Is Auburn vs Alabama too extreme?
Alabama is one of those odd little states in the union. Especially when it comes to sports and following said sports. Unlike our neighbors to the north, south, and east, there isn't a pro sports team that the whole state can rally and unite behind.
That's one ideal that separates the AU/UA rivalry against say, UGA/UT fans. Because, for the most part, while UGA/GT might have "Good Ole Fashioned Hate" they can at least be united, football-wise, by the Falcons.
So this lack of a pro sports team, causes College Sports to become our pro sports. It fills that void and makes CFB fans in this state almost ravenous and bloodthirsty. Mike Bolton of the Birmingham News recently wrote a little piece saying that this fervent love is now launching into "extreme" territories and is unhealthy.
However, I think Bolton's piece is flawed from the start:
I went to al.com to take a look at the reaction of fans. I snickered at those that referred to Alabama as UAT because they thought it was clever and would anger Alabama fans. I did the same for the pompous Alabama fans who referred to Auburn fans as "Barners" and delighted in problems on The Plain.
See, that's mistake One. Don't use "al.com" as a barometer to measure AU/UA fans. The internet is for jack-asses. Plain and simple. Especially message boards. It's that anonymity. You would say pretty much anything you want on an internet message board, basically because you can. No one will call you out on it. You might get "flamed" or possibly blacklisted, but there are a few real world repercussions. Lumping in all AU/UA fans into one group and assumption based on internet chatter? That's akin to saying all teenage males who post on the internet love anime and poop jokes based on some perusals of 4Chan.
In most states the love of college football is a healthy diversion from the rigors of daily life. I don't believe that is true in Alabama. It is often said that football is a religion in Alabama but I don't believe that is true, either. In religion the Baptists don't sit around dreaming that the Methodists will suffer horrendous indignities. The Methodists don't call radio shows to express their glee if a Baptist church has inner turmoil.
Again, it's not a good use of the metaphor. Baptists and Methodists don't act that way because they are BOTH members of not one but two groups: Christians and Protestants. AU/UA fans would be more like Shi'a and Sunni Muslims or just simply Catholics/Protestants. It's funny with the Shi'a/Sunni scenario. I used to joke with friends about Alabama's devotion to Bear Bryant. So much so that buildings and streets bear his name and statues are erected for him in honor. It does remind me of some other worldly place. I wonder what that could be:
Ah, yes. Tikrit, Tuscaloosa. Pretty close.
Imagine for a second that Alabamians monitored every move made by politicians in Montgomery and Washington with the same fervor they monitor every move made in Tuscaloosa and Auburn. I think it's safe to say that if that were the case many Alabamians would not be suffering the indignities of losing their long-held jobs and seeing foreclosure signs posted in their yards.
That's another unfair assumption. I would say that most Alabamians DO care what goes on in Washington and Montgomery. They are also pretty informed of those actions as well. It's not the citizens fault that, in this state, we work under the Opus that is the Alabama Constitution. Or the fact that the Legislature in only in session a few months out of the year (College Football is 365). Alabamians, politically, actually have it pretty good. We have a competent Governor, we have an ok elected body, and at least our Washington representatives aren't making fools of themselves on the House Floor:
But that later part of that paragraph is what semi-irks me. Those two items are completely unrelated. So by NOT following my Auburn Tigers, I could have avoided foreclosure or avoided being laid off? Preposterous. That's a blanket statement that has absolutely NO merit or legs to stand on.
The fascination with college football is unhealthy in this state(A). It has left the realm of good-natured fun and evolved into hatred(B). If you don't believe that, tune to a call-in sports radio show or log onto one of the al.com sports sites one day(C). Forget about Alabamians hating someone because of the color of their skin. Many Alabamians hate someone because of the color of their jerseys(D).
We have lost sight that this is all about kids playing a game. The fact that so many grown men and women would like to see kids at an opposing school suffer borders on sickness.
A) TIme to go off book a little bit. Is it unhealthy? Yes. Does your own paper fuel that obsession? Most definitely. Just searching AL.Com through google revealed 20,600 pages with the term "Auburn Tigers" on them.
Bob Riley? Alabama's Governor? Well he only gets a mere 6,190 mentions.
Nick Saban? 10,200 pages.
Barack Obama? 6,750 pages.
B) Evolved in hatred? I'll get into this later. Hate is a harsh term to use.
C) I refrain from listening to call-in sports shows. I'd suggest most Auburn and Alabama fans do the same. Especially Paul Finebaum. All Finebaum amounts to is bear-bating with a microphone. It's incendiary and meant to elicit reactions. That's all. It's the same as lumping all Republicans into the same boat as Rush Limbaugh listeners.
D) This is what I find the most egregious. Alabamians, as a whole, and in my experience, are very sensitive to the term "hate". It's a part of our culture. A part that most are ashamed about. There are so many Civil Rights moments and landmarks and milestones that took place within our borders that there's not a day that goes by that I'm not reminded of just how wrong our state once was. Has it been corrected? To an extent. But this isn't a political blog, it's a sports blog. I'll just leave it at this. Be VERY cautious when using the terms "hate" and "Alabamians" in the same sentence. Throw in a dash of "skin color" to the mix and well, that's just a bad analogy.
Let's it boil it down to what it really is. Dislike. Not Hate. Hate is something you feel unflinchingly. It's something you are engrained with and something that doesn't go away. Hate is ugly, murderous, despicable. Hate is not the term I'd use to describe the AU/UA rivalry.
Dislike is. Do I HATE Alabama fans? No. Do I dislike them? Mostly. Dislike enables me to make exceptions. I have some good friends that bleed Crimson. If I HATED Alabama, then these men and women would never be my friends to begin with. Would I never stop to help a stranded motorist if they had an "S-The Coach" Sticker? Of course not. They are people first, UA fans second.
We don't HATE each other, AU/UA fans. We dislike each other. That's the end of it.
As for this, "Kids playing a game" malarky? Save it. When these "kids" bring in almost $60 Million a year in revenue? That's when it stops being a game and starts to become business.
You want honest, good natured football? Go to a game on Friday Night. No, don't go to Hoover/Spain Park/Vestavia Hills, etc. Come down to rural Alabama on a Friday Night. Frisco City/Notasulga/Pike County etc. That's the "game" in it's purest form.
As for this sickness? If we are AU/UA fans are hooked and "sick" on this rivalry, then your very paper and Birmingham Media is our enabler.