The Taste of Victory

Nothing says National Champs like fried chicken.

No matter who you cheer for, there will always be enough chicken to go around.

You cannot talk about group identities without discussing fan culture–specifically when it centers around athletics. Now, you may love sports or you may hate it, but neither of those feelings matter that much in a conversation about sports.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who wins the big game (don’t say that to any LSU or Alabama fans..) but it matters why we play the big game.  See, how I said “we” there? I’ve managed to not only place myself into the conversation but also negotiate a space for myself on the team. I’ve never been on a football field, yet I feel some kind of odd connection to football culture; I don’t feel this connection because I love Alabama or Auburn or even Florida State.  I feel this connection because I live in the South. Sports culture affects me whether I like it it or not. At the very least it affects my internet.

For those of you who are particularly interested in this subject, the 2009 Patton Oswalt film, Big Fan, explores these questions along with some other deeper questions about the role of faith and religion:

I want you to consider what it means to be a fan.  What does it mean to be a fan of a school where you don’t attend?  And why is it important, for some people, to be part of a cheering community?

And what other questions or concerns come to mind when you consider sports culture?




Filed under Discussion

30 responses to “The Taste of Victory

  1. Kati Trautzsch

    I have never been a big sports fan, and especially from not growing up in the south and only living here a few years, I never could consider myself a true fan of football– Only here in the south have I ever seen such a sport be worshiped so much. However as mentioned above, whether I like it or not, sports culture affects me.
    However being a fan in a sport or really any event is important because it brings people together. Even if you oppose the idea of sports, being in the community of loving/hating it can bring together a different and unique type of bond.

    • Im glad you are adjusting because we love football(the south). Everyone does even if we dont know the concept of the game we pick a side and swear we understand and will even dogg the other team without so much as a clue as to whats going on.

  2. Judy Le

    Also, another thing to toss around would be the idea of branding….It’s easier to see with sports, but we all “brand” ourselves and each other in many ways—across many different areas.

    What’s the purpose for the “Championship Chicken” above?

    • It’s not a good Southern “get together” if there’s no chicken. End of story.

      Much of this branding you speak of is an stereotype that many people subconsciously or consciously take on for a specific reason. People’s fashion choice often displays such branding. Examples other than athletic apparel are Greek letters, religious symbols, and PV/GV clothing. By wearing a symbol such as these, people often automatically brand a person based on group traits. Depending on the symbol (not specifically these), it is possible that you’re wearing means something very specific or offensive to one person and absolutely nothing to someone else.

      In reference to sports: Granted, you personally can’t be blamed for a famous athlete getting arrested if you’ve never met him/her. I’m not really referring to the team’s behavior; I’m speaking more of the fans. If you’re a hardcore sports fan, think of why you love “your” team. Family association? Personal involvement? Tradition? Values? All of these? Would your personal identity be shattered if said school chose to *gasp* shut down the sports program? Hold that thought.

      (I’ll make it quick, so don’t shut me out yet.)
      In reference to religious symbols: Do you really believe in the the message that a specific symbol represents? If so, would you personally be a good representation of said message by wearing the symbol? If someone were to define you by the message your symbol represents, would it be an accurate representation of who you actually are? Why do you love this? If you weren’t allowed to openly practice this religion, would it significantly change your typical behavior?

      Athletic programs are, in general, a good idea. But, do sports really make that great of a substitution for religion? To a non-religious person, possibly. But, if you claim to hold a specific monotheistic belief, is it okay for you devote your life to the worship of a collegiate sports team instead of your choice deity, saint, etc?

      In the grand scheme of things, it is important what you represent; for, it says much about you. Would it be accurate to categorize you by the logo/symbol you wear? Would you really want to be a representation of whatever logo you have on? Who/what do you truly represent?

    • It is safe to say that many families in the south love football but my family is not one of them. I have lived in the south my whole life and have been involved in football only from a distance.The only thing I knew about foot ball was what I heard at school from my friends. So to me, to be a fan is to follow whatever team you have chosen and stick with that team no matter if they are winning or losing.
      To focus on the chicken though, I would say that being in the south, that is a perfect way to make money. The south, plus fried chicken, plus football equals profit. People are given an opportunity to show what team they support by buying a bag of chicken with a team name on it.

