By Edward B. Driscoll Jr.
Back in 1989, ABC, the National Football League and country musician Hank Williams Jr. started asking America the most famous rhetorical question in television history: “Are you ready for some football?” That question is never more unnecessary than when asked in the South, where football is ingrained in the culture.
The sport that makes Southerners long for this time of year is one of three hooks in Chris Queen’s new e-book, “Football, Faith, and Flannery O’Connor: A Love Letter to the South.” Published by PJ Media LLC, the book is designed to give the rest of America a fresh look at “the most misunderstood region of the country.”
“Real Southern culture is a politeness and personal respect that baffle those who are not used to them,” Queen writes. “It’s making strangers feel like family. It’s telling a story in the most memorable way possible. It’s a pride of place that transcends race, politics, or creed. It’s bonding over a meal like no one else on earth can.”
Queen himself is a Southerner. Born and raised in Georgia and a graduate of the University of Georgia, he has taken annual trips to Disney World in Florida since childhood. When he became an adult, those memories inspired him to write a book, with the path his family followed on those road trips serving as the plot line.
Starting on U.S. Highway 441 in Georgia, Queen takes his readers on a journey through “the Backbone of the South.” At each stop along the way through Georgia, he explores a topic relevant to that location but also representative of its importance in the South as a whole:
- Religion in northeast Georgia. “No two Southerners walk the same spiritual and discipleship journey, and that’s what makes it so wonderful.”
- Education in Athens. “For all the complaints about the progressive radicalization of America’s colleges and universities, we don’t hear about these issues at Southern colleges and universities as much as we do in other parts of the country.”
- Film in Covington, where “The Vampire Diaries” is being filmed this year. “Our local tourism board has branded Covington ‘The Hollywood of the South,’ and fascinating side industries have sprung up as a result of the film industry calling our town home.”
- Music in Macon. “You can’t tell the history of the South without talking about the role music has played over the years.”
- The military in Warner Robins. “The life of the military family has been woven into the fabric of Southern life for generations””
- And agriculture in places like Cordele and Tifton. “Agriculture truly is a machine that drives the South.”
Crossing the border into Florida, Queen turns his attention to the Sunshine State’s unique place in the South. Although the tourist traps throughout the state may leave visitors with a different impression, he says the good manners, good football and good food abundant are just as much a part of Florida as the rest of the South.
Football is a key aspect of Queen’s thesis throughout the book, but he focuses on it at length as the journey continues past Gainesville, Florida, home of the University of Florida. As always in sports, the stats tell the story: Eight of the top 10 high school football teams in 2012 were in the South, and 11 of the 20 states that produce college football players are in the region.
“Southern pride is a powerful motivator for sports fans below the Mason-Dixon Line,” he writes.
Disney World is the final destination in Queen’s narrative, and he tells the story of that storied fantasyland in great detail, from Walt Disney’s original vision to the political maneuverings that made it a reality and the expansions that made it what people see today.
But Queen ultimately sees in Disney the one characteristic that makes the South unique and wonderful: the people. They are not the uncultured, ignorant rubes who spout bigotry in annoying accents; rather, they are lovers of football, faith and freedom who embody pride and romanticize everything from food to music.
“There will always be a specialness to life in the South, a unique culture that will never completely fade from existence,” he says.
Order your copy of “Football, Faith, and Flannery O’Connor: A Love Letter to the South” today.