Volume 11 of the Journal of Southern Religion

Art Remillard

While I'm not one for absolute truth claims, it is an objective truth that people get weird about college football (not me of course--other people). An example... While researching Florida State University's Indian mascot controversy, I noticed a problem with the logo. In 1838 during the Second Seminole War, Seminole leader Chief Osceola was captured and died soon after. An army doctor then removed his head and and embalmed it. The jar eventually found its way to the window of a St. Augustine drugstore, on display as a rather macabre trophy.

So it doesn't take an interpretive genius to notice that FSU's present logo looks like, well, a disembodied Indian head. In an effort to raise the issue, I wrote about this in a letter to the editor to a Tallahassee newspaper. On the morning that my letter was published, I was flooded with "FEAR THE SPEAR"-themed e-mails. Needless to say, this didn't expose me to the noblest qualities of the FSU fan base. But I couldn't help but notice that, for fans, the Seminole symbol is sacred territory. Accordingly, the debate between opponents of the mascot and FSU fans has become something of a "holy war on the football field." Opponents of the mascot often say that they want to protect the sacred symbols and history of Native Americans from stereotyping and exploitation. In contrast, for FSU fans, the Seminole sits at the center of their civil religious world of college football.

Others have identified a localized form of civil religion in college football. In the new volume of the Journal of Southern Religion (notice that I just transitioned from one form of self-promotion to another--beat that!), Eric Bain-Selbo's From Lost Cause to Third-and-Long: College Football and the Civil Religion of the South,” traces the rise of college football in the South. He then presents and comments on three examples (each has an accompanying video) of game day rituals. Bain-Selbo concludes, "[Southern civil religion] has a history of courage, stubbornness, honor, and shame. It is the Lost Cause—sometimes racist, despicable, and divisive. For example, the playing of 'Dixie' and the chanting of 'The South will rise again' continues to be controversial and divisive among students, faculty, and fans at Ole Miss. At the same time, southern civil religion—emerging out of the Lost Cause but not restricted to it—provides a pride in southern identity that can be uplifting and uniting once stripped of its offensive (Confederate) trappings. And woven into this civil religion is college football, drawing from and adding to these elements and often holding them all together at once on beautiful autumn Saturdays in towns and cities all across the South."

Other highlights of the new volume include:

If I had to pick a favorite from this volume, I would choose the interview with Wayne Flynt. Make sure to check it out, along with the video clip, "The Gospel According to Wayne Flynt."


Paul Harvey at: June 5, 2009 at 11:06 AM said...

Congratulations Art and Randall, great job. This issue is full of great stuff. The interview with Flynt and personal reflections of Charles Irons are gems, and the scholarly discussions of DuBois and Washington are as well. Really happy to see the evolution of the journal.

deg at: June 8, 2009 at 8:08 AM said...

I'll second Paul on that. This is one of the best issues yet in terms of content. It's chock full of great stuff. The uses of media also take the journal toward the horizons of what academic and popular journals can do with the tech at hand. Well done!

newer post older post