  3. I have grown up in a family of three boys all of which are relatively athletic, so naturally we are sports fans. That being said, the sport I chose to play (soccer) is not supported among southerners. Football is king around here and I do not think that will ever change. People devote themselves to a team and support them through the thick and thin. I do not view anything about being a fan as strange, but how into it some people get is quite embarrassing though. Being a fan of a school one does not attend is nothing strange among people I know, because sometimes the school just does not offer something you would want to do as a profession. Being a fan is not pathetic, but being a die-hard fan is a bit much. Nobody likes to read obnoxious Facebook arguments.

    • Judy Le

      I don’t even think being a die-hard fan is a bit much–some people are just really competitive, but there is something to be said about “being in the moment” during a sports event that really changes people. Otherwise rational people will sometimes have fits of insanity while they’re watching the game, but then return to normal right after. It’s so easy to get caught up in the mob mentality.

      Soccer is an interesting thing, because so many young Alabamians play soccer in middle school but yet as adults they’re so uninterested in the game—except every four years for the World Cup…and only if the U.S. is doing well.

  4. christiwilson19

    I have been in the south my whole life, and football has been a huge part of my family. It became a part of my life as soon as I was able to comprehend what people were telling me. Growing up in the south definitely impacts the influence of sports, particularly football. It is a part of who we are and, in some ways, it even unifies our state as well as surrounding states. If you live in the south, you are pressured into choosing a team to root for. I know that whenever I am watching a game, I get so in to it that I feel like I am actually in the stadium with everyone else. I feel as if my voice can actually be heard, which is crazy of course. With that being said, my enthusiasm for the game is sort of built in to who I am. While living in an area where certain sports are practically worshiped, people will find it hard to stay out of the excitement of game day. The south is strongly influenced because of the love for football. Whether it be simply buying a team shirt (even if its not for you) or making sure you get tickets to every single game of the season, every person living in the South will acknowledge the football craze and will accept it.

  5. rebecca1106

    I too was raised in the south. Ever since I was little my mom and dad have been taking me to the Bama games where I grew up in a family full of Alabama fans with just a few Auburn fans here and there. Sure it was fun to joke around on the day of the Iron Bowl but, being a sports fan (espically football) is what I love. To my family, every Saturday (even if we didn’t have tickets) would be our excuse to get together and watch the games and I mean every game. It didn’t matter if it was Georgia, Miss State, Ole Miss, Auburn, Tennessee, Florida, etc. we all got together to cheer them on only if they weren’t playing against my team. Now don’t get me wrong, I love sports but it doesn’t comsume me. Well, only from August to November. Therefore, I don’t think that it is wrong to cheer for a school that I don’t attend. Football is what the South is made of.

  6. Dylan Colburn

    I have grown up in the south since my birth, and since i could talk and comprehend what i was seeing i fell in love with sports in general. Yes football is pretty much worshipped in the south for some reason over other sports but that is not to say that is the only sport that counts here. I have seen fans of many different teams from a wide array of sports act just as enthusiastic and crazy about the sport they love. For some reason in the south it is just embedded in us the love or hate of a particular football team.

  7. Zach Miller

    My family is originally from the South but spent a good amount of time in the North. We still like football, but professional football is much bigger up there as in the South with college football. My mother loves Auburn and my father and one of my brothers love Alabama. My other brother and I don’t really care that much. I am more into baseball, hockey, rugby and even Formula One and Rally. That being said, I am still a fan. Being a fan of something brings people together for loads of fun. Some people, such as myself, just enjoy the sports while others enjoy keeping up with statistics and charts. Also, the violence in sports is exciting, something from our primal instincts. As far as being a fan of a school you didn’t attend, it’s more of a cultural thing. Usually, that school is in your state or city. This is also the case with professional sports. In general, we are fans of teams in our town or a town with some sort of personal connection to us, which is why I’m a fan of the Baltimore Ravens, Orioles, Navy football and Washington Redskins. However, there are also people who are fans of the team that always wins.

