Football means much to many in the South

Published 9:34 pm Tuesday, September 1, 2009

“In the East, football is a cultural experience. In the Midwest, it’s cannibalism. In the West, it’s a tourist attraction. But in the South, it’s a religion.”

– Julia Sugarbaker from Designing Women

I grew up in a football household. My dad coached, my brother played, I cheered and my mom was team mom. Our weekends revolved around games at the local YMCA in the morning and then, in the afternoon or evening, listening to Alabama games on the radio.

I distinctly remember listening to “Bear” Bryant dissect a game on the radio as my dad worked in the basement. I also remember my uncle, who lived in Nebraska, calling on the phone and having my mother lay the the receiver down in front of the radio so he could listed to the game.

This was the 1970s, years before ESPN and satellite radio. Now, all my uncle has to do is change the television or radio channel, and he’s surrounded by football.

Nowadays, there’s no need to prop a phone by a radio receiver to hear all about your favorite team. There are countless magazines, radio stations and television programs devoted to high school, college and professional athletics. It wouldn’t surprise me if there’s not a magazine somewhere out there devoted to scouting the potential for four-year-olds playing Pee Wee league. Or, maybe, someone running an on-line site just goes to the hospital nursery and then blogs about what kids seemed to have a good throwing arm while swaddled under the heat lamps.

Football mania starts early in my household. We have a mixed marriage: My husband is an Auburn fan, and I’m an Alabama fan.

The fandom of our daughter remains up in the air. She has both an Auburn and Alabama cheerleader outfit, and her grandfather bought her a pink Alabama jersey.

Whatever side she chooses—maybe she will be a fan of her paternal grandfather’s alma mater, Mississippi State—she will be expected to know the basics of the game. The women in my family aren’t excused from knowing the differences in a spread or wishbone offense or why the third Saturday in October is important.

So, whatever team you chose, here’s hoping your season progresses as you’d like. Unless of course, you’re a fan of a team I don’t like. Then, I hope you’re really, really unhappy.