Living during the 'Alabama Age'

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As my professor likes to say, we live during one of the greatest generations Alabama has ever seen.

In the past five years Alabama fans have seen three National Championships, two of them back-to-back, and two SEC Championship victories. We've seen players like Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy come in and completely change the program. We've seen what Nick Saban can do and does do for the team.

But it wasn't always like that.

If you look back a decade ago, Alabama's football team wasn't good. It was a dark period for the program. This was pre-Saban, a time that no one likes to think about. As students, we skip over it because we aren't used to failure. We only expect the best because that's what we've been around while in college.

During last year's Iron Bowl, Auburn trumped Alabama and then again during the Sugar Bowl, Oklahoma overpowered the Crimson Tide. We learned what it's like to lose.

Many like to say that it was time to lose, and I wholeheartedly agree. We, as fans, grew so accustomed to winning that students would leave games before halftime because we were winning by so much. I heard countless times that if it wasn't a blowout, students would be disappointed with Saban and the team.

But then Alabama lost. Twice. And everything changed.

They say Alabama fans are some of the classiest fans you will ever meet. After back-to-back losses last season, it was a challenge to watch people comprehend and accept the fact that Alabama was no longer the best. It was hard for fans to learn how to lose, but it made them better. It even made them stronger as fans.

Saban wrote a letter to the students last season asking them to stay until the end of the game. By the time that letter was published, it was far too common to see the student section of Bryant-Denny fairly empty instead of mostly full. Games that weren't high-profile were expected to be all-too easy blowout wins, not worth the time to watch the game. With the exceptions of LSU and Texas A&M, most of the games Alabama played last season weren't fan favorites. Students got greedy, they were spoiled. They only expected the best.

They saw Alabama fall from grace. They saw the best team in the country lose. And they had to decide what type of fan they would become: band wagoners or tried and true fans.

Now that it's a new season, there's a renewed sense of fandom within the student population. They remember the hurt that was ever-present after the loss to Auburn and they are all too familiar with what happened against Oklahoma. But there's hope. There's always hope.

Students came into this year confident with the new team. Though the team was relatively unknown before the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, the fans were behind Alabama far more than they had been in previous seasons. They were proud of their team and of the fight they put on.

It all boils down to tradition. Not only with the students but with every Alabama fan in general. Alabama fans are loyal to a tee. They stuck through the good times and the bad. And even if most current students don't remember the bad times, they will still stand by the team. It's the sense of tradition that is ringing through all the fans right now. It's that same tradition that stuck with those fans after the passing of Paul 'Bear' Bryant and it's the same tradition that got us through the early 2000's, when it wasn't a great time.

So, when my professor said it's one of the greatest generations of Alabama football history, he doesn't mean that the team is one of the greatest. He means that it's when true fan loyalty shines. Sure, the team may be an excellent team, but as fans we saw the rise of greatness and the fall from grace. And the fans stuck by their team, even as it enters the most unpredictable season.

The tradition to stick by Alabama, even after everything that has happened in the past year, is something students and fans alike are proud to uphold. They proudly shout out "Roll Tide" and "Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer," but they embrace the unexpected and challenging unknown because they are true fans. And they will continue to stand by Alabama, because that's just how they were raised -- to be faithful fans.

Caroline Gazzara is a junior at the University of Alabama majoring in Sports Journalism. Her passions are Alabama athletics and soccer. Follow her on Twitter: @CarolineGazzara
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