Skip to comments.The Football Game That Changed the South
Posted on 02/20/2007 7:02:24 PM PST by BnBlFlag
THE FOOTBALL GAME THAT CHANGED THE SOUTH It was more than a football game. It was the chance to avenge the South, to reclaim the valor and honor of the Lost Cause. No longer would this land be known for its hookworm and illiteracy. It would be the home of the best damn football in the nation!
"The 1926 Rose Bowl was without a doubt the most important game before or since in Southern football history," says Birmingham News sportswriter Clyde Bolton.
The story of the game that shaped the South is told in Roses of Crimson, a documentary that airs as part of The Alabama Experience series at 8 p.m., Thursday, November 18, on Alabama Public Television.
For the first 50 years of college football the game was dominated by powerhouses in the North, Midwest, and West. Princeton. Yale. Harvard. Washington. Southern boys cant compete, the experts said. In fact, the prevailing sentiment was that the South wasnt good for much of anything.
"H.L. Mencken at the Baltimore Sun was writing very critical and satiric editorials about the brain cavity size of the typical Southerner and it was not at all uplifting or complementary to the South," said Wayne Flynt, history professor at Auburn University.
But in 1925 the University of Alabama had its first undefeated season and gave up only seven points. Still, no Southern teamAlabama includedhad earned enough respect to get an invitation to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
Schools back east, reeling from criticism that they were sacrificing academics at the expense of athletics, declined to play in the game. So bowl officials reluctantly booked a game everyone knew would be a blow-out: a weak Alabama team against the mighty Washington Huskies.
Roses of Crimson shows how the team made its way west on a four day train trip dealing poker and studying their playbooks. Once in California, Alabama coach Wallace Wade feared that his team was being distracted by the photo opportunities that had been arranged by Hollywood press moguls. So he sequestered his players and put them through some of the toughest practices of the season.
Meanwhile, Champ Pickens, a tireless Alabama promoter, began predicting an upset and constantly reminded the players about their obligation to history.
"He wired all the presidents of the civic clubs in Tuscaloosa and told them to send telegrams out to the Alabama players that the honor of the Confederacy was on their shoulders. They had to avenge losing the Civil War by beating these Washington Yankees," Bolton explained.
No matter that the Yankees in the state of Washington had nothing to do with the Souths defeat in 1865. Even Wade played on loyalty to the region when Alabama went into the locker room at the half trailing 12-0. "And they told me Southern boys would fight," was all he told his team.
In the second half the unbelievable happened. Quarterback Pooley Hubert, the seasoned and mature team leader, kept running straight into the Washington line until he scored. Johnny Mack Brown, the dashing running back who would become a matinee idol, caught a fifty yard pass in full stride and made a touchdown.
Everyone at the Rose Bowl was stunned. Hubert sensed Alabama could deliver a knockout blow and called an audacious play.
"Pooley told me to run upfield as fast as I could," recalled Brown. "When I reached the three yard line, I looked back and sure enough the ball was coming over my shoulder. I took it in stride and went over carrying somebody. The place was really in an uproar."
Roses of Crimson shows how the uproar continued after the game. In nearly every town the teams train passed through on the trip back to Tuscaloosa Southerners struck up brass bands and hailed the conquering heroes. In New Orleans nearly one thousand Tulane students rallied when the train pulled into the station. And back at the University of Alabama campus, the entire student body and most of the town turned out for a raucous parade that ended with speeches and tributes on the Quad.
"The documentary has some wonderful scenes from a great game, but its about more than that," said Tom Rieland, who produced the documentary for The University of Alabama Center for Public Television and Radio. "It also shows why Southerners were ready for something that would unite them, that would give them a reason to say they were proud to be from Dixie. Roses of Crimson explains why it was football that accomplished that."
Now its hard to imagine a time in the South when a Monday post-mortem of the game didnt dominate conversation at the office water cooler, or when weekend events in the fall didnt revolve around attending a game or at least watching one on TV.