  8. Jared Ebert

    Sports, especially football, have defined the south for a long time. Football is the biggest religion in Alabama and this shows every weekend. The south must be careful though, football is good, but without a little perspective it can quickly mess things up quickly. Football consumes Saturday’s for a majority of the south, for many it really consumes the entire weekend, there is nothing wrong with this, it acts as a release from the reality of the work-week/school-week. The problem with this subculture occurs when it expands past a subculture and takes over an entire culture. Sports, especially football, should not consume an entire life, especially for fans who are not actually playing or having a paying career in these sports. When a game begins to ruin lives, a step back for a little perspective is needed. Consider the Alabama fan who is facing years behind bars for poisoning the trees at Auburn, this is a problem. He has let a subculture, wreck his life. He has lived for a sport, and this sport has ruined his life. It is sad when it gets this far because it ruins a game that so many of us can enjoy. It does however, serve as a warning to be careful to not let this subculture consume our lives. Marketers have picked up on this obsession and use it against us every day. What does chicken have to do with Alabama football? Nothing, except to an Alabama fan that chicken, wrapped in a bag about to be thrown away, all of a sudden looks more appealing. This subculture affects everything we do and we must continue to enjoy it while not being consumed by it.

  9. Dan Alykeev

    I was introduced to the Southern culture last year, the fall of 2011, my freshman year at the UM. And I noticed the minute I came here, that the South is indeed affected by sports so much. Before coming to AL, I spent a year in HS in Massachusetts, and it is another place where people live, dream and sleep sports. Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, Revolution, Bruins, the state is full of US leading teams in each kind of sport possible, and people everywhere, I mean everywhere, in the state are the supporters of their team, they don’t miss a single game, during the game they don’t leave the room, they celebrate the wins for a long period of time, they all wear black and give respect to the their team when they lose (Patriots went undefeated to the Superbowl and lost to Giants in 2008). But coming here to the South, I noticed differences of fans calling themselves die-hard fans. Yes, the do have a sticker on their cars, yes they do have a poster in their rooms, yes, they wear their team gear 24/7 365. But here comes the game, and the majority of fans (most of my friends here) talk, party, play video games during the actual games. When a team wins, they cheer “Roll Tide” or “War Eagle,” when their team loses, they say “At least we beat Bama (Auburn).” I, personally, won’t even miss a minute when my team plays (I love European soccer), know all the strengths and weaknesses, news and possible changes, etc. I just feel like because the state has two of the strongest teams in the nation, people are obliged to be a fan of one, and even though they don’t care as much, they still wear team gear, put stickers on cars, say “Roll Tide” or “War Eagle”. My personal view on this, either be real, and don’t be a fan at all. Back in MA, this kind of a feeling never occurred to me. Here in AL, I see that everyday. Even though I have been here for more than a year now, during a discussion about football, I know much more than “them,” even though I am not into football as much as they say they are. If you consider yourself a fan, then be one, do not pretend. But, I guess, in this Southern culture, especially here in AL, people, sort of, have no choice, and those who really don’t care – they pretend.

    • Kati Trautzsch

      I completely agree with you on this– I have plenty of friends who I’ve met down here who hate football, but feel obliged to become a fan. I remember when I first came to highschool here in the south, the first question ever addressed to me was “So, are you for Auburn or Alabama”. Since sports down here are celebrated seemly year round rather than during only one season it seems like the “passion” for the sport itself is played up and lost. When you said “…in this Southern culture, especially here in AL, people… have no choice..”, its true- at least from my experiences as well as what appears to be yours, as soon as your enter the culture you are required to be sucked into the sports culture whether you like it or not.

  10. anance10

    Growing up in a community where you would hear cheers for different teams-especially Alabama or Auburn- I had many influences of sports culture around me. Now I must admit, I am not a big sports fan, but I do understand why fans get want to be apart of this “community.” Sports culture can bring many people together whether they are friends or family. It brings a time of unity and allow people to be socially active. Even though I’m not really involve with sports, I do feel a special bond with my friends, family, and others as I watch a game. Even though we are not all on the same team ,at the end of the day, we are still united.

