We all have some amount of really old conditioning (usually a ton of it), stuff that defines how we see the world. And this is generally stuff that was imposed on us, stuff that we had no say about. And it usually isn’t malicious at all; in fact, quite the opposite. So what am I talking about in this case? My dad was a huge Auburn fan…
My dad was awesome. And he was a huge Auburn fan. He went to college there back in the day and so did his older brother, my Uncle Bill. And by the way, doesn’t everybody have an Uncle Bill? I think most people do. It might be the most common uncle name. Back to the story… So there’s nothing wrong with someone loving a football team and cheering for them. And there’s nothing wrong for their kid to follow suit. It’s great! But it can cause some conditioning, and that’s what we’re going to take a look at today. And it’s absolutely fascinating.
As some of you may know, last week Alabama beat Georgia in the college football national championship game. And Auburn-Alabama might be the biggest rivalry in all of sports. I’m sure there are rivalries across the world that I have no idea about, and maybe even some that involve death. But this one is up there. So my love for Auburn has always had this dark “other side of the coin,” which is a deep, deep hatred of Alabama. For real! Hatred. I’m a fairly peaceful dude, but for most of my life, I have not been able to stand their color, the font of their logo (that ‘A’), their slogan, their nickname, or even the houndstooth pattern that they’ve been associated with from the days of coaching legend Bear Bryant and his houndstooth hat. I mean, did they really have to ruin an entire pattern? I honestly don’t like houndstooth, anyway, so I’m glad it’s that one and not something else. But still.
And then there are the fans. I’m a pretty nice guy, and I’ve just naturally never been one to rub it in when someone is down. That’s never felt good or right to me, and I realized later in life it’s because I’m empathic and I actually feel their pain. But anytime Alabama beat Auburn when I was young, the phone would ring the second the game ended. I mean, the second the game ended. And it was some “friends” calling to laugh and gloat and basically be huge jerks. I’m talking to you, Justin and Bobby! (And they’re actually very good friends of mine to this day and always have been). These games were a very big deal to me – huge! – and I’m sitting there in massive pain like it’s the end of the world, and then they call and act like that? Who would do that?? I truly didn’t understand it, and I vowed never to act like that. They’re much nicer now, by the way. Justin actually called me this year after Auburn beat Alabama, which was really cool. He certainly didn’t have to do that, of course. But it shows the difference from being a kid to now.
Of course those are just two kids, but their fans are pretty much known to have a major attitude. And when my mom said they were exactly the same when she was in college, it confirmed this. Stuff like that is passed down from generation to generation – more of that same unconscious conditioning that we’re talking about today, which I mentioned above. And I know plenty of amazing Alabama fans, too, that are not super obnoxious! But the other ones sort of ruin it for you as far as your perception. Just saying.
I say all this to paint a picture of how my body felt when I woke up the next morning and saw that Alabama had won. I watched the first half and Georgia was dominating, so I went to bed. It was a Monday night, I had lots of clients the next day, and I wanted my beauty sleep. By the way, I have lots of family members, including my mom, that went to Georgia. And Athens was a second home to me in college and after. An amazing place! Athens will always hold a very special place in my heart.
When I woke up the next day and looked at my phone, the first thing I saw was a text from my old brother sarcastically saying he was psyched that it was going to overtime since he didn’t really need to sleep very much on a work night. He’s in the eastern time zone, too, so it was pretty late (Pensacola is central). So I thought, “Uh-oh.” I decided to just get it over with and rip the band-aid off, so I opened up a sports app, and there it was. Alabama 26, Georgia 23. They won. Again. Wow.
I’m literally still laying in my bed looking at the phone, and suddenly there’s the most awful feeling in my body. Primordial anger. Or more like just primordial nastiness. Gunk. Badness. Ouch-ness. Despair. Life sucks right now. It all rushed up immediately, and there was nothing I could do about it. My instinctive reaction was to sort of bitch in my head about it. Resist it. Complain about it. Be mad about it. But I don’t want to live this way! I don’t want to be affected this much by a bunch of dudes that I don’t even know that are running around a field in tights with a weird-shaped ball. And I should’ve said this right away, but please feel free to laugh at this! Because it’s hilarious. Anyway, I’m lying there feeling all this strong energy, and I spontaneously decided that it’s time to shift. It’s time to mature, to grow up. It’s time to face this.
So what did I do? First, I breathed. That’s almost always step number one, by the way. And then I burned in the fire. I surrendered to it and let it melt me. And then the wildest thing happened. The image popped in of me congratulating a Bama fan. NOOOOO!!! I mean, this literally felt like torture in that moment, not even one minute after this whole episode began that morning. My immediate reaction to this thought was a very strong recoiling, like I was walking and saw a rattlesnake and instinctively jumped out of the way with a rush of adrenalin and fear. But I didn’t move. I let it burn me some more, and I stayed with it, holding the thought there, the thought of actually congratulating an Alabama fan. Breathing. Burning. And yes, this is really funny.
And then something happened. The fire started to die down, and I was actually able to picture myself saying congratulations. I was able to think about doing that without that feeling, that strong resistance. And again, this is freaking hilarious! But it’s real. This is how conditioning works, and for a kid that grew up with brothers playing lots of sports in the deep south, this is some very deep, foundational conditioning. It’s important. Yours might be something else, like nationality, ethnicity, gender, political party, religion, spirituality, musical preference, sexual orientation, etc. It can be anything. Back to the story…
So the fire left, and my body felt nice and spacious again. And I could picture myself congratulating one of those people. “One of those people” – sorry, I couldn’t help myself. I mean, it’s not all gone yet! Baby steps. And then it got even cooler. I was able to be happy for the freshman quarterback that Alabama put in to start the second half, since their starting quarterback wasn’t playing well. Nobody had heard of this guy, and he comes in throwing these lasers. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it. He hardly plays all year – and he was in high school six months ago – and then he comes in and puts on a beautiful show on one of the biggest stages. That’s it… beauty. I was able to see the beauty. The beauty that was always there but that was obscured by this old, innocent conditioning that can be so damn strong. Wow.
So there you go folks, what a game! Isn’t that interesting? Feel free to ponder any conditioning you might have that affects your life in a way that you don’t like or that you’re tired of. Maybe you can see some you’re ready to ditch, and that you’d be better served without. Just be curious, though, and stay innocent! Be gentle about it. I’ve done the “super-critical magnifying glass” method before, and I don’t think it’s the answer. Also some stuff takes time. Like this. The universe knows exactly what you’re ready to face and release, as well as when the best time is. In other words, it’ll give you every opportunity you need, like a random football game. It’s not like I was looking forward to this game as a way to release conditioning; I thought it was just a game! But when I noticed that nasty energy in my body the next morning, that’s when I had a choice. And I was finally ready to face it and burn in it. And if I had not made that choice, I’d still be just as innocent. But I’d also still be very easily triggered by the colors, the logo, the houndstooth. And I don’t want that stuff to have any power over me at all, except maybe to bring joy. So there we go, the tale of an enlightening football game. And as always, let me know if I can help.