I fell in love with football when I was a high school freshman to the point that when I was a senior, I became a baton-twirling majorette just to ensure that I’d have to go to all of our games. (We had a very good year, incidentally–GO CHIEFTAINS!) My favorite college team was the Texas Longhorns. I have no idea why I picked them. Personally, I can’t stand orange clothing (not my best color), but I DO love cows, so maybe that was it. Yeah, yeah, I know, they’re Longhorns, not cows. I also watched USC, probably due to my love for ancient Greek and Roman civilization, and the Georgia Bulldogs. I don’t care much for bulldogs, unless they are the Looney Tune bulldogs, but I saw Herschel Walker do his dive over the pile at the goal line to score a touchdown and, after I closed my gaping-in-awe jaw, I was hooked.
So for whatever reasons, those were the teams I watched–oh, and also Boston College, of course, home of Doug Flutie. I think these were all decent teams during those years, but I honestly don’t remember. They must have had some redeeming qualities, though, right?
My love of football continued as I attended the University of Massachusetts, where I went to most all of the home UMASS Minutemen football games. However, it wasn’t until I moved to the South, that I learned what “REAL” football was. Little did I know, from what I’d watched on television, how BIG it is, down here. Before I moved from New England, one of my uncles commented on how Alabama had one of the hugest rivalries in the country, Alabama vs. Auburn. I knew nothing of it. I learned REALLY fast how much a part of the culture it is; how much of a pseudo-religion it is. REALLY FAST. You know how I learned? In 1991, I was a waitress at a restaurant in Southside Birmingham, called Rube Burrow’s, named after the infamous Alabama outlaw, Rube Burrow. (I had quite a few learning experiences there, come to think of it, not just concerning football.) During the Iron Bowl game, THE game between Alabama and Auburn, I waitressed, still relatively new to the restaurant–and to Alabama, the South, etc.. I worked a double. I made no money. It was a nightmare. My party of 4 became 6, then 10, 13, up to at least a couple dozen raucous people, all separate checks, all drinking, yelling out orders, and…yeah, it was horrendous, even the manager had trouble helping me out.
I had noticed that before the game, everyone was crazy & happy, drinking to the impending excitement. During the game, it was slow because no one in the entire state of Alabama budges from whatever television their eyes–entire beings, really–are fixated upon. After the game…mayhem! Half the state was drinking in wild elation and celebration of the winning team, the Crimson Tide, of course, while the other half, the Auburn Tiger fans, drank away their sorrows. I remember numbly walking home to my apartment late that night, alone, with just a little money to show from my learning experience. I think I may have had one of Rube Burrow’s famous mason jar drinks before I left for home, who remembers? Incidentally, I’m really amazed I never got attacked all those times I walked home, late at night, before I was able to buy a
deathtrap– a car. I have some awesome guardian angels, let me tell you.
In addition to my waitressing experience, I also heard the anecdotes of crazy fans on both sides, including one of a fan vandalizing an opposing team fan’s office. Crazy people. Well, I married into these crazy people. You know how we have Red Sox Nation and Patriot Nation in New England? Well, it’s like that down here, too, but it’s either you’re a Bama fan or an Auburn fan. ROLL TIDE or WAR EAGLE!! There is no middle ground. You MUST pick a side. SO in our house, it’s been ROLL TIDE!! because my Southern Man is a die-hard Alabama fan. I am one by default. It makes the marriage easier that way, especially since I’m a Yankee, which has counted against me, at times. The kids were born into it. Then our son decided, based on his scholarship and desired academic program, to go to Auburn University–monkey wrench! The reaction from my Southern Man’s family was borderline threatening. I think he was almost disowned, but then sympathy won out because, after all, he is half-Yankee and doesn’t know any better. Regardless, our son is now a full-fledged Auburn Tiger fan. Our daughter seems to be leaning towards going to Auburn, as well. (Honestly, the campus reminds us a bit of the University of New Hampshire, just on a larger scale.) However, she says she really doesn’t care about the whole football thing. We’ll see. The only Southern college game I have attended was, ironically, the 1992 Auburn-Florida game. (So I guess it IS my fault, after all, that they’ve defected to the dark side.) I was blown away by the sheer size and excitement of the crowd. It was amazing! I think the Tigers got beaten by the Gators, if I remember correctly. My point is that regardless of the seeming apathy our daughter has towards college football and the whole Alabama-Auburn rivalry, once she experiences the game, live, in the stadium, it’ll be a different story, I’m sure. And we will have lost another child to the dark side. Oh, well. One of many decisions they’ll have to make, however misguided they may be.
This weekend is the big kick-off for college football. Everyone has been anxiously awaiting this and is so excited! I bet the clotheslines and dryers across Alabama are full of crimson and white or orange and blue apparel, even down to skivvies that MUST be worn due to the superstitious power they hold over the ability for them to determine whether or not the wearer’s team will win. Crazy people. Oh, wait, I think I’ve become one of them. While we wish Auburn the best in their schedule, out of a small sense of loyalty and support on behalf of our son, we will be rooting for Alabama, especially later on in the season when the Iron Bowl takes place. Alabama had a heartbreaking loss, last year, to Auburn. My Southern Man says it never happens twice in a row. My son disputes that and pulled all the stats out when I was on the phone with him just a little bit ago. I told him to take it up with his Dad. While we can’t know how good Auburn will be, this year, if they are anything like last year, which was the first with a new coach and a huge surprise to many in terms of their success, they will definitely be a force to be reckoned with and I wish them well. Except in the Iron Bowl.