As a young boy, I remember crawling up into my father’s lap after changing the channel on the floor model console television to the channel hosting the Iron Bowl.
It was a great feeling. It was a feeling of love, a feeling of companionship, and a feeling of belonging to a greater cause.
I think quite a few of us can trace our fierce team loyalty back to a time or moment that made our program near and dear to our hearts. For me, it was looking across the living room with a smile to my younger brother, who sat on my mother’s lap, adorning Auburn attire.
You see, we were a bit different than most houses in my neighborhood. My mother was an Auburn fan, mainly because she wanted to get a rise out of her three brothers and two sisters who were avid followers of the Crimson Tide. Not to mention, my father was an Alabama fan, and she playfully enjoyed throwing jabs his way as well.
In the wake of this jovial madness, my brother and I were forced into a decision that only those from the banks of the Tennessee River can truly understand.
I idolized my father. I echoed his every “Roll Tide” with as much fervor as my adolescent lungs could muster.
My brother quickly sided with my mother, and let loose a “War Eagle” along with her that could be heard two counties away.
And there you have it: We were a house divided.
We shared years of fun by giving each other grief over which program was better. Each year, we chose our respected sides on the couch and cheered for our teams.
We yelled, we screamed, we laughed, we cried.
To my brother and me, it was more than a game. It was a competition and a family tradition that we’ll never forget. We held each other accountable for our team’s prosperity and demise, quoting stats and facts 365 days per year.
It was all that mattered when we were young.
When my father passed, it wasn’t the 1992 Alabama National Championship, or Auburn’s 1993 undefeated season that brought solace.
What truly mattered was my brother's tears, and mine, as we held our mother and promised her that everything will be alright…we’re still here. We both echoed a heartfelt promise, “we’re family, and we have each other.”
Today, more and more, I see a disturbing trend amongst fans of the SEC.
Bitter words of hate and animosity fly on the message boards in an attempt to dig into the deepest part of an adversary’s soul. A blind patronage and rivalry between two tertiary educational institutions has destroyed relationships, friendships, and family.
Such loyalties have subdivided communities into loyalty based partitions, who tolerate only the propaganda and admiration for the colors bonded to their faction. Although it’s nothing new, the strong sentiment of, “you’re either with me, or against me,” has been elevated to unsurpassed heights with the advent of the Internet.
Sadly, people who were once friends are now foes.
Communities, who once served a greater good, now jockey for a recruit’s ear in hopes of persuading the young man to attend their beloved institution.
Businesses now use their Alma Mater affiliation as a bargaining chip against their competition.
Bear Bryant once said, “Mama called, and when mama calls you just have to come running.”
What better way to say that loyalty to family and friendship should always come first?
Football is a game and a form of entertainment that we all love and enjoy. I can’t argue against the sentiment that there’s nothing better than watching SEC football with a group of my friends and family. But, I can argue that friendship, when combined with family, is a lifelong bond that should come before entertainment.
And after all, isn't that what really matters?