Two dozen oysters, two rounds of Bass Ale, draught, in icy mugs then to a pitcher of the same – keep the ice cold mugs coming, though, please.
We’re spread out, the three of us, at a round table that seats, what, maybe eight? Tim brought his laptop. Jim’s on the iPhone, not talking. He’s looking up videos of games of yesteryear and finding game stories, reading them aloud, as though these BIG games happened last Saturday afternoon.
“Oh, man!” Jim says followed by a big chuckle and a guttural oomph, as he slides the rewind back on the video.
“What?” Tim asks, as the two men lean toward each other for a close look at a Big Hit from a Big Play in a Big Game on the tiny screen.
The Sporting Life Arkansas Sports Desk brought an iPad, but our desk representative is really just sitting back watching.
There’s something magnificent in observing hardcore sports guys break down games of the past. Watching them banter over the specifics of a big play on a third down – wait, wasn’t it a second down play? Oh that’s right. And it was Mark Green. No, Ricky Watters right? Yeah.
This pastime really is like watching time travel. The details of the games are so clearly described and retold, from the temperature that day and other weather conditions, to the guy in the row behind, the one who wouldn’t shut up, to Keith Jackson’s word-for-word play-by-play. Whoa Nelly! (if you were watching the match up on tv.)
Tim Giattina, 32, a Little Rock lawyer from Birmingham, Ala., via South Bend, Ind., was at that game, the one in 1987, when the No. 7 Lou Holtz-led Fighting Irish clobbered the No. 11 ranked Tide in South Bend 37-6. This was the third Notre Dame vs. Alabama game of his life. The first came in 1980, when he was merely a month and a half old. In ’87, Tim was seven and was there with his dad, Gene, in end-zone seats of the historic stadium under the watchful gaze of Touchdown Jesus.
“It was like Ricky Watters was running right at me,” Giattina recalled. “They destroyed Alabama that day, and I remember all the cheering around me, my dad was cheering…”
Jim Harris remembers watching the same game on television.
Mark Green also had 149 yards that day, including a 75-yard blast. Watters scored on 74-yard run, the run Giattina vividly remembers.
And the player who would go on to win the Heisman Trophy later that season, Tim Brown, had 114 yards.
If you’ve ever been to the Oyster Bar in the Stifft Station area of Little Rock, over on Markham, you will know the table we’ve turned into an office, the big round one in the front seating area in a corner, under the flat screen television.
ESPN is on and between that, the machines we’ve got hooked up to the WiFi, the beer and the oysters – another dozen and one more pitcher please. Oh and frosty mugs again. Thanks. – this scene is conducive pretty much only for talking sports. THE Game. THE Teams.
Giattina was born and raised in Alabama. His father is an Italian-American Catholic who cheered for Notre Dame his entire life, and his mother, Jane is the oldest of two daughters, an Alabama native and raised Baptist.
Tim’s dad brought his son with him all the way from Birmingham, Ala., to watch the Irish play in 1987. Mrs. Giattina, admittedly was not much of a fan of the Irish, at all. In fact, like most Alabama fans, she despised them.
Her father was Edwin Roton. They all called him “Pa”.
“My mother was his oldest child,” Tim says, “So ‘Pa’ took her to games at Legion Field (in Birmingham) from the time she was little to watch the games and cheer for Alabama. Always Bama.”
There was a time when it was common, well at least more common than it is now, for college teams to play home games in a stadium in another part of their state. Ole Miss played regular games in Jackson, Miss., until 1996. The Arkansas Razorbacks still maintain this throw-back tradition, with two games in Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium each football season.
It was at the University of Alabama’s Birmingham football home on Legion Field in 1986 where Tim watched his first #NDvsBAMA game. In fact, Legion Field is where Tim spent most of his football-watching childhood, just like his mother had spent hers.
The final that year was 28-10, Alabama.
“I’ve been to the last two ND-Bama games,” Tim says. “There have been three in my life, but I was only like a month and a half old for the first (Nov. 1980), so I missed that one. The first Alabama/ND game I attended was the 1986 game at Legion Field. ‘The Sack’ as it’s known in Alabama lore – I was there for that.
“My sister [Julie] and I sat between our parents because they weren’t really on speaking terms about the game.”