By Angela Gillaspie
From January to August, people in the South are the friendly type most of the time. At the end of August, things change; almost everyone (especially women) gets a suspicious look in his or her eye. The AP Poll and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll are posted, and the SEC (Southeastern Conference) affiliation and ranking determines what and whom gets placed and removed from one's social calendar.
We display banners of snarling tigers, angry bulldogs, or bright orange letters proudly on our houses, bosom, and small children. We create tailgate culinary masterpieces with honor using bourbon, Tupperware, and a small grill. Packing and preparing the right ingredients for tailgating is an important and coveted skill that can't be learned but earned.
For example, as I was standing in line at Winn Dixie, the lady behind me noticed my Auburn shirt and sneered, "Nice game against Florida." I smiled and nodded, because that's what you do with people that have raging elephants on their chest this time of year. She blew smoke in my face and continued, "I mean, bless their hearts, Auburn tried. Too bad they didn't lay a whuppin' on 'em like we did two weeks ago." I kept a frozen grin on my face while listening to her crow about her team. Finally, through the grace of God, it was my turn in line. I paid, and as I was leaving I quickly said over my shoulder, "Did ya hear that the Rolling Stones are gonna play the Bryant-Denny stadium next year? Yeah, the early rumor has them as a ten-point favorite over Bama."
A Southern gal develops her love for football early. High school football games are taken very seriously, and whether or not your team wins defines your social status and sometimes affects the type of guy you date. The majority of colleges chosen by high school graduates have to do with the team's SEC standings. It's a given, the man of your dreams will attend the college of your favorite football team.
Here in Alabama, football is akin to religion. They talk of 'mixed marriages' (an Auburn fan married to a Bama fan), 'conversions' (a Georgia fan becoming an Auburn fan), and other rituals and beliefs. A friend told me, "I used to sit by a lady at the UT games who would put hexes on the players by pointing at them, circling her finger and saying what she wanted them to do like, 'fumble, fumble, fumble.' She even asked me if there was any player that I wanted a hex on." I readily admit to praying really hard during those Hail Mary plays, and I have a cousin in Atlanta who wears her lucky black bra whenever Georgia plays.
How can women actually like football? Football defines whom we date, it can define whom we marry, it may affect whom our children marry, and lastly it gives us something to discuss in the line at the grocery store.
Angela Gillaspie, a free-lance writer based in Alabama, has been a featured writer on WomanLinks, The M-Word and Y'all.com. This "converted" Auburn fan also contributed the excerpts "Up North, Down South" appearing throughout this section.
Copyright © The Southerner 1999.