"You can look at the 1926 Rose Bowl as the most significant event in Southern football history," said Andrew Doyle, a history professor at Winthrop University who has written about the sport. "What had come before was almost like a buildup, a preparation for this grand coming out party. And it was a sublime tonic for Southerners who were buffeted by a legacy of defeat, military defeat, a legacy of poverty, and a legacy of isolation from the American political and cultural mainstream."
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Johnny Mack Brown was my favorite screen cowboy when little. I had no idea he was a football hero before that.
It is an outstanding documentary.
20-19 final score
What made the South today's powerhouse economically was refrigerated air conditoning.
Roll Tide bump for later read. By the way, any illiterate Auburn fans who need this read to them Public Radio-style, let me know.
I just finished a biography on Wallace Wade. A greater man and coach you could hardly find. I wish my Blue Devils were as serious about football as they used to be.
Need some dialog here. PING.
Would loved to have seen that game. I never knew JMB was a 'Bama football player. Must have seen every movie he ever made from the old time cowboy movies they used to show everyday after school. Had about five plots and made a thousand movies from them, lol. The same chase scenes in all the movies, too.
I'm not the football historian but I thought it was in the 1920's when Georgia Tech beat the team from Tennesse 221 to nothing because John Heisman was fed up with the national rankings. If Ga Tech was concerned about national rankings how does that jibe with this article? Believe me, I don't know, just wondering.
Did this result in a proclaimed post facto national championship for Alabama from a third rate publication that only lasted for a year or two?
Well, the Alabama v Penn State game in which Barry Krause stopped the ball carrier on fourth and goal from the one to win the game sticks in this old head as the greatest piece of Alabama football history.
Better Bama game here:
Yep, the USC (Integrated) Vs. Alabama (Segregated) in 1970 was a turning point in Southern Football history. In fact, the 1969 UT Longhorns were the last all white National Champions.
More dreck from the apologists who thought winning was synonymous with annihilation.
I wasn't alive at the time, but Mencken seems like he was the Michael Moore/Bill Maher/John Stewart of his era...
IOW, a complete leftist jerk.
I wonder. We did not have airconditioning until 1971. believe it or not I did not like it at first. It seemed to give me a headache like eating an ice cream cone too fast. Before we had it really did not matter. Kinda like colored TV. Did not get that until 1973. I was amazed when I saw the Wizard of Oz for the first time in color. The whole show was different and the Horse of a Different Color made more sense. Funny how things work.
Ole Miss 23
We just beat the hell outta you!
Rammer Jammer Yellowhammer
Give 'em hell Alabama
Aw c'mon W, lightin up, its all good, just a lil ol SEC funin with ya boy.
I was smiling the whole time. :>)
I am a SEC fan, OM first
and who ever is playing Miss. State and Aub.
Ping on whoever is playing the War Buzzards.
IOW, a complete leftist jerk.
It's perhaps providential that I made it to this thread to read your post, since I don't like football, but any thread where someone comes out against H. L. Mencken is worth reading.
Unfortunately, Mencken (though an atheist, evolutionist, and anti-Southern bigot) was not a liberal. He was a bit of a "palaeoconservative" and as a matter of fact is practically worshipped by many "palaeos" to this day. However, this may have more to do with his association with The American Mercury, a magazine he founded in 1924 which became anti-Semitic in the Fifties (under Russell Maguire) and avowedly national socialist in the Sixties (under the aegis of Willis Carto). But that doesn't change the fact that he promoted conservatives like George Schuyler.
In an odd but totally stereotypical bit of hypocrisy, Mencken ("palaeo" icon) actually championed American Blacks and was a big supporter of the NAACP (I guess he was careful to exempt Southern Blacks from his charges of stupidity, like many liberals do today). But many conservatives continue to forgive Mencken's support of the liberal NAACP.
