I consider myself a fairly knowledgeable fan of all sports, but for some some sports above others, I may have been a late bloomer. Lacking a football team in Los Angeles doesn’t really help get behind the sport, and digging one layer deeper to college football is even tougher. Also take into account that I went to Cal State University Northridge at a time when their football program was defunct (although it did once exist once upon a time and was coached by John Elway‘s pops).
Slowly but surely, I am warming up to those sports I have neglected in the past. Pro football is a necessity if one is to have any chance of a good supplemental income via fantasy league winnings. College football has become more fun as well with the prevalence of my USC alum of a significant other. In retrospect though, all I ever really needed was to read Dixieland Delight by Clay Travis.
For those unfamiliar with Clay, he is a lifelong University of Tennessee fan who has his own fancy popular blog on FanHouse. Once upon a time, he decided to travel through his lands, attending games at each school within the Southeastern Conference (SEC). This leads one to assume that each SEC school takes their football seriously, and boy was he right.
Travis (yes I’m now using his last name, which is a first name, thus confusing and all the more reason to never trust people with two first names) chronicled the games, the rivalries, the tailgating scenes, and the people as a whole. He went far and wide to prove that LSU Tigers fans smell like corn dogs, Florida Gators fans all wore jean shorts, running into ‘Bama Bangs around every turn. Throughout the book, you got an amazing feel for the land, the people, and their traditions. While it may be a testament to actual good writing, it may well have also been the intense atmosphere that he was describing. Every stadium was full, always in bedlam after big plays, and always having a good time. The fans were intensely proud, yet still inviting and kind. The SEC was depicted as a brotherhood, complete with its sibling rivalries but also its familial love. The reader gets the sense that this is what America is all about.
Football aside, Clay (yes, switching back again) explains the universal truths of sports fandom. On the topic of referring to the team as we, he writes:
I asked my dad why everyone was using the word we, which heretofore I’d only heard applied when the speaker himself was actually involved in a pursuit. After all, I was not a team member and neither were any of the other men sitting in the lower-bowl end zone of Neyland Stadium. ‘Because,’ said my dad, ‘this means so much to most people here, they want to make themselves a part of it.’
Clay also talks about his grandfather, a former UT player, whose fandom literally affects his health:
My grandfather watched the games with such ferocious intensity that his doctor was afraid he might have a heart attack.
Blurbs like these strike emotional chords and give you a taste of what being a fan is all about.
In addition, after each chapter, there are mini-chapters that essentially read like blog posts. They range anywhere from mini history lessons to rankings of the hottest women of the SEC. This even further helps the book be more accessible than it already is to fans of any team or sport.
If you’re like me and still fail to see what all the fuss is about with college football, pick up a copy and dive in. It will actually get you interested in the broader scope of college football for a change and make you want to go out and be a part of it, especially down South.