As I was overheard this past weekend in a sports bar conversation debating among other things gridiron, the historical significance of the SEC’s change from the wishbone to the I formation, I was approached by a gentleman, emboldened by craft brew, who demanded to know how a girl knew so much about football. Well, first I suggested that if he wiped the foam from his glasses he could see that one, I am no girl, and two, don’t ever judge a football fan by her shoes. Don’t let these designer wedges fool you, as a reformed Southerner, I was raised at the heels of football divinity. Yes, I’ve written about this revelation before, but now I am given the chance to update the entry a bit.
I explained to him that growing up south of the Mason/Dixon front line, fall meant, and still means, football. I remember my daddy rising early, walking out onto the back deck, steaming coffee in hand, taking a deep breath, and proclaiming, “Yep, smells like football.” That first crisp, cool morning of autumn had a way of sneaking in under the cover of darkness and kicking those dog days of summer right off the porch.
The smell of football in the air signaled pep rallies, road games, marching bands, cheerleaders, and that rare excused absence from church on Sunday. You see, where I come from, football is wholly a religion, and even the Baptists have to admit defeat at the alter of the pigskin. That’s why evangelical, personal fouls like Pat Robertson never mention back-slidden, fall football fanatics when selectively Leviticus-listing gays, Liberals, and feminists as the cause of hurricanes, divorces, and other natural disasters. Tailgaters get an unadulterated forgiveness. It’s just one of those unwritten laws like black-eye peas on New Year’s and not wearing white after Labor Day.
Beginning in September, the three-day, Southern-pastime sabbath begins on Friday night with the local high school team. We were the bearcats, the mighty bearcats that could never seem to muster more than a meow. At one point I remember being 0 – 36 in varsity boys’ sports. I can assure you, much more scoring was accomplished behind the bleachers than in front of them, but all was forgiven. A completed hail Mary, and the sins of defeat could be washed away on the the wings of virgin victory.
Saturday’s service was spent passing the collection plate of barbecued pulled pork with the mega congregation of the Southeastern Conference. The apostles: Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Auburn, Florida, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, South Carolina, and LSU (now blasphemously, Missouri and Texas A&M) gathered obedient and undoubting foam-fingered followers, and on any given game day, anyone of the 12 (now 14) a BCS betraying Judas.
On Sundays, we rested…with the Falcons, the Dolphins, the Titans, and yes, Lord, the Saints.