Our game at NIU suddenly became one that stood out from the others, thanks to DJ Pumphrey’s surprising and much appreciated handing me the game ball. What an unexpected honor.
Nevertheless, I think you will agree this week’s game with South Alabama in Mobile combines elements to make it unmatched in my life. Could it be matched by anyone’s experience? Rather than tell the story, let me just add here the news release my “press agent” son Ken is sending out this week:
90-year-old Fan to Close Amazing Life Loop When
Aztecs Play South Alabama in Mobile, October 1
When the San Diego State Aztecs meet the University of South Alabama in Mobile on October 1, standing on the sideline with them will be their #1 fan, 90-year-old alum Tom Ables. For him, it will be more than simply his 774th Aztec game. It will be the closing of an interesting 70-year life loop.
In August 1946, Ables was still in the Navy, serving in one of the four engine rooms of the battleship USS Alabama, BB-60. A month later he was a Freshman at San Diego State, sports editor of The Aztec student newspaper and saw his first Aztec football game. He had seen a few as a kid with his older brother, but doesn’t count those.
Since then he has seen 773 games, missing just three road games in all those years. Ironically, he missed the Aztecs’ 42-7 win over the Cincinnati Bearcats in the Hawaii Bowl last year. Two serious ear infections prevented his flying. Prior to that he had been to 600 straight since 1964 when another doctor prevented his traveling.
Making this trip far more than just another football game for Ables, his battleship Alabama is now a leading tourist attraction anchored in Mobile Bay as an interesting Naval Museum with World War II history. So he will be able to proudly take a reminiscent tour of his old ship that same day, in effect closing that 70-year loop.
Already planning to resume his travel schedule, he began his efforts by seeking Head Coach Rocky Long’s OK. Ables, not as agile as he once was, wants to be sure he’s not a “nuisance.” The coach quickly gave him a thumbs-up, and his doctors have endorsed his travel plans. Ables has continued his routine of standing on the sideline with the team for the whole game except, as he admits, “I look for a place to sit during timeouts.”
While there is no official count on college fans, and Ables makes no claims, some writers interested in his story have said he now ranks as the #1 college football fan in America in terms of games seen. For a 90-year-old who started going at age 20 and missed only three games, it might be hard to top his mark.
Ables is the author of GO AZTECS!, a book covering Aztec football history since World War II as seen through the eyes of this fan who has seen 773 of the 776 games played in 71 seasons. Ables frequently blogs and Tweets about Aztec sports to more than 800 Twitter, Facebook and email followers, which include current and former San Diego State students, athletes and fans. Even a few Hall of Famers.