I'm 31, childless and generally neutral on the topic of barbecue sandwiches. Yet until recently, only one of my lifestyle choices attracted excessive scrutiny in the South.
I didn't care about college football.
I'd run errands on Saturday afternoons in the fall, noting in casual conversations that I had no interest in following "the game." The seemingly insignificant comment attracted gasps, wide-eyed stares and an intense question.
It came with a dramatic quality that suggested I confessed a desire to give up all my possessions or only eat raw foods for a year. While I pondered the answer, I wondered if an explanation was even necessary.
After seven years of investigative reporting, I've arrived at a shocking conclusion. Not everyone in the South is interested in college football.
Disinterested minds exist, and some of them surfaced last weekend on Facebook. Amid excited game day photos, these status updates also appeared in my news feed: "Is football over yet?" and "It is impossible for me to care less about college football than I do now."
Express the latter opinion and you'll likely get a response. People might accuse you of being mean or crazy, in addition to offering the standard "why?"
Sometimes, the explanation is complex. Some people will offer a well-rehearsed speech criticizing a decision to throw pools of money into a mere pastime. Others explain their lack of interest nonchalantly. Sorry, but I can't go crazy for a football team belonging to a college I never attended.
Being a non-fan in a college football fan's world is difficult. Even after the aforementioned barrage of questions, some of your friends might still push you to align with a certain team -- even if it's only based on which colors are most prevalent in your wardrobe.
Meanwhile, you wonder if your disinterest is as bad as it sounds.
I got invested in college football once I became involved in the Ledger-Enquirer's social media accounts. A responsibility to put game scores on Facebook and Twitter transformed from a rote task to something I enjoy. I still don't root for a specific team, and I'm not sure I'd be interested in college football if my job didn't require it.
Now that I care about game scores, I'm sure many people think my life in the South is complete. Which makes me wonder: Is college football fandom really a "submit or suffer" game?
There's no point in feigning excitement for something you don't like. At the same time, it's silly to dismiss a pastime before attempting to enjoy it.
So, college football fans: Don't be too hard on your disinterested counterparts this season. Much like the outcome of your favorite Saturday game, it's best to accept this as a battle you can't control.
Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-571-8516. Visit ledger-enquirer.com/sonya to read her columns.