Saturday, January 5, 2013

Alabama Loves To Hate Notre Dame

For two schools that haven't played each other in 25 years, and have met just six times in history, there is a very active contempt between the powerhouses. And for a whole host of reasons that extend far beyond this particular matchup, the hate seems to flow with particular fervor from South to North.  This is in part a reaction to Notre Dame's position of historical primacy, a position that rivals, if not exceeds, Alabama's. But that's not all. It's also a matter of sociology and hagiography. The roots go beyond mere football, extending to cultural and possibly even religious divides.
"There is a real defensiveness in the South in general, but Alabama in particular, about everything north of the Mason-Dixon Line," said Wayne Flynt, the founding editor of the Encylopedia of Alabama and professor emeritus of History at Auburn. "And that includes Notre Dame, which is a huge image of success in America.
"When you rank in the bottom five in the nation … in almost every quality-of-life category, and get hammered in the national media about how backward you are, you sort of get a 5,000-pound chip on your shoulder. We don't excel in almost any other category than college football – and we're kind of gangbusters in that.
"There's one team that vies for supremacy with Alabama in college football. That's Notre Dame, which is the ultimate example of ‘The Other,' to use a sociological term."
From the Southern viewpoint, here is why Notre Dame was "The Other": It was the media darling, the golden program, literally and figuratively. The Irish were the glamour boys with a far-flung fan base, a showcase of academic excellence coupled with football power. Alabama was the standard bearer for the downtrodden, undereducated, underappreciated South, striving to show that the region could look the rest of a disdainful nation in the eye and not blink....
In 1919, Alabama had a law on the books that allowed authorities to search convents without a warrant to make sure no one was being "involuntarily confined" there, according to the Birmingham News.
In 1921, a Catholic priest was shot to death outside his house in Birmingham. The accused killer was a protestant reverend who was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and he was acquitted by a jury that included several Klansmen. The reverend's legal expenses were paid for by the Klan, and his defense attorney was Hugo Black, who would go on to become a U.S. Supreme Court justice.
Black later reportedly joined the Klan, but renounced it before joining the Supreme Court and ultimately becoming one of its most liberal members.
Flynt, for one, dismisses any suggestion that Notre Dame's famed religious affiliation has anything to do with Alabama fans rooting against the Irish football team.
"There is historical anti-Catholicism in evangelical Christians," Flynt said. "I think that's a thing of the past. I don't think that matters anymore."
Ah, the historic anti-Catholicism.  I think that is a pretty ugly chapter of American history that lots of Catholics don't even realize occurred.  And I don't really believe that some of the hatred isn't linked to anti-Catholicism.  Hopefully the Irish will pull off the big upset.

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