Perhaps the ultimate secret behind Mencken's heoric status to "palaeos" is that we now know from his personal writings that he was an anti-Semite--perfectly appropriate considering his hatred of and hostility toward the Bible.
I'll never understand why any "conservative" would admire this piece of trash.
Clarence Davis was one of the running backs for SC, and was
from Alabama. When Bryant heard that, he vowed he would never
let a talented athlete leave Alabama without him trying to
get them to play for Alabama...and now the SEC is pretty
hard to beat....Bryant used to say he would "take the culls"
from the USC team...
...would like to see an all Samoan team...maybe Brigham
Young Hawaii might field such a team...the most fun would
be the announcers trying to pronounce the names under a
You've managed to rebreak my Nittany heart within just two posts of each other. It's bad enough to lose to Alabama that way, but even worse is the '69 pain of the undefeated Nittany Lions being swept aside by Nixon's premature declaration before the Bowl Games that U. of Texas was the national champ. Nixon offered PSU some consolation plaque of our undefeatedness, which a young Coach Paterno refused to accept.
Paterno is probably the greatest coach, living or dead. The Bear was truly a great coach, but Paterno gets my vote ... and I'm a lifelong Alabama fan.
Complete leftist jerk?
Nope. Just the greatest cynic ever born.
Consider "global warming" and mull this quote from Mencken, way back when:
"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."
He was more of an equal opportunity critic. Alistair Cooke (who was a great lefty) had an unintentionally humorous foreword to a collection of Mencken writings where he praised Mencken for his witty, insightful critiques of the Coolidge and Hoover administrations -- which tragically were followed by a stream of mean-spirited, off-base criticisms of FDR.
nonetheless, this was a GREAT win over the huskies from DAMNyankeeland.
I admire your desire, but the patient is in the hospice.
Duke could be as serious about it as you desire, and the patient would still be terminal.
Sorry, Sam "Bam" Cunningham USC tail back tearing up the Tide on National TV was much more significant.
Coach Wallace Wade was named for the Scottish hero William Wallace.
BTW, if any of you folks are interested in DVD's of old Alabama games, highlights, and specials, a fellow from Dothan who I met through eBay has a website that sells and trades them. If you're not an Alabama fan, they make good gifts for customers who are. eBay has a lot of old Auburn games as well.
My Dad graduated a from API(Auburn) in '49 and my wife and I graduated from The University in '82 and '83. We don't talk football much lately.
I am in no way associated with the site.
ROLL TIDE!! What else is there to say?
I absolutely agree...and the other great moment in my opinion was Van Tiffen's 50+ year field goal to beat the heated Awburn....Roll Tide
some of my fondest memories of the 10 years I lived in DC (83-93) was going to Penn St every other year for the Bama-PSU game....it was always so much fun, the fans up there were always so gracious and kind...in fact, after one game (where we won - Roll Tide), some friends and I were in the bar at the hotel afterwards and some PSU fans sent over a bottle of champagne....is that class or what? The last game there (the next year in Tuscaloosa was the end of the series) you cannot believe all the Bama and PSU fans that were walking up to each other crying and hugging....It was a great series and I hate that it ended!
one of my favorite clippings about Bama is from former football coach John McKay, "When I went duck hunting with Bear Bryant, he shot at one but it kept flying. 'John', he said, 'there flies a deck duck'. Now that's confidence." I cut that out when I read it the week Coach McKay died, had it laminated and have carried in my wallet ever since!
year = yard
Being an orange-bleeding Tennessee Volunteer fan, there's teams you can't stand (Gators) and teams that you respect. My hat's always off to the Crimson Tide for some great games over the years.
What a great memory! I hope some schedule of the future reunites us again.
From the headline, I thought they were talking about the 1970 USC - Alabama game. THAT was a game that changed the south, and the University of Alabama.
Read a book recently, "The History of the South" that made this same point. It signaled the end of reconstruction to some.
Right back at ya.
Oh Rocky Top, You'll Always Be Second in the SEC!!!