Rolling with the Tide: Devoted fans David and Cindy Hall seldom miss a game
By Chelsea Retherford | Living 50 Plus
Any given Saturday from September to January, David and Cindy Hall can likely be found in Tuscaloosa, setting up for game day at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
If they’re not found tailgating with fellow fans on what they consider sacred ground, they’re most likely on the road following their favorite team to another stadium, or on occasion welcoming guests to a watch party at their home in Green Hill.
Cindy, who grew up a die-hard Alabama fan, said she frequented Bryant-Denny Stadium as a child because she had cousins who held season tickets. While David had grown up cheering “Roll Tide” all his life as well, he hadn’t yet been introduced to the experience of chanting the infamous “Rammer Jammer” jeer at the top of his lungs inside the stadium.
The couple said it only took one game to get David hooked on tailgating a little over 20 years ago.
They’ve since spent most of their marriage attending at least one game a year— sometimes two — as their schedules would allow. When David retired five years ago, the Halls became season ticket holders.
Now, they rarely miss a game.
“He loves it so much, and we have family and the people we love down there,” Cindy said. I really can’t imagine doing anything else on Saturdays.”
The couple joke that “Roll Tide” was the first pillar of their relationship.
When Cindy met David, she was a fresh divorcee with two young sons, and felt very reluctant to start dating again. Still, a friend kept insisting that she meet “this railroad man.”
“I wouldn’t even call him by his name at the time,” Cindy said with a laugh. “She begged me from the moment my divorce was final. She’d say, ‘Oh, y’all are just alike. He would do anything for anybody. He loves church.’ I was just focused on raising my boys and I was happy.”
Eventually, Cindy agreed to pass along her phone number, and the first night David called, they chatted for hours until Cindy fell asleep on the line.
“We talked for two weeks just on the phone. Then we said, O.K., let’s meet,” she said. “That night at 9, he was still here. One of his questions was, ‘To make this relationship work, I need to know, who do cheer for on Saturday?’ I said, ‘Well, it’s Roll Tide always and forever.’”
To that, David told her, “You pass the test.’”
The Halls said they were freshly dating when they attended a couple of the last Alabama games held at Legion Field before their team played its final game at the Birmingham stadium in 2003.
Around this time, David and Cindy became close with another couple they knew through David’s work. Jim “Bubba” and Darlene Lewis introduced the Halls to some of their favorite tailgating traditions, and now their close group has grown to include two more couples — Tommy and Roxanne Saffles, and Jim and Carol Whitlock.
When asked whether they share any quirky game day traditions, the pair say they aren’t superstitious, but they will toast along with their tailgating pals who have made it a ritual before every home game.
“There are certain foods we will cook at certain games,” Cindy said. “If we’re playing Arkansas, we’re going to roast a pig. When we played LSU, we had gumbo cooked in a big pot.”
After David retired, and the couple became season ticket holders, they grew their fan circle with the people they’d spend most Saturdays with inside Bryant-Denny Stadium.
“For the last five years, we’ve enjoyed every Saturday with this group of people,” David said.
Sitting 52 rows up from about the 30-yard line, the Halls said they are surrounded by fans who have held their seats for years.
“You never give up your tickets once you get them, and then some even transfer them to their children and so forth,” Cindy said. “There are four families around us, and the ones who sit in front of us have been going to the games for 50 years. They’re close to 80 years old. They’re like family to us now.”
Despite one nearly tragic experience at an away game early in the 2022 season, the Halls said they remain devoted to traveling for Alabama football.
The couple and their six tailgating friends had ridden together to Austin, Texas, for the game against the Longhorns last September. They made it into the city a day early to do some of their usual exploring, but that afternoon, the group was struck by a vehicle involved in a collision in the parking lot where they’d just eaten lunch.
“This car was going 85 miles an hour down the highway and swerved to miss a car that was turning into the gas station next to the Mexican restaurant,” Cindy explained, recalling the traumatic experience.
The speeding vehicle instead struck a parked car that was then slung into their direction.
If it hadn’t been for the owner’s car parked in front of the entrance, the five friends chatting near their van might not have survived the ordeal.