  11. Football in the South is BIG DEAL. When I was four years old we moved from Pennsylvania to Alabama and boy was that a change. I remember the first question that I was asked on our very first day, “Auburn or Alabama.” At first I didn’t understand what they meant, I didn’t even know what they were, I mean it could have been names for someone’s two pet frogs or something. I soon figured out what the two names signified after my first college football Saturday get-together with my dad’s friends. I had to pick a side fast so that I could join in and learn the ways of my new Southern community. A fan is an avid supporter. Cheering for a school other than your own is perfectly normal. I mean could you imagine how big the University of Alabama campus would have to be in order for every fan to attend there? The reason why football is such a huge deal in the South is due to the fact it’s basically a universal remote that people can use to connect with people of all sorts of different backgrounds. Football has the amazing ability to join individuals and form large cheering communities. To be a part of a cheering community means sharing a common ground with people who support the same thing. A cheering community can provide a place of familiarity, friendship, and security. The fact that companies brand their products with collegiate teams acknowledges their awareness of the fact that being a fan is important. Companies use the branding techniques such as the championship chicken to profit from individuals’ commitment to one’s team. I myself am a fan, but not an EXTREME fan that gets into heated debates with friends or posts annoying statuses every two seconds on Facebook.

  12. camillaalderin

    I was born and raised in Norway, and besides soccer or football as we call it, cross-country skiing is the biggest sport where I am from. Ever since I was old enough to walk, my parents took me and my sisters out skiing and the sport has become a symbol of the Norwegian people and nation. We have only five million people living in the country, and our love for winter sports brings us together as it is something most people take interest in and can relate to. I have now been in Alabama for about five months and I have experienced the passion many people from the South have for sports, and especially football. Many of my friends here are Alabama or Auburn fans, but I have to say that I don’t really find the sport very interesting. I know what a touchdown is and how it’s done, but let’s be honest, that’s about it. But what I know is that I can see similarities between the passions people here have for football and how we Norwegians are crazy about our national sport, skiing. I guess it is important for people to be a part of a cheering community; it not only characterizes who we are as individuals, but also as a group of people. It is a part of our identity and it brings people with the same interest together.

    I will keep working on my southern accent and I’m still getting used to sweet tea and fried chicken. Maybe one day I will understand the rules of American football and actually get a chance to go to a big game. Because after all, as a foreign student, I just want to take part of the local culture and my friends’ interests. And maybe one day I can go to an Alabama game, yell Roll Tide and actually mean it.

  13. Kellie Rogers

    This was a great blog! I enjoyed the video I have never seen that movie before. The whole questions about what does it mean to be a fan at a school where you don’t attend is a big issue in my book. Yes, you can be a fan but to be one of the rude, crazy, and all out there fans is pointless. If you are a die heart fan of some kind you are going to make it a priority to be at every single sporting event you support cheering your guys or girls on all of the way. Just like Auburn’s motto ‘Auburn family all in’ its a moto mainly for the school not fans. Yes fans take the motto as their own but no one feel more into something than a student at the university of their choice.
    As for the WE I think that is a misused turn that fans just throw around, saying look how hard WE worked. Last time I checked you did nothing you just watch them run up and down the field thinking to yourself oh look what you did wrong and I know I have done this too. Its a thing that people don’t think about anymore they think just cause they are a fan all of a sudden they are in the loop with the WE. No sorry that does not make you a WE. Until you work as hard as all of those boys and you start to win a few championship with the team of your choice then and only then can you be considered a WE.
    On to another note being part of a fan or cheering base is the best way for you to be connected to these boys through their journey as players and move to the NFL but still not a WE, just they and an I. Fans are a great way to get players pumped up. As an athlete i can remember practicing in our gym and we would not have a good practice but that day you had a game its like a huge feeling just come around you. Its those people in the hall way telling you good luck tonight, or your pe teacher giving you the day off so you can save yourself for the game, these little things are the things that pump athletes up and lets them know that someone out there cares about the sport you play. As for football i am a huge fan and i may not know my Auburn history but i do know there is nothing that beats an auburn atmosphere, their’s just something that gets those boys so excited to hit somebody and make somebody proud. So never think just because you are not a WE does not mean that you are not part of a fan base system that gets these boys going! They will always count one you as fans to be there for them in the end.

