As the Crimson Tide makes another run for yet another national championship, I am once again enlightened by what I believe to be the most amazing, and often times confusing, element of their football program -- the fans.
I read an article last year that ranked the top ten college football fan-bases according to the most obnoxious. Alabama was ranked number one, and the article added that second place was not even close. I think all college football fans, and sports fans in general, share the obnoxious gene, but there is something special about the fans in crimson.
To be a fan of Auburn football -- you know; that other school in Alabama -- that usually requires an actual connection to the school. If you attended Auburn or had a member of your immediate family attend, you are more likely to be a Tiger fan, unless of course you simply have an unhealthy sexual fantasy about large cats.
That's what happened to me. (Not the sexual part.) I didn't decide to go to college until my senior year of high school, and I automatically assumed I would be heading to Tuscaloosa. I even attended Career Day at the campus there. When I told my guidance counselor that I planned to become an architect, only then was it explained to me that I needed to go to Auburn.
Of course architecture, like so many things throughout my life, was a passing fad. But that simple decision at that one point in my life made all the difference. That made me an Auburn Tiger fan for life. You can't attend a school without being a fan of their football team. Heck, that's just un-American.
But I still pull for the Tide when they're not playing Auburn. After all, they're still a home team. But my college roommate was a diehard Auburn man. If you were to cut him, he would probably bleed orange and blue. His parents and grandparents went to Auburn and their favorite teams are Auburn and whoever is playing Alabama.
A lot of Alabama fans also attended the university in Tuscaloosa or had a family member who did. But, unlike many colleges, countless Alabama fans have no ties to the college at all. These are the ones that perplex me and are quite often the most strenuous fans. Half of their wardrobes, including those for their kids and babies, have something to do with Alabama. Their mailboxes, license plates, keychains, dishes, and sometimes even their homes, share the Crimson motif.
I think a part of it is simply the name. If you're from the state of Alabama, you should be an Alabama fan. But I think it has more to do with plain old selfish pride. Alabama is the most successful college football team in history, especially considering the heritage of Paul "Bear" Bryant, so it has the appeal of a winner, and winners are easy to admire and root for.
It is this sense of ownership that I find the most fascinating. A person not even need play football at Alabama, not even attend college there, nor even know anyone who did, but with a simple decision in life to support this program, and a willingness to display it on every asset they own, they can be a part of it as if they did have something to do with it.
That's what makes Alabama football so great. You too can be lifted to that lofty venue of Alabama fans with no credentials or qualifications at all. For a few months in the fall, you can forget about being behind on your mobile home payments, forget that your 1984 pickup truck is falling apart, forget that you just got laid off at the mill making minimum wage, and sit back in the recliner and be the lord of your domain while laughing at all those stupid Auburn fans.