How I became a football fan

footballLast night, my first dream featured SEC football teams  walking through an ESPN College Gameday-style entrance to a stadium. I got so excited I woke myself up. Growing up, I had very little interest in football. Since my entire family was rooted in the ACC, I grew up watching basketball and lacrosse. When we moved to Alabama, I resisted learning how to watch a new sport. In high school, I had to attend every Friday night football game while I was in band, but I didn't give a rip about college football. To me, it was something that happened during marching band competitions and distracted my peers.

During my semester off from college, SEC football became a grounding point. Each week, it gave me something to look forward to. Without leaving my living room, I could become a part of a larger collective while I was cheering for a team. I started self-identifying as a football fan. Now, my tutoring kids (and their parents) are shocked when I can hold a coherent conversation about recruiting programs, historical facts and pass completions. It's fun.

Here in Alabama, football is a rallying point. For many, it is also a way to connect; allegiances and alumni status often open a conversation about mutual connections. Another laughable or downright painful story may have made it to the national level, but the state is dominant in NCAA football.

As a writer, I'm curious to see what narratives will arise this year. Since last season's most inspiring story was a hoax, it will be interesting to see if more fact checking is incorporated into this year's mythmaking. The writing culture surrounding competitive sports demands heroes and underdogs. Without figureheads in these roles, it can become more difficult to connect with the sport in question, to cheer for the team (or player) who's gone through hell, but is able to overcome.

On a lighter note, some questions about the teams in Alabama remain. Can A.J. McCarron's tattoo get any more ridiculous? Will Gus Malzahn turn around the Auburn football program in his new role? Will the coaches of Alabama college teams wear funny hats to practice? We will just have to wait and see.

Staccato signals of constant information

When my family moved to Alabama, my parents gave me a Lisa Frank diary. For a few months, I locked the details of my playground exploits, crushes and friends behind the unicorns playing on the rainbow covers. One day, I left it unlocked and open in the living room. At that point, I hadn’t acclimated. After eight years of life in Virginia, my new yellow (more Naples yellow than cream, ick) bedroom still seemed foreign.

Because what I had written was unhappy but tame—I had only just heard my first curse word—they sat me down to talk about it. I was mortified. As an only child, I wasn’t used to having my stuff moved or touched. I knew how to share, but that was my diary. That was MINE.

Now I don’t keep thoughts for anything other than writing projects on paper. There are a few drafts of angry letters to exes shuffled away somewhere and some notes from the trip I took to Europe, but those are camouflaged in my cluttered apartment.

As a paranoid member of Gen Y, it kind of makes sense. One look at my Facebook timeline and you're privy to an electronic record of the past seven years of my life. Until LiveJournal went through a purge earlier this year, you could’ve found my adolescent pre-Facebook drama there. Thank goodness that’s not readily available.

Thing is, social media has become the new way to journal and document life. This switch has some serious consequences—the electronic record is almost never entirely erased. It is easily shareable through social media and never entirely dies. On the other hand, paper can be scanned or copied, but it can also be totally destroyed. It doesn’t hurt that burning old documents can purge both your filing cabinet and your mind.

If Facebook had been around when I was younger, I probably would have been diagnosed with ADD and medicated accordingly. Multitasking at the same rate that I do now would have rendered me almost entirely unable to keep attention on one task at a time. Since I started Tweeting, Facebooking and text messaging later in life, I am still able to turn my phone on silent, make a friend change my social media passwords and get down to writing/working physics/being fully present. Once the assignment/hang out is over, though, I go right back to being constantly connected.

That’s the beauty and danger of social media. It’s possible to plug more into your community and to connect deeply with others who share your passion. It’s also easy to get sucked into documenting every detail of your life for everyone in your network to see.

Striking a balance between these two is the key—if you can’t, I’m going to hide your profile. That’s the purpose behind journaling, not social media, and is best left off the web. I heard that the book store you mentioned quite a few times on Tumblr is having a sale on Moleskines

Title taken from Paul Simon's "The Boy In The Bubble"