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.
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