Friday, September 2, 2011

If Winning Isn't Everything, Why Do They Keep Score?

It’s a scene that plays out regularly in the fall. Masses clad in team colors descend on college campuses to join in the ritual of cheering on their favorite school in a mass of excess that includes tailgate parties, lavish recreational vehicles and oversized flags with the school crest flying as far as the eye can see. 

College football in the south is unlike any other conference I've ever witnessed. It is a religion. It's a way of life. People willingly miss huge lifetime occurrences for game-day. If you are a true southern woman, you know better than to plan your wedding/child's baptism/baby shower on a game day weekend if you want people to actually show up.

By the time I was 8, I had decided that I wanted to become a veterinarian. I had a soft spot for animals - my cat, Sugar, and Cocker Spaniel, Smokey, were the loves of my life and I wanted to take care of dogs and cats for a career. It was that point in my 8 year old mind that I figured in order to become a veterinarian, I needed to go to Auburn University, since they had the only vet school in the state.This was much to the dismay of my dad, who was a huge Alabama fan.

There are old photos of me outfitted in Crimson Tide attire from the time I was born, which would disgrace my name if they were ever to be shown to fellow Auburn alumni. For those that aren't familiar with the Auburn/Alabama rivalry, and the fierce college football game known as the Iron Bowl,  you have to understand that it is not just one game. It is a 365-day a year obsession that tears the state in two. Take the Ohio-State Michigan game, or the Eagles-Cowboys game, multiply it by 5, and add the spirit and the passionate following of the SEC, and that's a glimpse into the realm of what is known as the SEC. It was publicized a lot last year due to the poisoning of the trees at Toomer's Corner by one outraged fan. While I don't believe that any educated, self-respecting fan would do something dreadful to another, it just shows how deep down this rivalry really runs.

Toomer's Corner after Auburn won the Iron Bowl, 2010

For me, I am a rare Auburn breed because while I do want to beat the Crimson out of the Crimson Tide on the field, I don't wish evil upon their fans. I grew up with a respect for the Tide because of my dad's love for them, and also because of my best friend's love for them (she later graduated from the University of Alabama and now works for them too). We have a mutual understanding of one another and have remained best friends through the trials and tribulations of past seasons, and with both of us getting back-to-back Heismans and National Championships there was lots of smack talk going on that we had to remain calm about. (Plus, our other best friend is a Florida Gator, so if we are all to remain friends, we must remain civil).

Proof of our friendship, even on game day - Iron Bowl 2005

This weekend marks the beginning of my favorite time of the year- football season. Fire up the grill for some tailgate treats. Stash your bourbon in your pocketbook, put on your best dress (in team colors) and throw on your favorite heels and pearls. 

It's game time, y'all.

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