Understanding the difference between Alabama and Tennessee

al.comI grew up in Alabama but have lived in Tennessee for the past 30 years. If you’ve never lived in both Alabama and Tennessee, you may wonder how the states are different. Earlier today, when I surfed to the joint-news-website of the Birmingham News, Huntsville Times and Mobile Press-Register, AL.com, to look for some analysis of the historic primary election yesterday, I was greeted by this front page. At first, I thought I must have landed on the sports page, but no, that’s the front page of the entire news website. Tornados in northern Alabama and Alabama voters nominating an African-American for President get below-the-fold treatment compared to the real story of the day: NCAA National Football Signing Day.

Last night in his post-election speech, Mike Huckabee (who, if you live in Alabama and may have missed it due to coverage of signing day, won the state’s Republican presidential primary) spent two or three minutes running through SEC football references. If you thought he won Alabama because he’s an evangelical Southern Baptist, well, think again. He won because he is an evangelical SEC football fan.

In Alabama, where I grew up, the most dominant religion is football. More important than who people select to be President of the United States is what college a high school football standout has selected. More important than the wind speed of killer tornados is the 40-yard sprint speed of a promising wide receiver.

The difference in Alabama and Tennessee? In Tennessee, we’re fundamentalist football fans, but perhaps not quite as evangelical.

(Note: The three newspapers are owned by Advanced Media, owner of CondeNast and American Business Journals. In other words, they know their audience.)