Two cities have made me the sports fan I am today.
One is Auburn. The first memories I have of sports are throwing a Nerf football around outside Jordan-Hare with my Dad before entering and watching Auburn paste the likes of Southwestern Louisiana or Western Carolina by scores of, oh, 176-3 as Bo or maybe Brent Fullwood ran for 576 yards and 12 touchdowns. Or so. The first basketball game I ever remember watching was Chris Morris and Chuck Person shocking St. John's in the second round of the 1986 NCAAs. (When the Tigers lost to Louisville in the Elite Eight in that tournament, I cried. Mom tried to console me by telling me, "Jerry, this was the furthest they'd ever gotten." Funnily enough, it's still the furthest they've ever gotten. I say I knew what I was doing.) Rooting for Auburn, especially in football, wasn't so much a choice I made as a genetic trait I inherited. The day I can keep myself from caring about Auburn football is the day I turn my eyes hazel and my hair blonde.
The other is Birmingham. To grow up in rural Alabama is to think of Birmingham as the Capital Magical City of Special Supercool Things: the Discovery Center Museum, Barnum and Bailey's Circus at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center, the unbelievable grandeur of the Galleria shopping mall (like I said, very rural Alabama). As I got into high school, more and more of the sporting events I cared about happened in Birmingham: Michael Jordan's stint in minor league baseball, my school's girls' basketball team playing for a state title at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center, Olympic soccer coming to Legion Field. And then I went into Birmingham-Southern College and realized how much better basketball was when it wasn't played in front of 500 fans in a 10,000-seat coliseum. (150 fans in a 1,000-seat coliseum, complete with player swearing you can hear with your own ears, is better or you're a moron.) And now, there's this blog.
To get from my hometown to Birmingham, we had to drive up U.S. Highway 280. During the '90s, there was one landmark in particular I always looked for to tell me I had officially arrived in Birmingham: the Joe Cribbs Car Wash. Located in the then-still-developing "Greystone" suburb area, on the right of 280 as the car came flying down one last pre-civilization mountain, the Joe Cribbs Car Wash simultaneously reminded me of of that other neat-o city I had two-plus hours to my back and ushered me into whatever adventure Birmingham had in store for me.
If that sounds a little too halcyon-days-memoir-esque for you, well, there was also just the coolness factor: Look, a car wash! Owned by an Auburn running back! Joe Cribbs got his own car wash! Awesome! I'll have to take my car there when I get one!
Never got the chance, of course. The original, non-Internet Joe Cribbs' Car Wash didn't last too long, though it lived on for years in the table-top advertisements of the Birmingham Dreamland location. Now the location is, I believe, a Lexus dealership and saying the Greystone stretch of 280 has developed a bit is like saying the Braves have had the occasional postseason struggle.
But the memory of the Joe Cribbs Car Wash has nonetheless gone on rattling around in my head for years. And now I'm blogging up my favorite team in the city of Joe Cribbs' Car Wash along with the team Joe Cribbs himself played for. Seems a perfectly good time to honor that memory, huh?