One overeducated Florida State fan confronts the religiously perverted, racially suspect, and sexually fraught nature of the sport she hates to love: college football.
Diane Roberts is a self-described feminist with a PhD from Oxford. She's also a second-generation season ticket holder and an English professor at one of the elite college football schools in the country. It's not as if she approves of the violence and hypermasculinity on display; she just can't help herself. So every Saturday from September through December she surrenders to her Inner Barbarian. The same goes for the rest of her "tribe," those thousands of hooting, hollering, beer-swilling Seminoles who, like Roberts, spent the 2013 14 season basking in the loping, history-making Hail Marys of Jameis Winston, the team's Heisman-winning quarterback, when they weren't gawking, dumbstruck, at the headlines in which he was accused of sexual assault.
In Tribal, Roberts explores college football's grip on the country at the very moment when gender roles are blurring, social institutions are in flux, and the question of who is and is not an American is frequently challenged. For die-hard fans, the sport is a comfortable retreat into tradition, proof of our national virility, and a reflection of an America without troubling ambiguities. Yet, Roberts argues, it is also a representation of the buried heart of this country: a game and a culture built upon the dark past of the South, secrets so obvious they hide in plain sight. With her droll Southern voice and a phrase-turning style reminiscent of Roy Blount Jr. and Sarah Vowell, Roberts offers a sociological unpacking of the sport's dubious history that is at once affectionate and cautionary."