Ode To A One Team Town

SEC Football

Last week I attended a poetry reading in a chapel on the grounds of the juvenile correctional facility in Mt. Meigs, Alabama. I hadn’t been to Mt. Meigs since 2005, when I produced ArtCarTraz, an art car project that involved juvenile offenders in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. At the reading I met up with my friend Jeanie, the Executive Director of the Alabama Writer’s Forum, one of the partners that helps make the writing program at Mt. Meigs possible.

Two days later, Alabama and Tennessee would meet for their annual grudge match.

I never understood the college football thing. You didn’t even go to school there! Why are you rooting for this team? Why are you getting so crazy about this game? Why is your house divided?

But I have to admit that it’s pretty impressive to go to one of these games in person.  Tailgating, tents, girls in pearls, cheerleaders and majorettes, marching bands, the fight song, that kick-off chant thing, the taunting victory cheer, and the whole town – and often the entire state – collectively believing and wishing for just one thing. I don’t remember much of the actual game but I remember it being more fun, even from way up at the tippy top of the gargantuan stadium, than I had sitting in the 5th row on the 40-yard line at the Superbowl a year and a half earlier.

A few weeks ago someone told me, “Sometimes…I wish you were, like…a little stupider.” What I think hope they meant is: “less complicated.” But I can’t help it. I’m from New York, where everything is complicated. Even something as simple as sports.

We don’t can’t just have one team to rally around. We have to have the Rangers and the Islanders and the Devils, the Knicks and the Nets, the Yankees and the Mets, the Giants and the Jets.

There is nothing more singularly uncomplicated than being in a college town in the South on the day of a home football game.

It reminds me of a line in a poem that Jeanie wrote, referencing an inscribed photo:

“Once upon a time TRUITT went outside to pick a flower and he was so happy.”

It was Jeanie who took me to my first and only college football game. It was played at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. The University of Alabama was taking on their heated, long-standing rivals, The Tennessee Volunteers. The year? 2005. I had just a few short hours to memorize the Rammer Jammer in the hope that we were going to get the chance the call it out at the end of the game.

We did. And I was so happy.


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