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Birmingham postcard, day 1

Postcard from the Edge

Greetings from Birmingham.

I’m told UConn was greeted at its hotel Tuesday by the Hoover Belles, a group of high-achieving high school girls decked out in their antebellum-era finest.

I was greeted by Vulcan, the Roman god of the forge who stands sentry above downtown Birmingham from a nearby mountaintop. The cast iron statue is the largest statue made in the U.S. and second largest in the country behind the Statue of Liberty.

Vulcan looks like Paul Bunyan in a toga, but in a good way. There’s a park and museum at the foot of Vulcan that pay tribute to the region’s once-booming iron industry. The great Vulcan used to hold a torch that would shine red on days when there had been a fatal traffic accident in the area, but the torch now sits in the museum.

My wife/then-girlfriend left a camera on the observation deck on my last to Vulcan about 14 years ago. I asked a woman at the ticket counter whether they had a lost-and-found, then rode the elevator to the top.

Great view, No camera.



Moving on to football matters …

The team, which flew to B’ham, beat my Toyota Highlander here by a couple of hours. But USC sports information official Andrew Kitick said the Gamecocks enjoyed a smooth flight over and received a nice welcome at their downtown hotel.

The Bowl experience begins in earnest Wednesday with morning press conferences with both teams, a welcome luncheon and the Gamecocks’ first practice at Birmingham Southern, a DIII school that I’m told has DIAA-type facilities.

It will be interesting to hear UConn’s take about coming into the heart of SEC country.

The Big East has won all three of the previous Bowls, but the first two games were against Conference USA opponents. Last year Rutgers knocked off N.C. State when the SEC failed to fill all of its bowl slots.

I think having an SEC team, especially one coached by Steve Spurrier, in the game is going to boost local ticket sales (weather permitting).

This will be USC’s first game against UConn. The Gamecocks are 1-2 in bowl games against the Big East (losses to West Virginia in the ’69 Peach and to Pitt in the ’80 Gator, and a win over WVU in the ’95 Carquest, the school’s first bowl victory).