One of my favorite rituals while teaching high school in Knoxville was the year-end chapel celebrating students’ college commitments. Graduating seniors stepped to the microphone in front of the assembled school, wearing the T-shirt of their college choice, announcing their decision with confidence and exuberance, intermixed with timidity, as only teens can present. Most of the assembly was thirty minutes of polite applause followed by cake. The niceties ceased, however, when a brave student proclaimed her allegiance to a Southeastern Conference (SEC) rival of their hometown University of Tennessee Volunteers. Auburn or Kentucky loyalists received a healthy jeering, no matter how well-liked the student had been up to the fateful moment, and hostilities did not cease until the next student declared they were headed to UT, appeasing the orange-clad throngs. The deepest enmity was reserved for the poor soul who dared venture down to Tuscaloosa to join the reviled Crimson Tide. Lusty boos would fill the cafeteria, all directed toward the future University of Alabama freshman. Some students would just stride away from the microphone as quickly as possible; others would egg it on like they were pro-wrestling villains. It was a perfect picture of our tribalism.
From “Know Your Place: Helping White, Southern Evangelicals Cope with the End of The(ir) World” by Justin R. Phillips