My opinion of sports and the degree of my interest in my favorite teams are not constant values. For all of my life, they have fluctuated and changed according to various factors such as my schedule and the degree to which my family and/or friends care about the particular team or game in question. As far as I’m concerned, interest in sports is a social thing; sports are only relevant as they relate to other people.  My favorite teams have generally been my father’s favorite teams, and when I was little, my primary reasons for enjoying sports was that it was fun to watch games with my father and that he let me and my siblings snack on pretzels during the game. Even now, I think that the main appeal of cheering for any given team is the spirit of community between fans.

A picture I found on Google of Cubs fans at Wrigely Field

A picture I found on Google of Cubs fans at Wrigely Field

I have good memories of the weekend when my family was in Saint Louis for my cousin’s wedding on a weekend when the Saint Louis Cardinals were playing the Chicago Cubs. We were staying in a hotel room near the baseball field, and we watched the fans through the window while we waited for the game to start on TV. When the Cubs won that game, we put on our Cubs hats, stood at the window, and cheerfully waved at the fans departing the game until my parents told us to stop; that’s not a polite thing to do in a city where most people cheer for a different team than you do. But there were a lot of Cubs fans in town, too. Coming back from my cousin’s wedding reception the next night, we met a group of them coming back from that evening’s game and we chatted with them briefly. They informed us that the Cubs had lost, but we all agreed that they were sure to win the next day and that the rest of the season was going to be great. It was cool to share our enthusiasm with some random strangers.

Roll TideIn the same way, it’s cool for Alabama football fans to use the phrase “Roll tide!” as a substitution for “Hello”, “Goodbye”, “Have a nice day”, “Good luck”, “Thank you”, “Congratulations”, “That’s cool”, “Good talking to you”, “Nice day, isn’t it?”, “Would you like fries with that?”, and basically any form of small talk or routine conversation. For those of you who haven’t spent much time in Alabama, I can assure you that this isn’t even an exaggeration. If every other word and phrase in the English language suddenly ceased to exist, most Alabama fans wouldn’t even notice because they’d be able to communicate just fine with the phrase “Roll tide!” I’m pretty sure that’s actually literally true. I don’t even think that’s a bad thing necessarily, although I do sincerely hope that the English language does not suddenly cease to exist. Language is a useful thing, particularly when one is communicating about things other than football.

CubsMy point is that I think that social connections are what make sports cool. There’s also something fun about the spirit of competition and the suspension of more relevant concerns and problems, but those things can be said for board games and game shows, too. (For the record, I think that board games and game shows are also cool, especially board games. But that’s irrelevant here.) As you can probably guess by this opinion, I’m not a really huge sports fan. When I was little, I enjoyed basketball and absolutely loved to watch the Chicago Bulls on TV with my father, but that interest dissipated completely when most of my father’s favorite players retired. Now I don’t like basketball at all and haven’t watched it for years. In the fall of 2003, my slight affinity for the Chicago Cubs turned into a full-blown obsession, and like every other Cubs fan, I was elated when they won their postgame series against the Atlanta Braves, optimistic when they started their series against the Florida Marlins, and horrified by the incident that occurred in the eighth inning of game six. (I wouldn’t normally post links to Wikipedia, but it’s better to do it this way than to relive the terrible tragedy that took place on that fateful day.) When the Marlins won the series and the Cubs were done for the season, it was a devastating disappointment, and I have hated the Florida Marlins ever since then, even though it’s been a few years since I really paid a lot of attention to baseball. I still consider myself a Cubs fan and I intend to regain my interest in baseball at some point, but lately it just hasn’t been important to me. Its place in my life has been at least temporarily taken over by SEC football. I used to think that football was an incredibly boring game, and I still don’t understand it as well as I understand baseball, but I have become an Alabama fan. SEC football is a very big deal in Birmingham. Pretty much everyone cheers for either Alabama or Auburn, except a few individuals who cheer for other teams like Tennessee, Florida, or LSU. It’s extremely rare for someone to be disinterested, and the few people who really don’t care still have to hear all about it from everyone else they know. I could have become one of those people who are frustrated and highly annoyed by the cultural prominence of college football, but I found myself being actually interested in whether or not Alabama won. When Alabama won the championship in January 2010, I was very happy about it, and by the start of the following season, I was as interested and hopeful as many long-term football fans. For two years, Crimson Tide football was a very big deal to me. I wouldn’t necessarily say it was an extremely important part of my life as a whole, but it certainly was an extremely important part of my Saturdays, and Saturdays were things that I experienced every single week. I usually was able to watch the game online while doing homework. When Alabama won, as they nearly always did, it brightened my week. On the very few occasions when Alabama lost, it depressed me. When Alabama lost to LSU on one otherwise lovely October day in 2011, I vowed to hate LSU as long as I lived, and when Alabama beat LSU in the championship game three months later, I was delighted.

For the last year, though, sports in general and football in particular haven’t really mattered to me.  Spring semester was so incredibly busy that it didn’t even occur to me to pay any attention to baseball, and in the fall, I always had ballet on Saturday and barely saw any football at all. I’ve had enough things to do and to think about that I haven’t really invested any emotional interest in sports for a while now, but today I’m going to temporarily change my mind about that. Today is the championship game, and I’m pretty sure Alabama is going to win. It’s going to be awesome. Roll tide, y’all!

Roll Tide