  14. I honestly never understood the game of football until my senior year of highschool when I asked my friend to explain it to me. Seventeen years before that I only loved Auburn football because my dad was a die-hard fan. Being a fan of Auburn, when I obviously do not attend the school, made me feel as though I was apart of something. As in a sorority, it doesn’t matter if you are from the east or the west, if you meet a sister from your sorority then you are connected. You already know you and that sister share the same beliefs and morals. Football is of course not the same thing as a sorority. Seeing someone with your teams logo on makes you feel a bond with that person, even though you haven’t a clue who they are.
    Sadly, on the contrary, when you see other sororities you think you are better than theirs. You judge them for what their sisters in the west did, when the east doesnt act that way. The same is in football. Auburn fans judge Alabama fans with steriotypes placed understandably on only a few of the fans.
    The South has developed a large development around football. As a result we are influenced, both well and badly. We are apart of something greater than ourself, but we are also charged with steriotypes placed by other people.

  15. You cannot escape football while living in the south. I personally can not stand it, but oddly enough i have 4 or more shirts dealing with Alabama football. Football is a part of southern culture, and whether you like it or not you are exposed to it and have to deal with it. Yes, my parents had a lot to do with me even ‘going’ for alabama, but football just isn’t my thing. When Alabama won the National Championship, of course i texted my friends ‘WE WON.’ Living in Alabama for some reason makes you feel like you are part of the the team. And it doesn’t have to be just Alabama. Football is not only a sport but kind of a cult that everyone belongs to living here. It’s important for us to cheer even if we don’t like it because, well for me, it’s all i’ve ever known. Lately I’ve noticed that whenever something good happens to you or whenever you ‘tweet’ something a lot of people add #RollTide. I can’t even explain it. At times i just want to reject it, but you can’t help but love it. It’s really unique to the south and as much as i don’t want to care, i feel like i have to. I’m wondering if its just like this in the south or if it is like this everywhere too. I mean Auburn and Alabama fans (as well as all the other SEC fans) are die-hard, shove it in your face fans, but we all love it.

  16. amor92

    I have always been a sports fan, and I enjoy watching sports since I have memory. The sport culture in Mexico is huge, especially with the soccer rivalry between America and Chivas. I’m guessing that a big percentage of fights start with the question: Who do you support? Living in Mexico, I often heard that fans in America were radical, but I didn’t think the were that much. The first week I was here, I saw in the news that a random guy decided to poison trees that I later knew they were Auburn symbol. I was disgusted that a rivalry between two football teams was a reason to destroy the heritage of several generations. As time passes I’m getting more used to the sport culture of America, and even started to like it. The only thing I don’t understand is why people support more college football than professional football? I have always thought that is more interesting to see a better quality of players…

  17. Kyle Lunceford

    As a fan of college football as a whole, I must say that football in the south is not like no other. I am Auburn to the bone, but that doesnt mean I enjoy seeing Alabama lose, I only want Alabama to lose to Auburn. I do not go around saying role tide, because my pride lies in the plains, but I am also not a fan that goes around not letting their child wear certain colors because it reflects the other team. As a fan of Auburn, I have pride in their program, I believe they do things on and off the field that set themselves up for success, and I want to be apart of that success; so in turn I cheer them on. Auburn may not be the best every year, and I can admit to that, but the things they have done in the past have gave me great joy and pride in the Auburn family so I choose to stay an Auburn tiger till I die.

  18. gabehitt

    Living in a area of the nation where sports have always been important I have come to accept that I love sports. I played them all through school and I feel that sports wether on a large scale or small are a way for people to attach themselves to. Its something almost like an identity to them, people lump themselves into this fan group and that fan group. Its all fun and games, I really dont think there is some deep connection to sports and fandom they are just plain simple fun and people love to attach themselves to that. Some take it too far while others dont participate at all.

