Stephanie and I just crossed into Delaware on I-95 on our way from Washington, D.C. to The Big Apple, New York, New York. We spent a fantastic weekend with soon-to-be contributor to this blog Karl O. and his SO. Thanks to their hospitality, and Karl’s keen navigating skills (and his SO’s parallel parking skills), we were able to enjoy our nation’s capital as both tourists and locals. Monuments, museums, and local hot spots, all without once venturing onto a bus, cab, or Metro car. We’re in New Jersey now, by the way. Perhaps I should change the title to the Scarlet Knight Update.
Traveling up here is not the same. The major highways of the south, to me, at least, are broken up into football teams and conferences. Travel I-40 east out of Arkansas into Memphis and you enter an area competing for fans. The Universities of Arkansas, Mississippi, Memphis, and Tennessee all have significant alumni and fan populations here, and people are not shy to show their affiliation. Highway 78 is Ole Miss country until you cross the border into Alabama, at which point the Crimson Tide rule the day.
The major cities of the South are either strongholds of a certain school, or furiously contested hotbeds of competing loyalties. The University of Alabama dominates the western part of its state, and for the most part can claim Birmingham, although an Auburner would likely dispute that. Does Atlanta belong to Georgia or Georgia Tech? The answer to that is up for grabs, but rest assured one visit will alert you to the fact that a war is indeed going on there. As my wife and I travel up I-95, the most densely populated, most highly educated, and most diverse portion of road in the United States, I am struck by the relative silence of the journey, at least as far as football goes. There is no turf war here. There are no Penn State Nittany Lion license plate holders here. No University of Maryland Terrapin car magnets. No tattered Rutgers University flags flying out the windows of passing cars.
Out of the thousands of cars I have seen since Friday night, there have been maybe five that have had any sort of school-associated artifact on them. Back home in Little Rock, it’s hard to pass five cars without seeing a Razorback. My own vehicle has a University of Arkansas Razorbacks state-issued license plate that I pay extra each year for, along with a faux-chrome Razorback on the back. Not to mention a Razorback magnet. This is not for game days. This is year-round.
Not up here. 15 million people within 50 miles of this highway, and I can’t even get one single “Calvin pissing on _____” sighting. Discouraging, to say the least. And this region is home to ESPN! Remember, the network who proclaims that “college football lives here”? At this point in my journey, I must ask… “Where?”
That’s all for now. New York is calling. I will let you know how my plan to break into the Downtown Athletic Club and pee on the portraits of Troy Smith and Tim Tebow turns out. Most outstanding player, my ass. But I’m not bitter or anything.