known as UA Sign Girl, who has since graduated. For the 6:45 p.m. Iron Bowl in 2014 – the year after the infamous Kick 6 – Latimer and Stephens arrived at the gates at 3 a.m. that morning, to ensure they were the first two into the stadium. He got about four hours of sleep, and used his cape as a blanket to stay warm. The two were the only ones to camp, and arrived first in the stadium.

“We had friends bringing us food, hot chocolate, all that kind of stuff,” Latimer said. “They were the ones sitting in the section we were saving, so they can’t really hate on us.”

For the Kentucky game, Latimer had more friends coming to the game than he had planned. In between cheers for the Crimson Tide – he’ll sing every song and chant every chant except for “Block that kick!” because it isn’t one unique to Alabama football – he was checking back over the next four rows to make sure everyone had enough room and was in the correct seat. He asks everyone to let him know how many extra people they’ll be bringing to the game the Friday before, and when people arrives, he directs them flight-attendant style to the correct row and seat. With 50 minutes to go before the 6 p.m. kickoff, the stands were full and he was pretty nervous about how crowded his section was.

“My mind is going 1,000 miles a minute because I don’t have enough seats for all these people,” he said.

His friend Houston Spencer sits front row with him, and also waits at the gate before the game. He doesn’t have an elaborate costume, like Latimer’s Captain Crimson attire, but always gets Dreamland Bar-B-Que nachos and a souvenir-cup Coke when the 90-minute countdown begins before the game. Latimer usually gets the leftovers.

“Whatever you don’t finish, I’ll eat,” Latimer told Spencer. “I’m a human garbage can.”

“That’s usually how it works,” Spencer said.

Latimer also gets a souvenir Coke or two, and stays hydrated with several waters. He passed money along to a friend and asked for a 10 Seasons of Saban cup during the first quarter of the homecoming game, after teaching another friend how to lazily hold a shaker, balanced between the middle and forefingers. He always carries two, stored at his hip when he’s not using them to cheer on the Crimson Tide. Mastering the art of jumbotron and television appearances is another Captain Crimson specialty.

“I always wanted to meet the superhero,” a friend’s dad said to Latimer before the game started. He later asked, “So how often do you get on ESPN?”

“At least once every home game,” Latimer replied. He noticed the ESPN cameras throughout the game, and by the end of the night, had received a text message from a friend’s mom, who had taken a photo of Captain Crimson on her television screen.

“Part of being the superhero is knowing when to get on ESPN,” he said.

Latimer’s mom, Jeannie Latimer, sees her son on television often, but isn’t exactly surprised. She remembered seeing him the first time on television as Captain Crimson, sporting the real version of the shaker cape she helped come up with, and wearing one of the masks she had sent him from party stores in Gainesville, Florida.

Before coming to Alabama, Coady a Florida native, was a giant Gators fan. He sported a Florida Gators cape and a giant blue-haired wig to the games, sitting in the same season ticket seats that have been in his family for nearly 60 years. During one Florida-Georgia game, he attracted the attention and autograph of sports broadcaster Lee Corso, who chatted with Coady after the game about what it was like being a Gators fan.

“We see him all the time, and we watch the games from here,” Jeannie Latimer said. “Friends will text us, and say, ‘Oh, I saw Coady today while I was watching the Alabama game!’ So it’s pretty funny.”

One of Coady Latimer’s proudest moments, though, was being featured on the SEConCBS Twitter during the LSU game last season. Sent before the kickoff between then No. 2 LSU and No. 4 Alabama, the tweet includes a picture of Latimer in standing on his third step “pedestal” and reads, “He’s the hero Alabama deserves, but not the one it needs right now.” Latimer must have had on all of the correct gear, because Alabama defeated LSU 30-16. One day, he may frame the tweet, he said, and it wasn’t clear whether he was joking or completely serious:

“I’m going to be famous in my own world.”

This may be the last official season for Captain Crimson. Latimer already holds a degree in geography after graduating last May, but is taking two post-graduate classes and purchasing student tickets through friends and the Alabama Student Ticket Exchange Facebook page. Throughout undergrad, he always set an alarm and promptly ordered tickets at 7 a.m. on his designated day, but didn’t know he’d be staying in Tuscaloosa until tickets had already been sold.

Some of his friends and family, his mom said, thought that he would have retired the cape after last season. Latimer said he isn’t sure if it will make an appearance after the 2016 home season ends, but that it will remain his since it has “been though a lot.” It’s even missing a small square piece from the bottom left outside corner: his sister had to graft it to the neck of the cape when it started to fall apart, he said.

“My friends still make jokes about me, like if I move away and come back to a game in 30 years, at 50-years-old, I show up with a cape and mask and everything, still being Captain Crimson with the same original stuff,” Latimer said. “My friends all make jokes about that, but I don’t know how much of a joke it is. It might actually be serious. Which is kind of tragic, but at the same time, roll tide. I just can’t see myself going to an Alabama football game anymore not sitting in the student section and not having the cape on.”

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