The Southern obsession with college football is well-documented but poorly understood. The rest of the nation watches horrified, from September to January every year, as the lunatics come out of the woodwork shouting, drinking, shouting more, drinking more, and occasionally crying. It’s akin to watching a full quarter of our nation’s population be thrust deep into the throes of a manic episode. An episode which summarily becomes depressive. And again manic. It’s no wonder that the rest of the country thinks that we’re all insane.
Which is sad, really.
Because the rest of the country already thinks that every man, woman, and child south of Washington D.C. is an ignorant, barefoot, simpleton. And that is precisely why we love football so much.
Life in the American South, is not easy. Since people claimed ownership over other human beings and Sherman burned Atlanta, the Southern legacy has been hardship. Reconstruction was very nearly a myth in the South. Some would argue that the South is still, even now, reconstructing. The Great Depression that ravaged and wracked the rest of our nation at the beginning of the 1930s was felt ever more heavily in the South, as it was anywhere that agriculture was the industry. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, we had our own microcosmic Civil War. Families were divided again and communities again went to war. Churches were firebombed, men were hanged, and children were kidnapped and tortured all in the name of racial supremacy. American citizens, human beings, had to fight, and in some cases die, for the right to simply eat a sandwich at the same counter as a white man. In the summer of 2005, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, killing 1,836 people and causing an estimated 108 billion dollars in damages. On April 20, 2010 the Deepwater Horizon, an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, spilling 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf, devastating the vital shrimp, oyster, and fishing industries in the Gulf.
Eight of the ten poorest states (by median income) are Southern states: Louisiana, North Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi.
Nine of the fifteen least-educated states in the country are also Southern states: Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas, and South Carolina.
Hardship is a way of life in the American South. And it is for this reason that college football is so vital to our survival as a people. In a world in which the South, in matters of perception, doesn’t have much else to be proud of, we hang our hats upon and puff up our chests because of college football. Quite simply, because we’re the best at it.
To us, it is not “just a game”. It’s the one of the few things we have. A thing that we can point at, and proclaim to the rest of the country: “You can’t compete with us.” Our academics, our healthcare, and our earnings potential are in sad states and don’t look to improve soon. Hardship remains our legacy, and likely, it ever will.
Whether you say Roll Tide, War Eagle, Geaux Tigers, Go Dawgs, or Go Vols (or any litany of cheers and chants), we’re unified in one thing:
We’re Southerners, and we’re better at football than you.
The top 25 recruiting classes in college football right now contain eleven of the SEC’s fourteen teams. The Southeastern Conference has won the last seven National Championships in college football. Since the advent of the Bowl Championship Series in 1998, the SEC has won nine national Championships. There have only been fifteen BCS Championship Games, and the SEC has won nine of them, by an average of two touchdowns (29-15). And subdivided further, those nine trophies have been hoisted by only five different universities. Three of those five have hoisted two or more crystal footballs in the last decade.
Come Saturdays, be proud. No matter who your team is. Cheer loud. Get mad. Throw things. Curse at the TV. Cry when your team loses. Cry when they win. Blame everything on referees. Spend the next seven days debating whether or not it was a catch. Spend more time worrying about the state of your quarterback’s shoulder than you do the project you have due at work. Because, by God, it’s not just a game.
It’s college football.
And it’s back.
Roll Tide and