Monday, December 02, 2013

A Love for the Game

For as long as I can remember, college football has been a staple of my recreational diet. From donning the white and gold cheering on my Dad's beloved Georgia Tech Yellowjackets to living in Starkville, Mississippi and rooting on the Mississippi State Bulldogs during my younger years. My parents instilled in me a love of the game. Not just the pomp and circumstance but the actual game itself. I took pride in being one of the few girls in my circle that could tell a spread offense from a run and shoot and knew that a shotgun formation had nothing to do with firearms.

Along with the knowledge and appreciation for the game came a passion for the experience itself. To me, nothing holds more promise than a crisp Fall day on a college campus filled with a sea of fans wearing their team's colors, enticing aromas wafting up from BBQ grills, footballs flying through the air and the faint sound of a drum line in the distance. I'm energized by the excitement and anticipation of a solid match-up and do my share in making as much noise as humanly possible to try and affect the opponent's mindset or ability to hear the call. And, I am equally saddened if my team comes up with an "L" in their column at the end of the day. But someone has to lose. That's just part of the game.

But, for the first time in my forty-two years on Earth, I am feeling a little disappointed in the sport that I love so dearly. This past weekend's much-hyped Iron Bowl where my Alabama Crimson Tide played the Auburn Tigers for a chance to go to the SEC Championship lived up to the expectations of all (well, at least in the hype department anyway). Besides having a pretty hefty case of bronchitis, I was like a skittish cat the entire game. Maybe my intuition had kicked in once again-- who knows? Sure I threw high-fives when we'd score but I was otherwise on pins and needles a majority of the time. Then came THE PLAY. The game was tied at 28-all with one second left on the clock and we attempted a 57-yd field goal for the win. And, when it fell one yard short, it happened to fall into the arms of a very athletic running back who ran 109 yards down the field to secure the Auburn victory.

I was heartbroken. Stunned. Speechless.

Do I question a few of the calls made by our coaching staff leading up to that point? Perhaps. Would it have changed the final outcome? I have no idea. What I do know is this:  it is JUST A GAME. And the disappointment I referenced a moment ago has nothing to do with the outcome of the game but instead the level of vile, offensive, derogatory, vicious  and just downright hateful verbal attacks that have occurred since the clock hit :00.  To be fair, this includes verbal attacks by Alabama fans towards coaches and one of the kickers as well as hate-speak from fans of other teams that had no dog in this hunt whatsoever.

There is simply no excuse for fans being so nasty to members of their own team because of a loss. This includes booing, insults and even worse in this case-- death threats. But as for other fans resorting to insults based on stereotypes, this is an obvious, but often-overlooked fact:  every fan base has classy fans as well as the crude and obnoxious ones. Every fan base has a spectrum of socio-economic backgrounds and people with varying degrees of dental insurance. So it saddens me to read statements about Bama fans being nothing but inbred, mullet-wearing, toothless idiots. Criticize the coaching decisions, the play calling even the uniforms if fashion is your fancy but let's keep it classy. Let's focus on the fact that in a split-second national championship dreams can be dashed and players on both sides of the field played their hearts out last Saturday.

The Alabama Crimson Tide had a spectacular year and this year's Iron Bowl, as gut-wrenching as it was in the end for the boys in red, was college football at its finest. And, for that reason, I will dust off the pom pons next year, load up the tailgating supplies and head back to Tuscaloosa to start all over again. Because as much as college football can trample my heart, I couldn't part ways with it no matter how hard I tried.

Roll Tide.