My life doesn’t revolve around Alabama and Auburn football

Adam Stermer

Today’s guest columnist is Adam Stermer.

I moved to Alabama in High School.

I was immediately struck by the natural beauty of the state, and having spent most of my short lifetime relocating often, I was excited and nervous to begin learning about my new home.

Meeting people and making new friends was a reality I was familiar with, but it’s never easy. While there were expected differences from places I’d lived in the past, one experience stands out.

I was asked, probably the first day, “Who do you go for?”

I gotta ask to the born and bred Alabamian: does this sentence mean something to you?

The question is not necessarily grammatically incorrect, but in the strictest terms, the syntax doesn’t track. There was no context. I just couldn’t figure out what was being asked. I was eager to have any conversation with the beautiful belle who was asking me this question, but instead, I didn’t understand her question at all. After feeling dumb for an eternity, all I could do was ask what she meant. Her disdainful reply was one I’d never have suspected: “Alabama or Auburn?”

When I told her I didn’t really care one way or the other, her eyes intensified; with an almost crusader-like fervor she sternly told me I HAD to pick. I also noted a glimmer of pity. She knew that my future, my friendships, even my soul may be on the line depending on how I answered this singular question.

Over the years since then, I have done my best to stay away from the conversation, because even grown adults seem to be completely obsessed with this rivalry. Children form into camps before they have mastered the alphabet, and I don’t know if they are ever allowed to reevaluate. Everyone in Alabama knows what a ‘House Divided’ is: one spouse for Auburn, the other a Tide fan. Sounds serious. It’s not pretty folks. Your obsession just isn’t one that I can understand.

First, number 1 (of course), are Alabama fans. These fans are not like others across the nation, with a fierce loyalty to their alma mater. A vast army of fans seem to have been born this way, and may never set foot in Tuscaloosa, nor on any college campus. Alumni are devoted, 100%. I have seen academic Ph.D.’s lose their minds if a field goal is conceded by Saban’s defense with a 21 point Alabama lead. In the first quarter. An actual loss requires that you contemplate your very existence: your whole week could be unsettled. There seems to be an underlying shame that pervades your entire demeanor until Alabama demolishes the next contender. Those guys better watch out.

That leaves Auburn fans: eternal optimists, the underdogs, and proud of it somehow. I’m pretty sure you are outnumbered too, AU fans. You have a bit of an identity crisis; tigers, war eagles…Plainsmen?  You do have my sympathy, knowing the level of talent you have on the field. These young athletes are often the best of the best, but somehow the staff never seems to wring out all of that potential…or at last that is a regular complaint. “Coach is an idiot”, maybe he got paid by Bear Bryant to throw the game. Honestly, I think it’s a luck thing, and Auburn fans, when your luck is bad, nothing can help you. All that being said, you have earned enough hardware over the years to legitimately dream about next year.

Let me assure you that most of your fan based behavior diminishes you, but thankfully it does also usually amuse me, and big games can reduce traffic and Costco lines; that’s a bonus. I can’t deny that I have, at various times over the years, prodded one side or the other when things weren’t going their way, not just to goad them, but also with naïve hopes that they may have a change in perspective, maybe prompt a reply like, “it’s just a game”.  That has never happened. More than once, having made light of the situation, I have found myself having to console my target, or worse yet, mend a friendship because I hadn’t fully realized how deep these passions run.

After many years, I finally found a solution to my initial and ongoing problem, my inability to choose a side; an apathy that refused to enlist with either army. I remained in limbo until 2003, but my future, my friendships, perhaps even my immortal soul have certainly been influenced, and I have selected not Crimson and White, nor Blue and Orange, but Green and Gold.

Now when I am asked, “Who do you go for?’ I simply say…


Adam Stermer has lived in Birmingham for 10 years, but in the neighborhood for longer. He’s the Technical Director of UAB’s Alys Stephens Center, and has worked at UAB since 2003. He thinks Birmingham’s a pretty great town. Adam invites you to join him at UAB Football’s first game at Protective Stadium on October 2nd which also will be broadcast live on the CBS TV Sports Network.

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David Sher is the founder and publisher of ComebackTown.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

Invite David to speak to your group for free about a better Birmingham.

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8 thoughts on “My life doesn’t revolve around Alabama and Auburn football”

  1. Linus: my uncle’s move to Alabama went smoothly. The only problem was registering to vote. In that state, when registering to vote, you have to declare a preference.

    Charlie Brown: Republican or Democrat?

    Linus: No. Alabama or Auburn.

  2. The best thing about football in Alabama is that I can shop at Walmart in peace on Saturday afternoons during football season because everyone is at home watching the game.

  3. I really love responding to this commentary Adam. It’s great!
    I was born and bred in Birmingham, with two degrees from Harvard, an Architect who when applying to Auburn to study, rejected my application because, ‘They were accepting no applications from my area, thinking that was Massachusetts! I had sent it from Cambridge! So of course I accepted my offer from Harvard. I now live in Tallahassee, Florida. Auburn’s Architecture school is now top notch, one of the nation’s very best. Earlier I was offered the position of Director of Auburn’s Architecture program, but accepted the better offer from Tennesssee to become Dean of its newer school. Did you know that Auburn’s really is one of the oldest in the country? home state Alabama is so blessed with absolutely beautiful architecture. old and new. (every sate has plenty of ugly buildings)
    I am always here at Comeback town, because, my heart and soul are really stuck in Birmingham. I am there visiting as often as I can and see what is happening becoming very happy with some of what I see and furious about others.

    So what about football then? I do not give a whit. My brother is a big Alabama. My daughter’s husband teaches philosophy at Auburn but supports his father’s Alma Mater, the ‘Gater’s’ where my lawyer son received his Juris Doctor. I really don’t much care for football at all, feeling it is a huge waste of time when I have so many more much more interesting things to do including keeping up with friends. Many love and care about football, and I accept that and respect it. What ever they might say about it I am usually quick to forget. Only when I had a champion football player son on a high school near here, did I really pay attention and what a pleasure that was. He went on to two years of it in college and then decided to study instead. This proud father was pleased. So I don’t hate it, It just does not have me trapped in it.

    So for all that banter, so what? Adam, your observation is right, but in no way has my lack of interest ever felt like it has endangered any friendship, ever. Enjoy it if you like, but you really don’t have too! Alabamans are generally quite nice people, very friendly and regularly underrated. Enjoy your life in Birmingham.

    And yes, Alabama is richly beautiful.

  4. Allow me to quote from your column: “Let me assure you that most of your fan based behavior diminishes you, but thankfully it does also usually amuse me…”

    I have to ask: Was it your intention to come off as insufferably arrogant? If so, excellent work.

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