Whit’s End: SEC, ACC, Colorado, Alabama: It’s all home to me
There are pictures, colors and phrases that catch my eye when I’m far from home. Birmingham, Alabama, isn’t but 300 miles from Tallahassee, Florida. Even so, Florida State University fans are rare enough that I would approach not only my fellow Seminoles, but also those adorned in the orange-and-green attire of neighboring Florida A&M University. When I see those emblems, I exclaim, “me too!” FAM’s rattlesnake and FSU’s garnet and gold are both symbols of the city where I spent my undergraduate years.
If you’ve ever met a fan of the University of Alabama, you’ve probably noticed we band together with a cry of “roll tide!” I can spot crimson or a script A from the corner of my eye, and if its wearer graduated within five years of me, we can probably identify common friends.
Of course, this expression of home pride isn’t limited to interactions with people who share my alma maters. Last year my father and I spent 20 minutes discussing football with an Auburn University fan we encountered at Walt Disney’s Animal Kingdom. During my first weekend as a Colorado resident, a man in an Auburn beanie joined Dad and me on the Sky Cab at Snowmass. By the end of that short journey, we figured out he lived 15 minutes from the house I’d just moved from and he went to law school with my ex-boyfriend. I’ll confess, although they’re our rivals, Auburn is my third-favorite team.
Southeastern Conference football brings people together.
Even before I moved to Glenwood Springs, I’d been told Southerners seem to gather here. I heard from several after my arrival, and I continue to run into them around town. While walking the dogs Saturday night, a neighbor and I got to talking. Before long, we realized not only did we attend rival schools (yep, she’s an Auburn grad), but we’d also conversed already via email. Our condo building includes Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Texas A&M and Ole Miss fans, she said. With more than a third of the SEC represented, it sounds like we ought to plan tailgates and viewing parties come fall.
Then I met my cats’ veterinarian, a Tennessee grad whose husband played for the famed Phil Fulmer. We gently ribbed each other for our opposing loyalties. But any Southern transplants in Colorado recognize our shared cultural context means we likely understand each other’s raising.
The South will always be the place that shaped me. It’s where I spent the first 35-and-a-half years of my life. So yes, if I spot someone in SEC or Atlantic Coast Conference attire, I’ll stop to chat (and probably poke gentle fun at his or her team). But during a recent trip home, I noticed a new reaction.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is a proverbial melting pot of cultures, and I often entertain myself by keeping track of the SEC or ACC logos I spot. That’s easy to do; it’s the world’s busiest airport, after all. As I walked from my landing gate to that assigned my departing flight, I passed a man with the Colorado flag emblazoned across his backpack.
My immediate reaction: “Me, too!”
This city may be 1,500 miles from my birthplace, but already, it’s becoming home.
Carla Jean Whitley may be a transplanted Southerner, but she’s thrilled by life out West. Share your stories of home by writing her at email@example.com.
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