I once thought I hated the Auburn University Tigers more than any other team in college football. I’ve been a fan of the University of Alabama Crimson Tide for longer than I can remember; in Alabama, where I come from, football loyalties are a matter of inheritance, not choice. The state doesn’t have professional sports teams, which means our college athletes are our pros. As a result, the annual meeting between the Tide and Tigers is one of the most intense rivalries in sports.
But I spent most of my youth in Florida, where the Florida-Florida State and Florida State-Miami rivalries run deep but college sports also compete with the NFL, MLB, NBA and surely other leagues I’m unaware of for viewership. Kids at my elementary, middle and high schools made fun of me for being an Alabama fan–and perhaps because the school was only an hour away and therefore we lived in a Gator town, the cries of University of Florida fans ring loudest in my mind.
So when I moved back to Alabama in 2003, I was surprised to quickly realize that I didn’t hate Auburn so much after all. (In fact, I often joke that, as a Florida State grad, I would have been more likely to pledge my allegiance to Auburn if I hadn’t already been “raised right.” FSU and Auburn have far more in common than FSU and Alabama, but I love my two alma maters anyway.) The truth is, I want Auburn to win every game except the Iron Bowl. I like Auburn. They’re family. But even though I have a handful of friends who are Gators, I never grow tired of Florida losing.
My dad, on the other hand, grew up with playground arguments about Alabama and Auburn. If you tell him you’re an Alabama fan cheering for Auburn, you’re going to get an earful. Likewise, my friend Melody is an Auburn grad who grew up in Tallahassee. She can’t stand my beloved Seminoles.
So tonight, my dad will cheer for Florida State not only because two of his daughters went there, but because he still bristles at Auburn’s success. Melody will cheer for Auburn because it’s her alma mater, but also because she wants to show all of her hometown Seminoles who’s best.
And although I’ll be pulling for Florida State with all I’ve got, I must admit that a fifth-consecutive BCS championship for the state of Alabama wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen this season. It turns out that my loyalty isn’t just nature, but also nurture. I want my team to win not only for the joy of victory itself, but also to tie (and hopefully soon exceed) Florida’s number of championships. Scalp ‘em.
Today’s title comes from the Beach Boys song by the same name. Also, here’s a fun blog post by an Alabama fan who won’t be cheering for Auburn in the title game. As some are saying, Nole tide Nole.