Football is king
for Bama fans
It's been nine years since I've heard that war cry erupt from an Alabama football fan's mouth.
I can't say that I was ever much of a college football fan, but for the first 30 years of my life, Alabama football was always in the background, like the rowdy neighbors a few doors down the street. You might not know them very well, but you definitely knew they were there.
Now, 'Bama will play Hawaii today for a historic first encounter with the UH Warriors. Strange days, indeed.
A warning to all decent Warrior supporters -- football in Alabama, like in the rest of the South, is insanely serious stuff. When coach Paul "Bear" Bryant (also known as God) died, his funeral procession stretched on for five miles, and any rabid (is there any other kind) 'Bama fan will be the first to grab you by the lapel and tell you that the team won five national championships before Hawaii was even a state, 11 by the time UH entered the Western Athletic Conference.
As for local bragging rights, the word "rivalry" really doesn't come close to describe the utter contempt that Alabama and Auburn fans have for each other. And much like which high school you attended in Hawaii, the team you favor in Alabama pretty much says everything anyone needs to know about you.
Of course, the few people like myself who had no interest in either team or school were viewed suspiciously as transplanted yankees, aliens or communists, and quite possibly all three. An excerpt of an actual conversation in the early '90s with a friend named Bill went like this:
"So Dave, how about the game last night?"
"Game? Oh, yeah, I, uh, actually missed it, Bill."
After a long stretch of silence, Bill said, "Oh, well, your TV on the blink, huh? I hate it when that happens. Anyway, we sure kicked Georgia's butt, didn't we?"
"So we were playing Georgia?" I asked. As an attempt at a joke, I said, "I didn't know they had a soccer team."
After an even longer, more uncomfortable period of silence, Bill asked, in all seriousness, "Dave, you're not gay are you?"
So now I live in Hawaii, and I must admit to a late-in-life growing interest in Rainbow Warrior football. Maybe it's the fact that it's less socially mandatory to follow the favorite local sports team, or that there's not the same kind of rage-filled rivalry here in Hawaii like there is in the South. And for the last few years, the Warriors have been a team that you just can't help but root for, no matter where you're from.
Still, I was born and raised in Alabama, so it will be interesting to see how I feel at kickoff time.
Roll Tide ... but Go Warriors!
David Swann, a graphic artist at the Star-Bulletin, moved to Hawaii in 1994. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org