It’s a given we Alabama fans will mock and disparage every aspect of our rival, from team uniforms and fight songs to the fashion sense and genetic inferiority of the opposing fans. Preferring your own team’s colors, tradition and players is what it means to be a fan in the first place.
But within fandom, there are subsets of fans, and at times those camps are at odds. The alumni, people who actually attended the university, and the general public, who are fans of a team for any number of reasons. The differences in these factions ebb at kickoff, when all fans cheer in unison. It’s before the game they are most pronounced.
Drive down the Strip (walk, actually. Cars are apparently no longer allowed on the Strip for three days before kickoff). Pass by the frat houses, and see the young brothers-in-khaki, Dad’s favorite Scotch in hand, sweating inside their navy blazers as they chat up the pretty blondes in the sundresses.
Or pass by the rows of tailgaters, Crimson t-shirt slightly stained with Dreamland sauce. With a cooler of beer at their side, they watch the early game on TV with one eye and mind the hot dogs on the grill with the other.
You chuckled at the stereotype of one of the last two paragraphs, didn’t you?
The implication in splitting fans into one of two categories, is the superiority of one over the other. Either you’re a redneck who cheers for a school you couldn’t get into, or you’re spending Daddy’s money on poplin pants and bar tabs. True enough, not every Alabama grad considers the sidewalk fan a lesser species, and not all alum are reckoned as snooty by the guy in the Roll Tide gear. But it happens. And I sorta think that’s okay.
Mankind has an inherent need to quantify and group things, and to gather into groups of the like-minded. Often, a person has something in common with several divergent groups, and can float in and out of all of them. Didn’t go to med school? You’re lost when the group starts discussing surgery. Don’t hunt? You’re bored to tears by talk of planting green fields.
But let the subject turn to the week’s opponent, and a band of brothers forms. We critique, analyze and prognosticate. We infer all type of hidden meaning in Coach Saban’s interviews. Above all, we bond. The thing that ties us together trumps those that separate us.
I started this post weeks ago, in the humdrum offseason, when there’s nothing to write about, and most of the tribalism and bickering occurs. Now, with kickoff a couple days away, it doesn’t seem to matter as much. I know you love Alabama football. So do I. And we’re all keepers of the tradition; the Red Elephant Club as much as the guy in the RV. And after wandering in the desert for the better part of a decade, we’re about to show the world again, what tradition is all about.
Roll Tide, everyone.