By Aimee Thorne-Thomsen
“Roll Tide,” said the young man standing next to me on the corner of North Capitol and F Streets. He’d been looking at me sideways for a couple of minutes, but I didn’t know why, nor did I care. I was on my way to help my colleagues set up for our annual youth conference, the Urban Retreat, dressed in jeans, sneakers and my Alabama sweatshirt. Not the costume I usually wear to work, but one I am much more comfortable in. We had crossed North Capitol alongside each other and were waiting for the light to change when he uttered the famous rally chant. He must have been gauging whether I really was a fan of the Alabama football team before he said it, though I am not sure how he measured that by looking at me sideways as we crossed the street. After my own delayed reaction, I replied, “Roll Tide,” with a smile.
I’m a lifelong sports fan, going to Yankees games as a child and jumping for joy when the Knicks drafted Patrick Ewing. Baseball, basketball, football, tennis, cycling, volleyball, swimming, track and field, etc we watched all of them when I was growing up. I can survive on a steady diet of ESPN and little else. Despite this, I was still surprised at how differently the college football universe is, especially if you cheer for Alabama. I mean when I walk around the streets of New York, I don’t acknowledge every Yankee fan I encounter. (Part of that is because as New Yorker, you don’t really acknowledge anyone, and the other part is there are so damn many Yankee fans that I would never have time to breathe if I acknowledged each and every one I encountered.) I know what you’re thinking: How does a girl from the Bronx become a fan of ‘Bama? I have no relationship to the University of Alabama, my family has no roots in Alabama, hell, I’ve never even been to Alabama. What gives? How I came to yell “Roll Tide!” is a story of accidental communities.