  19. elisehayes8569

    When responding to the question what does cheering for a team do for you I imediately think of my passion for sports. I do in fact get joy out of screaming for a team, and supporting a team that comes out with a victory. I was a born and raised Auburn fan and will be until I die. When I watch the games I must be alone in front of the t.v. so that I can say what I want when something good or bad happens. I am also that girl that will cheer for anyone and everyone except Alabama. My passion for being a fan and being a cheerer comes out even when Auburn is not playing. For example: I spent my birthday in Tuscaloosa on November 5th with a friend for the LSU Alabama game where i cheered passionately for LSU simply because of my strong passion and trash talking when it comes to Auburn football. I live for victory. Whether is is a purple side college night victory, or an Auburn tiger victory, I will in fact be cheering proudly.

  20. Sports culture has effected me by growing up in the south because thats all I have ever known. My whole family has raised me in the Alabama football scenery. Every year when that time of that month comes around my family has set up and gotten ready for the games to come as long as i remember. I would say if you live in the south 99.9% of everyone you will meet will at some point bring up the question of wether you are a alabama or auburn fan and that is how it has always been. Even though I do not attend U of A I still care about that team because my family has raised me in that environment. To be a fan of a team that you do not attend that school is to cheer and root for them no matter what the circumstances are. For instance even though i am a alabama fan and last year auburn was in the championship finals i still rooted for them because that college in still also in alabama and i would much rather them win then another college that was not in alabama.

  21. I think what it means to be a fan is the love of competition. Most people are wired to like some kind of competition be it sports, games or anything.When I lived in Philadelphia they were more focused on NFL, baseball and to some degree, hockey and you can look at all the youtube videos related to it, especially in Philadelphia and New York. There’s just a certain nationalism associated with it all. I was also surprised at how wide spread it was when I got to Alabama. Once we had a random guy at a gas station start talking about a game that came on at the time. Needless to say my dad’s not into football at all so he just agree with everything the man said.

  22. Nicole Knight

    It’s completely true about college football being just as much of Southern culture as Sweet Tea. Having moved here from Chicago, Illinois, I remember on the very week that I moved into the school district there was a school-wide can drive in which students put the cans into their favorite team: Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee. I remember all my potential new friends asking me which team I was a fan of. Terrified of giving the wrong answer and losing these new friends, I thought, “Well, I live in Alabama, so I should be an Alabama fan.” And to this very day, I am an Alabama fan, but I don’t know a single thing about football or sports at all for that matter.

    In the south, you are born into which team you will root for just like you are born into your religion. It starts as blind family allegiance but after so many years, it becomes a natural thing to people. If you ask people why they are a fan of whatever team they root for, the most common answer will be “Because they are the best!” or “Because they have won so-and-so national championships.” No one can really tell you why they are an Alabama or Auburn fan because they can’t remember that early in their lives.

    • I have several family members that are Alabama fans and I dont understand why, but respect it. So I sorta disagree that whatever team you’re born into is your team just like religion. I guess its 70/30 ratio, because some people venture out on their own after they do some research, marry, or have a personal experienc that affects them. No matter what you gotta pick a team. So, you done well. Congrats on the championship!

  23. haleyewatts

    Sports are very much apart of our southern culture, whether we like it or not. We’re Auburn fans in my house. It’s almost like I was born into it. I’m a fan of that team because my parents are. To be a fan is something that should be an individuals personal opinion about a team. Like I said, I was born an Auburn fan, so I feel like it’s what I’m suppose to be. When people ask me who my favorite player is or about stats, I never have anything to say because that’s not the reason I’m an Auburn fan. I am an Auburn fan because of the fans (besides my parents). I also love the colors, the atmosphere, the cheers, and the class. Unfortunatley, a lot of people over do it. Like the video said, it has become a religion to most people which takes the fun out of it and turns to stress. I really enjoy this topic because of the many varieties of opinions.

  24. The south loves sports and especially football. However we do pick sides based on stats and promotion of our culture(racist right). Well Alabama is hated by certain races because of their reasons for not utilizing all players. Their history stinks there. I have always been an Auburn fan, but now its more of a culture thing and Im proud of them for their progress in liberty and justice for all. I also like Tennesse for that same reason after researching thier history. The actual sport is phenomenal. I love to see a good defense game, but my son was a basketball player. Go figure.

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