As far back as my early childhood memory allows, I have hated the Alabama Crimson Tide. I was born in 1979 at a time when we hadn't beat them since 1970 and wouldn't beat them until 1982. Regardless of the team we were playing, someone in my family could be heard singing, "Bama, Bama, Bama won't you bite my ass" multiple times throughout the game. My grandmother displayed a toilet seat with an elephant head mounted on it in her living room for most of my life. Family road trips to Alabama were a regular occurrence, because that seemed to be the only way they could witness a LSU victory. The slogan "Beat Bama" wasn't just a catchy use of alliteration, it was a desperate plea. Can we please just beat Bama?!?
From birth until my first year at LSU, we had a 5-12-1 record against Bama, with all five wins being at Alabama. After that first win at home in 2000, this bloodbath of a relationship finally turned into a healthy rivalry that I felt proud to promote and use to influence out of town friends who didn't yet have an allegiance. It was almost too easy with words like "crimson tide." My friend from California who had never even heard of the LSU/Bama rivalry until meeting me at grad school in DC came to an Alabama game at Tiger Stadium. Before I even got a chance to coach her on the best cheers, she was chanting "Hey Bama, my crimson tide starts on Sunday."
Not to mention, there are all of these conspiracy theories about SEC officials being undercover Bama operatives. The head of officiating is from Alabama, and the SEC headquarters are in Alabama, with the last two commissioners having ties to Bama. Even Verne shows his true colors when he gets drunk on air and actually starts cheering for Alabama. Everyone loves a good conspiracy and pulling for the underdog, so jumping on the Bama hate train was a no-brainer.
My husband has always been more of an Ole Miss hater. I find that Ole Miss is like that annoying little brother who is always nipping at our heels and occasionally gets one over on us, but is basically harmless. On the other hand, Bama is that kid who steals our crush, gets the position on the team that we wanted, and eventually receives the promotion we were up for at work. The 2011 National Championship should have been ours, but we let them take it. We've been the George McFly to their Biff ever since.
Now with five straight losses against Alabama, a similar scenario has been set up for my girls. All they have ever known is defeat against Bama. I could take the brainwashing route and continue the cycle of hate and blame towards Bama. Maybe, remove all traces of elephants from the house, citing their ability to trample small children (Ed. Note: still fighting the battle with my wife over elephants ~ Billy). "Yes, honey, even the pink one that sings You Are My Sunshine." Perhaps, I could even tell them that Bama fans kill real puppies to make the black and white "hounds" tooth. And while I do have a strong urge to hang up a toilet seat with an elephant head mounted on it, I think I'm am going to take a different approach.
The only obstacle keeping LSU from beating Bama is LSU. It's easy to sit back and hate something, but how does that change the outcome? I want my girls to know that the best way to beat an opponent is to respect, not hate. Respect that their opponent saw what they wanted and took it, and respect that they have that same ability inside of them.
Sure, the odds are stacked against us. Besides the SEC referee conspiracy, we have an interim head coach, Mike VI passed away, and the city of Baton Rouge has seen one of the worst years in decades. But acknowledging an unfair advantage that the opponent has over you is a sign of their weaknesses; using that advantage as an excuse for losing only highlights your own weaknesses. I want my girls to know that if you don't mentally give someone the edge, then it doesn't exist.
And whether we win or lose, we can at least take comfort in the fact that we aren't Bama fans. I mean, I don't even think Nick Saban likes Bama fans.