Southerners have two pastimes: God and football, and most Southerners would argue that they worship these deities better than anyone else in the world, and certainly better than their Rocky Mountain counterparts.
But this weekend, University of Montana football fans made their own pilgrimage south of the Mason-Dixon Line and demonstrated to the people of Chattanooga, Tenn., that Montanans can worship football with the best of ’em. The team shuttled around town in its tour bus, locally rented from “Royal Charter & Tours: Touring God’s Creation,” as thousands of Montanans battled the fog back home, hoping to get their chartered planes to Chattanooga in time for kickoff.
As the game drew near, UM fans filled a pavilion adjacent to the football field. Moms painted paws on the cheeks of their children. The fight song bellowed off-key from bellies full of Budweiser.
Norman “Bubba” Swanner, a Louisianan who has adopted UM football fans in recent years, disappointed no one as he hovered over a cast-iron pot simmering enough jambalaya to feed 450. “They all know that if Montana makes it to the national championship, I’ll be there to feed ’em my jambalaya,” Swanner says.
But James Madison University tailgaters showed up on the neighboring lot with their own healthy stocks of Budweiser and hot links. Purple and gold streamers adorned the shrubbery. Hibachi grills provided some warmth. And with whiskey on his breath, James Madison alum Nick Ward promised, “Montana ain’t got a prayer…”