College football, particularly in the Southeastern Conference, is more than a game to most fans. It’s an identity that satisfies one’s basic need to belong. It’s part of the fiber of one’s being. Team loyalty is something that outsiders simply don’t understand.
And then there are insiders who don’t really understand; they don’t understand that there’s a line separating even the most rabidly supportive, good-spirited fan from those who cross into the troubling pool of malice.
Take, for instance, the Alabama fan who happened upon a passed-out LSU fan in a New Orleans Krystal restaurant after Alabama beat LSU in the national championship two years ago. Some people in the restaurant were taking video while others put drink cups and other trash on him. But the one particular fan went even farther, and assaulted the man in a manner that we need not describe. Suffice to say that the fan, who was turned in by a relative in law enforcement who saw the video online, was charged with sexual battery and sentenced to several months in corrections.
And we need not mention much about Harvey Updyke, the Toomer’s Oaks poisoner and fanatical Alabama supporter whose spiteful act wound up hurting Harvey Updyke more than anyone else.
Such high-profile misbehavior should have given some sports fans pause, and made them rethink their own interpretation of the spirit and culture of collegiate athletics.
Apparently, not everyone got the memo.
Rashaan Evans grew up in Auburn and was a standout five-star linebacker for Auburn High School. When signing day came, Evans gave his letter of intent to the University of Alabama in a nationally televised announcement.
Criticism came quickly, and was – and is – surprisingly harsh.
“We knew they were going to react negatively, but we didn't realize they were going to react the way they have reacted,” Evans’ father, Alan Evans, said Tuesday. "It's off the Richter scale as far as how they have scandalized our name and talked about our personal business.
“Just all of that is really disturbing to me. It's kind of at the point now where it's just sad.”
Disappointment is one thing. Certainly it would be nice to have a hometown gridiron star move from the high school stadium into Jordan-Hare. But some fans are pushing for a boycott of Evans’ father’s business, and are asking local restaurants not to serve them.
We’re better than this, aren’t we?
It’s unfortunate that Evans’ hometown could not speak with one voice in wishing the young man well in his collegiate career, regardless of which uniform he chose to wear.
As each game ends, the players and coaches from the opposing teams traditionally congratulate each other on a good game.
It’s called sportsmanship, and a subset of fans of every stripe should reconsider their own.