“Roxanne was standing beside David, and they both got hit,” Cindy said. “She was hurt the worst, but within three days, everybody was back in Birmingham.”
The Halls said four helicopters were flown to the scene and carried David, Roxanne, and the Whitlocks to two nearby hospitals. The Lewises were carried by ambulance to the same hospital where David and Roxanne had been transported, and the only two left physically unscathed from the accident, Tommy and Cindy, followed in their van.
“We’ll go back to Austin,” Cindy added. “After the accident, I was on the phone with his daughters, and they were like, no ballgame tomorrow. David said, ‘I’m going to wait until the morning and decide.’”
They may have missed Bama’s close win over the Longhorns, but they have a long list of other exciting experiences from games around the country.
Since David’s retirement, the couple have also slowly been ticking away at an item at the top of his bucket list. David said he plans to attend a game at each of the 14 SEC stadiums at least once in his lifetime.
“We lack four,” he said, listing Vaught-Hemingway Stadium at Ole Miss, Georgia’s Sanford Stadium, Kentucky’s Kroger Field, and Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium in Missouri.
When the couple has traveled to another stadium, they make a point to see all the sights and experience some of their opponents’ game day traditions.
“We got to Arkansas last year, and the students were lined up in tents around the stadium. They’d camped out the night before, and that’s how they line up to get into the stadium the next day,” Cindy said. “We got to meet the cheerleaders, and they had the big razorback hog. We got to see all that. Then a few of the students would say, ‘Hey! Glad y’all came down for the game! Hope you don’t beat us too badly!’”
In most cases, the couple said they’ve been welcomed warmly by rival fans.
“Even when Tennessee was not doing great, we went there and walked in while the cheerleaders were doing pyramids and practicing on their quad. This guy in half orange, half white came running by. ‘Hey! Glad y’all came for the game! Can I take that for you?’ He took our garbage and threw it away.”
Cindy and David said they’ve had great experiences with fellow fans aside from their only visit to Death Valley when Alabama was hosted by Louisiana State University.
“We’ve had good experiences with everybody but LSU. They would come up and touch my nose to their nose and scream ‘Tiger Bait!’ spitting all over me,” Cindy said. “Texas A&M is top of the list. They’re like Alabama folks. They are just good fans.”
David said the stadium became a favorite of his after visiting a graveyard dedicated to Texas A&M’s canine mascots. He said he was also impressed with sections of sidewalk along campus that are engraved with the names of graduates.
“Every graduating class has a section of sidewalk, and it’s every name, like say 1,000 names,” he said. “Now, the first few years of the school in the 1800s, they had small classes, but they still have them all listed. Every campus has something different. These are things I never knew until we got there. We started asking people, what do we need to see while we’re here.”
Despite Alabama’s longstanding rivalry with Auburn University, David said Jordan-Hare Stadium is another favorite campus visit on his list of experiences.
Though Cindy had attended an Iron Bowl game at Auburn when she was young, the Halls checked the stadium off together last year when David visited for the first time with his grandson, Greyson, who chants “War Eagle” with pride.
“He’s obnoxious. We can’t carry him to a Bama game with us,” David said with a laugh.
“He knows every single stat against every team they are playing against,” Cindy added.
She said they’d taken their grandson to see Auburn play Arkansas on his birthday, and despite the loss that cost Coach Bryan Harsin his position as Auburn’s coach, Cindy said Greyson was thrilled to be in the stands.
“We enjoyed it too. We did the Tiger Walk and all,” she said. “I know Greyson was wondering what we were going to wear to the Auburn game. We wore navy. He was so worried we were going to show up with all that Alabama red on.”
Still, the Halls said they will always prefer their game day home at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
“It’s the atmosphere down there. I love it,” Cindy said. “You can just feel the electricity even though there is no electricity. All that energy — there’s nothing like it.”
David and Cindy said they will likely hold on to their season tickets until they physically can’t travel to games anymore.
“We see people coming on their walkers, and I’m like, there we are. That might be us one day,” Cindy said.
“We might make it there,” David agreed with a smile.