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Her distinctive University of Alabama sweater, the one with the elephant logo on the front, isn't going to be enough come Thursday night's BCS title game against Texas. No, Chrissy Cooper has decided she needs something more. A Crimson Tide T-shirt perhaps. Or a cap. Maybe a towel.

"I think I'm on the verge of a heart attack," said the 48-year-old Cooper has she worked her way through Hamilton Place Mall athletic shops early Tuesday evening.

"I teach at Sequoia High School and I've already put in for a personal day on Friday. If we lose I know I won't be able to get out of bed. And if we win, I'll be up all night celebrating."

We.

That one word, those two letters, sum up what makes Southern football fans more special than anywhere else. Cooper graduated from Alabama in 1982, so at least she's an alum rather than merely a fan. So "we" isn't altogether wrong in her case, even if she won't make a single touchdown or tackle.

But even if it wasn't her school, even if she was more like Bridgeport, Ala., resident Melvin Hall, and merely a lifelong fan of the Tide, Bama's first march to the national championship game in 17 years is heady stuff.

"I've been a fan all my life," said the 72-year-old Hall as he and his 70-year-old wife, Dorothy, surveyed the sweatshirts and T-shirts at Hamilton Place's Sports Stop. "This year's been incredible. For me, the Tennessee game was the best. They beat us on the field, but not on the scoreboard."

So who does Hall think will win between the Tide and the Longhorns?

"I've got a nephew in Austin, Tex., who says there's no way Texas can win," he said. "I just hope he's right."

Jane Anne Austin of Trenton, Ga., hopes the Tide is right from the outset against the Longhorns. Otherwise, she may have to listen to most of the game on the radio.

"If Alabama is winning, I can sit in front of the TV," said Austin, whose daughter Mary Carol recently graduated from the Capstone. "But if we're losing my husband, Lionel, makes me leave the room. My whole family thinks I'm the jinx. So I have to go to the bedroom."

Since Jane Anne's brother Mark Whittington is an Auburn grad, this has led to more than a few interesting family gatherings, especially during the afternoon during the 1985 Alabama-Auburn game.

"It was a really close game," said Austin. "Depending on who had the lead, I had either my husband or my brother shouting, 'Stay gone,' or 'Come back.'"

In the end, the Tide held on for a 25-23 victory.

This season's 13-0 run by Bama is allowing school apparel stores like Sports Stop to make a big comeback in a down economy.

"Alabama's definitely been our biggest seller lately," said Leslie Gilman, who helps manage the store with her husband Don. "We've probably sold 30 to 40 percent more Bama stuff than normal."

In fact, when the Tide beat Florida in the SEC title game, the Sports Shop sold more than 200 Alabama SEC championship caps priced at $24.95 each in a day and a half.

"If they beat Texas, we'll have stuff on the shelf by Friday or Saturday," Gilman said.

Chrissy Cooper will surely be there to buy it.

"Oh, I've got a Bear Bryant houndstooth hat in the back window of my car," she said. "I drive a red BMW with Crimson Tide vanity plates. My husband's a Bama fan, too, but he doesn't get physically sick like I do over games."

Jane Anne Austin understands. Having gone to college in the 1970s, she remembers when Alabama went 0-7-1 in bowls between 1967 and 1974, despite the Bear prowling the sidelines.

"I still haven't gotten over that Bear Bryant fear of bowls," she said. "But winning like we have the last two years also reminds me of the heyday of Bear, when all we did was win."

And the Tide should win on Thursday night, sparing Austin from being banished to her bedroom and Cooper from her bed. Make it Alabama 24, Texas 21. Just hope they don't need any help from the ghost of Bear along the way. He was 0-3-1 at Bama when bowling against the Longhorns.

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