If you look at my Shelfari bookshelf, you'll see my most recent read is Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer by Warren St. John, a hilarious look at football fans of the University of Alabama.
St. John, who grew up in Birmingham, Alabama but did not go to the University in Tuscaloosa, in 1999 took leave from his magazine job in New York City, bought a used RV, and traveled among the die-hard Alabama fans to both home and away games.
In his introduction, St. John writes with tongue squarely in cheek that "in the life of every sports fan there comes a moment of reckoning" when you must ask yourself "a version of the question others -- spouses, friends, children and colleagues -- have asked for years: 'Why do I care?' "
Why, indeed. Although St. John and I are in different camps (I bleed Auburn blue and orange after sending two children to school there), I relate well to the question he presents. My name is Bob and I am a Sports Fan.
It started innocently enough when I was a boy growing up in South Arkansas. Lacking the genetic makeup to play sports with any degree of effectiveness, I became a fanatical spectator ("a fan") instead. I first became a fan watching my older brother play baseball, football and basketball. Like my parents and other relatives of players, I had a vested interest.
But somewhere along the line I joined the throngs of others who become obsessed with other teams, teams made of of people they do not know from Adam. It started for me with the Houston Astros when my family visited the Astrodome in 1968. I followed them loyally through many lean years and literally teared up in 2006 when they won the National League pennant for the first time ever.
Worse, however, was my total devotion as a child and young man to Arkansas Razorback football. I grew up in South Arkansas. Although when the time came I did not attend "the University" (what everyone in Arkansas called the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville - pronounced "Fedvul" in South Arkansas), I, like so many others, loyally supported the state's only major college team.
I am not proud of the fact that my mood during football season was directly related to the success of the Razorbacks. This started in early December of 1969 when I was 12 years old. Arkansas and Texas, both undefeated, were playing in what was being billed as "the game of the century." The winner would go on to win the (now defunct) Southwest Conference championship and a berth in the Cotton Bowl and would more than likely be the National Champion as well.
Leading 14-0 going into the fourth quarter, the Hogs looked as if they would proceed to victory. Alas, with two miracle touchdowns and a successful 2-point conversion by the Longhorns, the final score was Texas 15, Arkansas 14.
This was the first sports event where I actually cried because of the result. This game also birthed a strong hatred of the Texas Longhorns.
I continued this devotion (and hatred of Texas) for many years, but as time went on and I married and had a family (although I once promised my wife I would be nice to her the rest of her life if she would let me go to a game at the last minute), I mellowed. I became more interested in my children and their activities, including their own involvement in sports. I felt like maturity had finally set in. I still really enjoyed college and pro sports and still faithfully followed the Astros, but took a much more casual interest in the Razorbacks. I could carry on in the event of a loss. I even began to look disdainfully at the fans who got so worked up over it all.
Fast forward to Fall 2004. We had lived in Tennessee for seven years by that time. Older Son had graduated high school and headed to Auburn University in Alabama. It did not take long for him to get "bit," big-time, by Auburn football. It did not hurt that they went 13-0 that year and were cheated out of the national championship (not that I am bitter).
It did not take long for it to catch on with me as well. I have fallen hard. Older Son has graduated and Daughter is now there. We make as many games as we can and I have been known to revert to my 12-year-old histrionics. Wife has more than once had to grab me and try to calm me down.
It has been a frustrating season for the Auburn Tigers and I have not done well with it. I find myself getting angry at the players and at Coach Tommy Tubberville as if they are personally letting me down. It is crazy.
But it does not look as if things will get better anytime soon. I sat here just today with my two sons watching Auburn on TV as they haplessly played and lost to Ole Miss. I yelled, I hit things (though not my sons) and I put my hands in front of my eyes to dull the pain (it did not work). I stayed mad for several hours.
Although I abhor seasons like this (Auburn is 4-5 and has lost four straight as of today), it does help to put things in perspective. After all, it's just a game. And it HAS to get better soon, at least by next season! IT HAS TO!!! War Eagle!!!!