In Tuscaloosa when I introduce myself to new people, the first thing they notice is my accent. I’ve been called a “Yankee,” a nickname Southerners give to anyone from above the Mason-Dixon line who lacks a drawl, more times than I can count. My normal reaction to the “Yankee” moniker is, “Correction. I’m from Philadelphia, and as a Philadelphian, there are three things we hate more than anything else in the world – the Cowboys, the Giants and the Yankees.”
Many southerners often associate me with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, cheesesteaks and Rocky. And I’m okay with those associations. Will Smith did in fact grow up in West Philadelphia, Philly cheesesteaks are the best food in the world, and Rocky is arguably one of the greatest albeit fictional sports heroes of all time.
Living in Tuscaloosa the past year has opened my eyes to a whole other world that is somewhat hard to explain. I came to The University of Alabama for two reasons: the prestigious College of Communication & Information Sciences and the Alabama Crimson Tide. I didn’t want to choose just a school. I wanted to choose a place that could give me an experience unlike any other. And Tuscaloosa has delivered – it’s a completely different world compared to home.
Yes, I’ve experienced the obvious differences between the North and the South—the weather, the accents, and the food. But one of the most noticeable distinctions is people’s relationship with sports. In Alabama, people follow one thing—college football and college football only. It seems that up North, this obsession is spread out between more sports, including both college and professional leagues.
For example, the week before the first round of the 2011 NCAA tournament, I asked my sorority at chapter if they wanted to engage in a fun sister vs. sister bracketology competition. The only people that knew what I was talking about were to the girls from North Carolina, Kentucky, and other northern states. I was immediately dumbfounded. How could no one know what bracketology is? It was especially ironic since that was the first year since 2006 that Alabama made it to NCAA Tournament.
The view toward basketball was not the only difference that I have noticed during my time in Tuscaloosa. I am a huge football fan, and my friends don’t understand the intensity of my enthusiasm for the sport. I grew up dedicated to the Philadelphia Eagles, looking forward to not just College Gameday on Saturday morning, but rather NFL Fox Sundays at noon was the highlight of my weekend growing up.
Despite the North having a greater appreciation for other sports, the South knows how to do college football. The passion and dedication Alabama fans have to their Crimson Tide is worthy of praise. And it’s not just the boys that make the team proud. Girls in Tuscaloosa know exactly what they’re talking about when it comes to football. The girls from my high school seemed to view football games as a venue for another social event. I was the only one who talked college ball with boys, getting into arguments about specifics like what formation was working best for the Eagles. Here in Tuscaloosa, this behavior is completely normal. Girls are expected to understand the game, and they engage in in-depth discussions about specific plays and player stats. At Alabama, girls and guys alike live and breathe football.
The intensity and commitment to athletics is one reason why I chose to attend a big football school. I wanted to be able to share my passion for dissecting the games with others. I just didn’t realize that most of the people in those conversations would be girls just like me. There’s a saying, “At some places, they play football. At Alabama, we live it!” And boy, is it true.