Coming from a divided family split on either side of a heated rivalry, I had a choice to make early in life that would forever change my outlook on college sports. Of course, I chose wisely at a young age and have lived and died on the successes and failures of the Crimson Tide for almost 30 years.
But, what drives this passion in sports to attach ourselves to one team so fervently?
This decision seems trivial to some that do not understand the appeal of college athletics or sports in general. However, I can assure you that it is anything but trivial to the rest of us. For a true fan of a team, it is a lifetime decision that comes with a for better or worse understanding.
Oddly, for the most part, the rationale behind the actual team selection truly isn't rational at all. It doesn't matter if you pull for the perennial winners or losers. The process in which we all become manic fans is generally the same.
There is no requirement to be a fan of a certain school other than your devotion to them. School attendance is no more a requisite than having to have played in Cleveland in order to pull for the Browns on Sunday.
Most fans start at childhood for any number of reasons: family influence, geographic location, etc. Be it the team socks your Dad put on you just before bringing you home from the hospital or the first cheerleader outfit he bought his baby girl for Christmas, it's an excepted form of brain washing that all lifetime fans undergo at a young age.
As we grow, the fanaticism begins to take shape as we understand our rivals, our program's traditions, and begin to finely hone our trash-talking abilities among peers.
Normally by adolescence, its a done deal. Each of us carryout our "fanship" to varying degrees, but in general we all agree that our team is our team for life.
Our rivals are our mortal enemies that will forever after, even if only in our minds, be guilty of: cheating, recruiting violations, benefiting from an easy schedule or media bias, etc. They will have the dumbest coaches, the worst fans, and softest conferences or divisions. Every past victory of theirs will be ancient history while ours stand as a testament to tradition.
Our team, on the other hand, walks on water as they recruit quality people first, maintain the classiest fans, enforce the highest standards, and/or maintain "NFL-esque" coaching staffs with the best recruiters in the country. We are always one season away from turning it around and live by the fact that, "we only lost because...."
Each day a fan of team X wakes up and wonders, "How can all these other dopey fans not see that their team is a joke?"
Well, that to me is the essence of the whole thing.
We don't have to see it!!!!
All season long we can wear our blinders, drink our kool-aid, sport our new team shirts, and say what ever we want. It is perfectly acceptable and often times encouraged by others to be as stubborn as possible because facts only exist in our minds.
We are always either bowl bound in good years or capable of pulling off the upset no matter what the odds in bad years.
Rankings are always bias, stats are meaningless, and we can throw out the record books come Saturday, except of course when any of the above help our argument.
The fun doesn't stop at seasons end because our recruiting class will be better either by virtue of national rankings or the diamond in the rough philosophy.
In the end, we are passionate for our team and sport. We realize that it is just a game, but sometimes we refuse to admit that to ourselves, as we throw a beer bottle against the wall and cuss at a 19 year old kid for missing a 45 yard field goal.
In any case....
The good, the bad and the crazies compose the fan bases that make college football great. We each get there a little differently, but we're all pretty much the same. We can't have one without the other and at the end of the day...we'd all miss the crazies.