Ask G&G

Love Thy Neighbor

Thoughts on rivalry football couples, dove-hunting duds, and classic Southern beach reads

photo: Britt Spencer

Q. Can people who went to a powerhouse SEC school date or marry someone who pulls for their intrastate rival?

As far as the overworked Ask G&G legal staff can determine, there’s no state or federal mandate legislating contact between graduates of any blood-enemy schools. But! Because the SEC is hands down the top football conference and will be forever—Pac-12 and Big Ten readers, do please hold down the mournful baying for my head on a platter—there’s a body of tacit football law in the South that doesn’t exist elsewhere. As part of that, no, it’s not advisable for people who attended in-state rival schools to date, marry, or be friends. For instance, it would be easier, though tough, for a Clemson fan to mate or procreate with a Georgia or a Florida grad than with a diehard Gamecock. Now let’s imagine the truly impossible: namely, that there’s such a union as an Auburn-Alabama couple. Romeo and Juliet romances do occur, and although I, a strict Auburn-family descendant, cannot name one, this must have happened at some point in the rivalry’s hundred-plus-year history. So, Thanksgiving weekend. Where to begin? A 40,000-square-foot house with separate wings for the different Iron Bowl parties? Two driveways for parking? A donation to the local Police Benevolent Association for 24/7 deployments around the house? And that’s a best-case scenario—God forbid the couple actually go to the game together. On the bright side, football “hate”—as it is so heartily celebrated between Texas and Texas A&M, or Georgia and Georgia Tech, or Mississippi and Mississippi State, et al.—should be regarded as a bracing, salutary feature of the South’s sporting life. Arguably, the lesson is that we should love our eternal intrastate enemies for being there, because we can depend upon them to keep us on our toes.

Q. Got a fancy dove hunt coming up. Field dress?

In this clement, lovely early dove season in the South, I recommend dressing down around the fields. Save the up dressing for the formal dinner after the shoot. On a hunt I attended a couple of years ago, the dress was rather in the opposite direction, namely up and well planned, with very good khaki and certain forms of camo, with pairs of handed-down side-by-sides poking out of the stands. I had been surprised by the invitation to shoot and had no kit with me, so there I was on a warm afternoon in khaki shorts, boat shoes, and a blue polo shirt. In other words, in this crowd of perfectly turned-out hunters, I looked as though I’d just stepped off a bonefishing flats boat in the Abacos. The cornfield we were shooting in was ringed by cotton plants, which were as high as you could hope for in September, and some still sported blooms. The blossoms had a blue-purple sheen, I noticed, almost matching my shirt. But I might as well have been wearing a clown suit—the birds were barreling in to eat regardless. It occurred to me that the doves’ joke might be on my companions: What camo, exactly, disguising what, and from whom? Field dress had zero meaning in doveland. Nota bene: Your hosts may have a very different idea from that of the dove.

Q. I’m beaching it on Labor Day. Any Southern lit ideas for the bag?

We’re great fans of this sort of hunt. Here on the heels of the fraught summer of 2017, three frontier busters deserve close study. First, Barry Hannah’s 1978 collection, Airships, which contains one of the last century’s perfect, diamond-hard short stories of home and love and war, “Testimony of Pilot.” Second, John Kennedy Toole’s Pulitzer Prize–winning 1980 novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, whose main character, the lovably high-strung Ignatius J. Reilly, will help you mine New Orleans’ many eccentricities, and your own. Last: the journalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s 1947 masterpiece, The Everglades: River of Grass. Born in 1890, the flinty Miami reporter wrote in her now-landmark Coconut Grove cottage until her death at the feisty age of 108. In the book, Stoneman Douglas delivers a soaring, deeply researched commentary on the magic of the Everglades, and on the damage that we, in trying to “tame” them, have done. Over a half century of environmental advocacy, she fiercely debated government and business interests attempting wilderness grabs. Similarly, her book will kick your ass. Around Labor Day, everybody needs that kind of back-to-school boost.