Are you ready for some football?
I’m from Florida, let’s just get that out of the way up front. Not Miami or Tampa or Orlando, that other Florida, the one that is attached to Alabama and Georgia, not dangling down there between the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. Northwest Florida. In fact, I grew up just west of the Central/Eastern time line that basically dissects that part of the state. I lived in Central time zone Florida. I am small town, small everything. Heck the county I grew up in only had two McDonald’s in it when I moved out. I think it has five now. Maybe six.
I know, if you haven’t yawned and skipped down to the naked men Marie and Heidi post (yes I know there are naked men here, why do you think I found this site in the first place?) you are wondering what that has to do with anything. Especially, football. Hold your horses, I’m getting to it.
Football in the south is, well, how can I say this nicely? It’s not just a sport but a way of life. Even if you don’t play the sport chances are you were a part of it in one way or another. Cheerleader, band. I was a band geek. I loved being in band. I went to every game, for free, all of the away games every game for five years. Sometimes, it was just us band geeks and the cheerleaders and a bunch of diehard parents in the bleachers cheering on our team. Sometimes it poured and sometimes but not often it was so cold we could barely hold our instruments, but we went. We had our rival. We couldn’t play our rival for five years after a knock down drag out at a dance my Senior year. But that’s another story.
So when I say I’m from small town middle of nowhere Florida and I lump football in there, I mean it’s what we did. It’s what the town did. It was the thing to do, sometimes the only thing to do. We filled the stands. In the rain or the freezing cold. If you didn’t want to pay the fee to get in you sat in trees or out in the parking lot and listened to the announcer. Football for small towns in Florida and Alabama and Georgia or anywhere else in the south isn’t just a sport it is a way of life for nearly every citizen.
And as an extension of that we all have our college team that we root for. The saying in Alabama, which is where I live currently, is “if it ain’t SEC it ain’t football” is pretty much true. Except of course I’m a Florida State fan and FSU isn’t SEC they are ACC. Do you know how hard it is to get FSU football scores around here? Almost as hard as it is to get professional football scores. If it ain’t SEC football, people in the deep south really don’t care.
Being from Florida, we had the big three schools. FSU, U of F, and Miami. There weren’t many Miami fans at my school. But those of us loyal to the Seminoles or to the Gators could and did square off in late November when those two teams faced off. Even if we never went to either school. I went to the University of South Alabama. I am still a FSU fan. I bleed garnet and gold and I will until the day I die. But as bad as we were/are in Florida. Nothing and I mean nothing compares to the rivalry between Alabama and Auburn here in Alabama. Their end of the season grudge match-up even has a name. The Iron Bowl. Named because they used to play on neutral ground in the city of Birmingham, which is the iron capital of the south. Now though, the two teams can be trusted to visit each other’s school each November without someone getting killed. Because that’s how seriously we take our football here in the south. We wear our colors for everyone to see. From the cradle to the grave. We go to the local Pee-Wee games to support our little brothers. To cheer camp and band camp and we wear our colors with pride. I still have my high school letter jacket. I will always have that. I still know the fight song by heart. I know the fight song of all the colleges around me. I know the names of all the big college teams even the ones from outside the south. I know their names and their mascots and their fight songs. Because in the south that’s what football is.
It’s the show. It’s the band and the cheer squad. The banners and the body paint. It’s the party before during and after.
And somehow at some point in our small town lives we were a part of that show. And that’s why football in the south is so different than outside the south. We were all once a part of that show and we live for the show. The band, the cheerleaders, the mascots, the colors it’s what we do. It’s who we are.
Professional football has its place. We root for the home teams. We don’t have many. New Orleans, or Miami, Tampa or Jacksonville, Atlanta or Tennessee. And Texas. But Texas is another brand of football altogether. But mostly we root for the boys who made it to the pros. We root for Green Bay because that’s where Bret Favre went first. We root for the Broncos because that’s where Tim Tebow went. (Sorry Marie). We root for the Vikes because that’s where Chris Ponder went. We are loyal to our boys. And it doesn’t matter where those boys came from. At one time, they were southern and they will forever bleed the color of whatever college from which they matriculated. We
pack football stadiums we bring the beer and the ribs and sometimes the squirrel because you know–okay I’m sorry, I do not and will not ever eat squirrel but for some reason you will find that one toothless tailgater out there with squirrel on his grill. And as bad as it looks to outsiders, it’s just part of the game. We just say “bless your heart” and move on. From trailer to mansion we down here in the boonies love our football. SEC or otherwise. Pee wee to pro. Here’s to Friday night lights, and Saturday afternoon tailgating, and Sunday All Game Pass on Directv. May the best team win. And may that team always be your team.
My name is Mercy Celeste and I write football romance among other things. Visit me here http://mercyceleste.blogspot.com.
(Broncos logo snuck in by Marie, without Mercy’s knowledge or consent. Marie thinks everybody should be a Broncos fan, but also thinks Tim Tebow has yet to prove that he has what it takes to be a quarterback in the NFL.)
We’re giving away an ebook of Mercy’s new release, Wicked Game. Leave a comment to enter. Find out more about Wicked Game here.