I spent the weekend tailgating with friends and family at Legion Field attending what is affectionately called the Coal Bowl (aka The Magic City Classic). For readers who don't live in Sweet Home Alabama the Iron Bowl is the much anticipated annual interstate rivalry between Auburn University and The University of Alabama, the 'white schools". The Coal Bowl is the much anticipated annual interestate rivalry between Alabama A&M University and Alabama State University, the "black schools". The vestigates of segregation continue but it's all good.
The Magic City Classic is an annual football game between Alabama's two largest, historically black universities: Alabama A&M University (Normal) and Alabama State University (Montgomery). The first game between the two schools was played in 1924. It has been an uninterrupted, annual tradition since 1945 and played at Legion Field in Birmingham since 1946. After winning the 2009 matchup, Alabama A&M enjoys a 35-30-3 all-time advantage.
In addition to the actual game, the event is known for a glamorous parade and a raucous "Battle of the Bands" between the respective schools' marching bands. Other events include a kickoff luncheon, pre-game entertainment, and abundant weekend tailgaiting outside the stadium.
There was an estimated crowd of 120,000 black folks in or around Legion Field. There were no mass murders, rapes, robbery, kidnappings or any other criminal activity, so I can't understand why the white Birmingham Police Officers looked like they were skeered to death and walked around with their hands on their weapons like they were expecting a shootout at the OK Corral to happen at any moment. The Keystone Cops (parking lot personal) threw their weight around and weren't very co-operative to those that wanted to come and go as they please, but at least they weren't locked and loaded. Residents in the surrounding neighborhoods said they felt like they were under seige with all the road blocks and check points set up by the BPD. Residents had to show a pass and offer proof they lived in the neighborhood in order to come and go. My god daughter couldn't even get to her own home because she couldn't prove she lived in the neighborhood and she didn't have a pass. She said the policeman was very rude. I'm glad she didn't get belligerant or she might have ended up like Heather Ellis or worse. But I digress.
Naturally, politicians see the Coal Bowl as the opportunity to pander, I mean woo African American voters. I didn't actually see any of the politicos, but I saw lots of campaign signs for Sheila Smoot, Terri Sewell, Ron Sparks and Artur Davis. According to media reports Davis was in attendence at the game, and according to my sources Terri Sewell was spotted in the Birmingham airport on her way to Princeton for a fundraiser Thursday.
You can't have a football game/tailgate in Birmingham, Alabama without the talk turning to politics. It's what we do in Sweet Home Alabama.
Pigskin political talk from Langford to Davis to Sparks and Obama below the fold.
The mood at the classic was rather somber this year, partially due to the rain on Friday and Saturday, and partially because Larry Langford was convicted the previous Wednesday. White surburbanites and the Birmingham news media may not have liked Larry Langford but the people who elected him loved him" because "he was cleaning up the city" . They believe his conviction will be a vehcile to over turn the election so Patrick Cooper can become Mayor. They question why Langford was convicted over some suits and a Rolex, while the two men who made millions got away scott free.
Prosecutors claimed Langford accepted cash and luxury items worth some $236,000 while serving as president of the Jefferson County Commission. In exchange, they claimed, Langford sent lucrative bond business to investment banker Bill Blount, a former chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tamarra Matthews Johnson told jurors in closing arguments that Langford was heavily in debt and accepted the gifts from Blount, along with checks or loan payoffs through a middleman, lobbyist Al LaPierre. Both Blount and LaPierre pleaded guilty in the scheme and testified against Langford under their plea agreements.
Langfords trouble stem from a sewer construction and bond swap controversey.
In 1995, Jefferson County entered into a consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency regarding sewer overflows into the Cahaba River watershed. A total of $3.2 billion of new construction was subsequently contracted, both to comply with the consent decree and to expand the system to newly-developing areas and increase the number of ratepayers financing the construction. Much of this work was awarded to inexperienced companies, many of which have since been convicted of bribery along with several county officials.
The "sewer controversy" caused a rate hike. People on fixed incomes had water bills that were higher than their electric bills. Renters would move leaving property owners with thousands of dollars in unpaid water bills. If the landlords didn't pay a lien was placed on the property until a law was passed by the legislature property owners were not responsible for tenets water bills.
Talk turned to the 2010 governors race. People I talked to were either going to vote for Davis because he's black or not vote in the democratic primary. Some said if he couldn't support President Obama they couldn't support him.
Despite the endorsement of former Birmingham Mayor Richard Arrington, Ron Sparks has ZERO name recognition in the black community. When people asked me who he was I said he was the Agriculture Commissioner. That drew a blank look. Then I told them his name was on every gas tank in Alabama. Needless to say that didn't win him any friends much less votes because the talked turned to rising gas prices.
Most of my friends and family are getting impatient with President Obama. They are still waiting for things to change. My daddy says if things don't start picking up, people are going to start picking up things. The banks still aren't loaning money. Credit card companies are still raising interest rates, mortage forclosures are still on the rise. Jobs are still being outsourced over seas. The public option is in jepordy. Our troops are still dying and being maimed and wounded for life in Iraq and Afghanistan. The unemployment rate for African Americans is 15% and getting higher. The justice department is still the Injustice department. Might as well still have Bush and Dick.
Redeye tiptoeing away from the computer to go rest up for the Iron Bowl in three weeks.