“I’ll take care of you even if you have all that Auburn stuff on you!” said the lady, dressed in Georgia Bulldog attire, at the car tag office in my county bordering that of the University of Georgia.
I meant to reply in the spirit of good fun in which the initial comment obviously was levied, with a “That’s so gracious of you!” My actual reply was “That’s nice,” which, to my own ears, came out more like I was saying, “Did you really have to bust my chops this morning?”
Fortunately, the person to whom I replied didn’t take my comment in the sarcastic way, and I completed my annual automotive transaction exchanging friendly smiles and good feeling, which is, if you think about it, the objective of all our inter-human interactions. Nonetheless, I left a little split in my feelings on my own reaction and reflecting on the nature of sports rivalries and their effect on human relationships (and realizing what my next Track’Em Tigers column would be).
College football, like all sports, is supposed to be an occasion of fun, and there are many ways of getting enjoyment out of it. There is the game itself, with its myriad displays of athletic ability that many times represent true art in and of themselves. But perhaps the most significant font of enjoyment is the feeling of being part of a greater whole. This is what brings us together and divides us as fans. Interestingly, it always seemed to me that the “division” between fans was really just another way that people were brought together—brought together by the competition between the objects of our support, in order to enjoy those differences that make being a human being an interesting and fun thing to be.
And so with this overly philosophical background, I turn to the title thesis of my post. I like to think of all inter-fan rival interaction as being one of three kinds—what I call …
Ribs, Razzes, and Zingers.
Ribs are just those little things rival fans quip back and forth, like a fun poke—no, not a poke, but rather a tickle—in the ribs. To me, ribs actually show that you respect the other party and his devotion to his own school or team. Giving and accepting ribs grease the social interaction between rival fans by forcing us NOT to take ourselves too seriously.
Razzes are just plain mean; they are things said merely to insult or hurt the opposite party. “Your team SUCKS!” is probably the most obvious example; “SCAM Newton” is probably the one with which we are most acquainted in recent times. As you can see, whether or not the razz is even true is completely irrelevant to the hurler of the razz, and falsity is no defense to the hurt feelings caused to the target.
Zingers are those rough-and-tumble snipes offered up, not for the purpose of harming the other party, but rather to show an element of cleverness (at the expense of the object of the other party’s affection, of course). Zingers, to me, are like a chess game, played, again, by folks who respect each other and each other’s devotion to their teams. In this case, it is the “bon mot” nature of the exchange that characterizes the zinger. (Maybe in a future post, I’ll share the story of my favorite and best zinger of all time—against a Bulldog, no less!)
I wear my Auburn attire all the time around here, with the express purpose of provoking an interior reaction in all the Bulldog fans that see me. I truly hope the reaction is “Hey, there goes a guy who loves his school as much as I love mine.” Of course, I welcome any comment tossed my way, hoping that I am up to the challenge of a clever riposte.
So, while I invite anyone to take their best shot at me, with an inviting target on my back (or chest, or hat), I hope folks are thinking of a fun rib or a skillfully wielded zinger to throw my way, thus showing and inviting mutual respect and admiration, and spreading a little fun. What I get is what I see up here near Athens, and on “Roll Bama Roll,” and all over the place these days, in almost all sports fan interactions: a mere razz, tossed out like a brick at a riot, seeing what it can shatter and crush.
I realize that last paragraph sounds like what folks these days call (to paraphrase) “backside”-hurt, but it really is more a reflection of the disappointment I have in seeing what we have lost as a civil society. I am proud to say that I don’t see it here among the Track’Em Tiger faithful, or even among most Auburn fans at large (although I am sure it is out their somewhere among the orange-and-blue).
And so I can analyze what went on in the tag office. What the lady in the tag office did was a simple rib, not a razz. I think I was upset because she seemed to me to be raising it to the level of a zinger, when it really wasn’t that clever of a comment. Plus, as most of the remarks I hear around this area are razzes on AU, I am probably Pavlovianly programmed to feel indignation on any comment against AU. Finally, I was probably simply in a bad mood. I am glad that those factors together did not make me do or say something nasty and unbecoming of an Auburn fan and a gentleman.
I think that last observation is important for all of us as we sport our Auburn gear—let’s always keep in mind that, no matter how we feel any particular day, when we wear Auburn, WE REPRESENT Auburn. Remember that when we drive with an Auburn license plate, WE REPRESENT Auburn. It’s a challenge for me for sure. But if we all do this, maybe it will be a little easier to do what we ought to be doing as human beings anyway—being kind to one another, loving each other because of rather than in spite of our differences, and being proud of what we represent: the Auburn spirit.
(who really, REALLY needs to remember that he has an Auburn license plate on his car when driving in Atlanta traffic!)
Tags: Georgia Bulldogs, Rivals