I wish, often, that we cared as deeply about other things here in my native South as we do football. “It has become,” Rable says, “what’s important,” sometimes to exclusion. My wife, who knows everything, says not to fret. We are going to be football crazy anyway, she told me, so we might as well beat everyone else. The fact is, it lifts our hearts. It always has.

In the winter of 1993, in an attic apartment in Cambridge, Mass., I sat homesick and watched Alabama beat the trash-talkin’ Hurricanes – I mean beat them like they stole somethin’ – to win its first national championship since Bear died. Late that night I walked through a deserted Harvard Yard, through snow and bitter cold, and thought I might yell “Roll Tide,” though no one would hear. I did it anyway.

Rick Bragg – Down here. There’s a part of me that wishes that I didn’t resonate so strongly with this. There’s a larger part of me that just laughs at the very thought.