I have lived half my life in Alabama, but I'll never really be an Alabamian. And I'm not sure the natives will ever claim me. The Mobile Press-Register once ran an obituary for a woman (name changed) that went something like this:
Wanda Mae Fussbudget, 99, native of Birmingham, resident of Mobile for 98 years.
Forget the 98 years, Wanda Mae was not a Mobilian. She wasn't born there. Ozzie Smith was born in Mobile and lived there for the first two years of his life. I don't think he ever came back after that, but the Press-Register could barely mention his name without referring to him as a Mobile native. To be fair, Mobile's attitude towards outsiders is gently mocked by other Alabamians, but I see it as a difference in intensity, not in kind.
Being in the culture but not of the culture provides me with a different perspective on life and fandom in the heart of SEC country. Hopefully this perspective will help me to give you some more insight into our new conference mates. I'll be sharing anecdotes and observations on a broad range of subjects relating to life in the SEC. If there's a particular topic you'd like me to address, let me know in the comments.
I'll kick it off with a work place story that is typically SEC. I work in IT for a large corporation. A few years back, I was embedded with the internal customer group I was supporting. Our office building was being remodeled, and I found a home for a few displaced IT project managers on my customer's floor.
One day, the Auburn-grad VP stops by my cube. "Is that one of your people that has that Alabama flag in her cube? She needs to take it down. I wouldn't care if it were an Auburn flag. It is old and dirty and unprofessional and it needs to come down."
So I track down the flag-wielding PM and relay the VP's message to her. She is truly livid. Not only is she as mad as hornet, but her face, neck, and upper chest are bright red. "So, the problem isn't that it is an Alabama flag?" she says skeptically. "I guess that means he wouldn't have a problem if the flag were new? I guess I'll just have to go out and get a new flag tonight!"
I tell her that she could certainly do that, but suggest that the message is probably that a less ostentatious way of showing allegiance might be wiser. After some more back and forth, she heads off to her cubicle.
The next afternoon she comes by to see me. "I've taken down my flag. I thought about it last night, and I decided my job was more important than making a point."
Welcome to the SEC, where women are so passionate about football that they have to take an evening to debate whether openly defying a VP over a school flag is a good idea.