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The ABC Sports Banner, a symbol for sports fanatics of the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, now hangs triumphantly in my living room. 8 feet by 6, it dominates the room, serving as a reminder that someplace, at this moment, someone is whomping someone else in athletic competition.
The voices of Howard Cosell, Alex Karras, and Keith Jackson seem to echo about the room; my mouth waters as I rush for the T.V. in hopes of catching the last ten minutes of Candlepins for Cash.
My roommate, Lou, began his quest for the banner many months ago, but his ultimate achievement came only after intricate planning and heroic exertion. Unsatisfied with his Razorback Stadium reflecting sign and his Rooter-Snooter Hog hat, he longed for fulfillment. The ABC banner was it.
Lou's quest began back in November when UCLA was matched to play Alabama in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. My own family ties at UCLA, and the fact that Lou lived in nearby Little Rock, Arkansas, made us plan to attend the game together. It was only after the game, as Lou clutched the precious banner in his hands, that I learned that his excitement had not been over my impending visit.
December 20, the day of the Liberty Bowl game, began inauspiciously. Memphis, not renowned for its winter sports, was unusually cold and getting colder. The weather was to be the least of our troubles.
As we boarded the bus for the stadium, to our dismay we found ourselves surrounded by Alabama fans--drunk Alabama fans; choruses of "Roll, Tide, Roll" were intermingled with calls for "Raaalph". But Lou was undaunted; the banner lay ahead.
Once inside the stadium we began to search for our seats. "Up," the usher said and up we climbed, to the very top. The players on the field resembled flyspecks; stratospheric currents chilled us to the bone. Drunk sports fans screamed unintelligible epithets in our ears and yes, the UCLA band was settling down directly in front of us. The despair creeping into my facial expression was painfully obvious, reflected in the tubas that lined the row before us. The game itself was a complete mismatch, Alabama winning by a score of 36-6.
I was crumbling. But Lou had more will power. Unaffected by inclement weather and the torturous circumstances, his eyes were focused intensely towards the end of the stadium, for there it hung, the ABC banner.
As the game drew to a close Lou made his move. Streaking for the banner he dodged all obstacles with cat-like agility. He climbed the stadium wall in one leap, fearlessly risking life and limb. He pulled at the banner, so close to victory his heart was pounding furiously. With one last heroic effort he freed the last corner and bolted from the stadium one step ahead of the authorities.
As we met outside the stadium I saw the look of triumph in his eyes. The ABC Sports banner was his at last.
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