As many of you know, I live in Alabama, where our allegiance to God, country, and football is legendary and not necessarily in that order. In fact, the joke goes that once you cross the state line you must declare your loyalty: Alabama or Auburn, Roll Tide or War Eagle, the Crimson and White or the Orange and Blue.
For my part, I grew up chanting “Roll Tide, roll!” My dad was an alum, so choosing sides was a matter of tradition and family legacy.
That is, until we moved to Texas when I was in eighth grade. I find it interesting how much our surrounding culture shapes our passions. Living apart from the Tiger and Tide hotbed for a number of years, and then marrying a wonderful man who happens to be an Auburn man through and through led to a measure of indifference on my part.
We now live in Alabama, but despite the joke I referred to earlier, I don’t declare loyalty one way or the other. My husband is raising four of the biggest Auburn fans you can imagine, and no doubt it would thrill his heart for his wife to also don the Orange and Blue. Instead, I now say I’m non-denominational when it comes to football in Alabama: I just want everyone to be happy.
But sometimes I wish I were one or the other as I have observed the very real sense of community and commaraderie that arises between fans of like persuasion. My boys will be out somewhere sporting some of their various Auburn paraphenalia and should we encounter another Tiger fan, here in town or in another state, there is immediately a sense of commonality and unity. “War Eagle” from one fan to another and instantly, a connection based on a common passion.
Not to mention a common enemy and common hatred. My friend whose husband is a purebred Auburn fan made the comment that if Alabama were playing water polo against the university of Osama, then her hubby would no doubt root for the bin-Ladens. Oh, many fans will claim they only cheer against the other when playing each other, but I never half believe them. To be an Alabama fan is to hate Auburn, zealously so, and vice versa.
Several months ago, our usual pest control man was replaced with a young guy who was–and I do not exaggerate in the least–an Auburn fan from head to toe. Literally. Auburn cap, Auburn shirt, Auburn pen, Auburn key chain, Auburn tattoo(s). I’ve never seen anything like it. His allegiance was more than obvious. He wore it literally on his sleeve.
While in no way condemning the football fan, Alabama or Auburn, I can’t help but think in terms of our spiritual fervor. To consider that it is a game that inspires such fierceness of emotion–and in the end it is really only a game–in contrast, things of eternal value often engender only a vague indifference.