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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Dressing Down

Mrs. Fando, the Littlest Fando, and I were sitting in a local pizza parlour this evening, sampling their cheesy wares, when the subject of athletic supporters came up.

No, I wasn't wearing one! (I'm a briefs man, quite frankly.) Rather, we were discussing the ridiculous lengths people go to in order to support their teams. For instance, one U.S. high school I'm familiar with is from a region of the country known for its, erm... backwoodsmen. All right, let's come right out and say it: Hillbillies. For whatever reason, the hillbilly is a traditional symbol in this particular town.

So, whenever athletic events happen, particularly basketball for some reason, a large group of students will turn out, dressed like Lil' Abner and Daisy Mae from Al Capp's immortal and cleverly titled farce Lil' Abner. Most Yanks know of what I speak: The overalls, randomly and profusely patched, with one of the straps undone... corn cob pipes... dodgy thatched hats...the look of confused rage... inconsistent teeth... and the smell of sour mash liquour and popcorn, which is sold regularly at these events. The popcorn, not the sour mash.

I commented to my lovely wife, "Why on earth would someone find such a look to be attractive in any way? I mean, I've never heard anyone actually say, 'Oooh, them's some cool hillbillies!'"

Let's face it, throughout the vast majority of the planet's population, there is little regard for the ecclectic combination of being wild, barefoot, uneducated, inbred crackers, with an inate gift for shooting and then asking questions later, or more likely not asking questions at all besides things like, "Thought I wouldn't shoot ya, huh?" or "How do like them apples, now that yer dead?" Yet, in the school in question, people go out of their way to dress like that on special occasions, the way other people put on a tie and sportscoat.

Since it is sport, there is the chance that this is all some sort of attempt at the intimidation of the other team. One could, I suppose, imagine a group of visiting players coming out of the changing room. taking a quick but appalled look at the fan base and then thinking to themselves, "I hope I don't resemble Ned Beatty." Still, it's a reach. How many well-conditioned athletes are actually likely to resemble the talented, but pudding-shaped Ned Beatty? Even then, you'd think that the supporters would try to create some sort of mental connection beyond this, such as repeatedly strumming the opening notes of Dueling Banjos every time someone went to the free throw line.

No, there's just something about people who like to dress down to the lowest, most degraded stereotype known to their community. There's a certain sort of, dare I say, pride, in their muddled, hormone-driven expression of team support.

It's obviously the sour mash talking. The same phenomenon could be seen in the English terraces in the eighties, when several pints of ale would find a certain class of Englishmen shaving their heads and singing the praises of certain Nazis, who only 4 decades earlier were bombing the living crap out of their neighborhoods.

Alcohol + sports + confused adolescents = Utter stupidity. When you think about it, it's a fairly simple equation, even for someone as maths-challenged as I. Now, if only I could figure out why some people paint themselves and go shirtless.

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