WAR EAGLE (FIGHT SONG)
I remember football Saturdays and Sundays as a child in Northern Alabama. They involved t.v. trays, men suddenly standing and whoopin’ and women in the kitchen until dark–and I hated every last blessed second of it. The rules were not explained, women were to be silent and children could be neither in the living room (on account of the cussin’) nor in the kitchen (on account of the fussin’), therefore college football ruint’ my weekends every fall as a child. And I swore, Swannied, that I would never watch a game as an adult. So help me Goddess.
Ahem. (Scooches orange and blue shakers behind her back.)
And then I moved to a college town in the Deep South. At first, I resented the game day traffic (especially if the college insignia wasn’t a tiger) and the downtown drunken-ness (especially when I wanted to get a bagel that morning) and the general religiosity about the whole damn thing. And then . . .
Summer, 2002: the entire front line lands in my class. Now, I’m five foot two in shoes and these young men–yes, boys some of them–towered over my little ass. And followed me like chickens down the hall, excited about Dicken’s portrayal of a young poor boy trying to make it in the city, and held doors open for me, bought bags of Chik-fil-A for me (before hate was a known ingredient) and variously saw me as their little white momma teacher. The moments that changed my attitude toward football were some of what follows:
(End of semester, quarterback gets hugged by SFW) Oh. Oh, I’m sorry. Most white women jump if I try to touch them.
You mean, I’m just as important as that boy in that story? But I’m from the projects of Atlanta.
Yes’m. But, but: he threw the paper football first!!!!
Dr. S! Dr. S! This here frat boy is trying to make me talk about football and I’m trying to learn! Make him quit it! (Said by a 250 pound youngun about one around 135 pounds.)
You’re the first teacher who ever made me want to read.
Not all white folk are bad if you exist, Dr. S.
I’ll always call you momma. (Said by a fairly famous young man after he loaded my Uhaul bound for ASU in Georgia.)
Occasionally, I have to warn my classes not to call 911 iffin a tall, massive young black man rushes at me outside our classroom and lifts me in the air. They haven’t hurt me yet. And that’s just the point.
Loving these young men, like any momma should, changed college football for me forever. And ever. Amen. What used to be the sound of childhood irritations shifted forever for me after 2002–when they fall, I stand terrified and do my hooga booga protection spell in the air. When they hit each other, I text them Young man, we don’t hit!! and when they run, blinding in orange and blue sunset colors of victory, I’m standing on the couch, blind with joy, screaming WAR DAMN EAGLE until I have nothing left for the papering of Toomer’s corner. You see:
We are family. It changes everything. I’m invested, in it to win it and emotionally on that field like any good momma. ARY time. It’s been rough, knowing that young man who dropped the ball and understanding the he dropped his entire world that day like a sack of taters. Watching my favorite across a television screen break his neck, literally, and knowing that he just lost any chance for the NFL draft. Reading the headlines that M or J have been arrested for XYZ–and remembering the light in their eyes when they realized that old, dead white men could not bar them from history, or literature, or freedom. But then: standing, screaming, half out of my mind as shugar dumpling races over that touchdown line, watching his own and his momma’s and his daddy’s dreams all have that one, blasting moment of victory . . .
Yup. Most folks think I’m an AU fan because my degrees were garnered on this land and I teach in these buildings. But they would be wrong.
It’s personal. It’s family. And I’m “ALL IN.”
Recently, and on the heels of my last post, I’ve had some raised eyebrows and concerned citizens on account of my reverent and aggressive stance on family. I couldn’t be more confused, and quite honestly, couldn’t give less of a rat’s ass. The Christian Right has always propagated an ethics of family and community–and very rarely is standing there to catch some poor soul when he slips in the proverbial mud. Rather, these folks are more concerned for their money, their neighbor’s Ann Taylor shoes and who’s coming to dinner (what will folk’s say?) than they are about helping their fellow man. And I reckon I’ve become accustomed to this asshattery. The kind I’m still chaffing against is that of the Pagan community.
Who are we?
Are we there when one of our own crosses a finish line with one hard-earned, bloody ball? Do we stand together, breathless and breathing protection, when one of our own lands the wrong way? Do we turn from our team in shame after a losing streak, a particularly embarrassing transgression or a badly quoted interview? Who are we?
Fair Weather Pagans?
Damn it all to hell, who are we? Paranoid, vindictive, self-serving drama mongers or logical, sustaining, giving children of the sky? I propose that some of us need a good, swift spanking and a little woodshed action. Mayhap some hoeing in our own gardens.
I realize, I might come off as disillusioned and idealistic. Y’all, let me be moonshine clear: I’m not one bit confused on what I need to be. Loyal. Forthright. Giving. Honest. Reasonable. Pagan. If I’m alone, so be it. Been there before . . . and fear is not in my lexicon.
But, just for shits and giggles: when is the last time you called someone, busy as we all can be, just to see how they are? Y’all know how a child can be, all: and then, it went BOOM and I was all . . . and she was all . . . the whole time we are praying for the end of the story and pushing our faces all around trying to look interested. Mmm hmmm. And you know what that child remembers? He listened to me. I am important. I am valuable. We don’t grow out of that, Batchildren. Yes, yes, there’s a point where our boundaries get crossed and we have to lay down the law–but, mayhap we have forgotten to just listen, here and there, to the sound of someone’s heart. Good luck hearing your own without the reverberation of a tribal thump.
Go read Stone Soup. I’ll wait.
And while I’d love to push this post somewhere audacious, kickoff is right around the corner. And four of those boys call me Momma.
So, I’ll just leave you with a story.
Once upon a time, there was a street child. She was fleshed in fury, boned in shame and had a habit of setting her life on fire just on the off chance that someone would love it enough to sling some water her way. It was a shot in the dark. And an old hand reached through the fire, grabbed her scrawny, screaming ass and threw her in a shower. It took a while, but one day the child looked in the mirror and saw what the old one had saved. And she spent the rest of her life paying it forward. Now, she is getting old, too, and her hands are scarred from fires–some of them that tried to consume her–but she remembers her own embers and keeps reaching. She is Pagan. She is Tribal.
And fear is not in her lexicon. Maybe, there are more of her. If not . . .
maybe there one day will be.
War. Damn. Eagle. (Run, boys! Run!)
P.S. Whatever your fight song, whatever your team, I salute you in your colored glory. Unless it’s Thanksgiving. Sorry, Bama fans.