Opinion | We should all be more like Gumps

Not all students have to love sports, but they should all take notes from Gumps.


CW / Pearl Langley

Photos / Hannah Saad

Simone Shadd, Contributing Columnist

Gumps — the most dedicated of Alabama fans — are committed to UA Athletics the way one might be dedicated to God. If Nate Oats is their lord and savior, then Coleman Coliseum is their house of worship. 

While this may sound extreme, Gumps are a family, and their dedication to Alabama is something to be admired. Even when games are far from Tuscaloosa, Alabama’s most dedicated fans hop into planes, trains and automobiles to watch our athletes paint the town crimson.

Gumps’ passion for the Tide doesn’t wane with distance. Their commitment was on full display at the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City this week. Fans showed up in droves for our softball team, filling the stadium to capacity. And for those who couldn’t make it, many tuned in from home. 

With the help of social media, Gumps have found even more ways to show up for their community. During the Women’s College World Series, it was impossible to open Twitter without seeing a flood of tweets praising Bailey Hemphill or Montana Fouts. Fans channeled their creativity into memes about the players, and some even expressed their support for Fouts with GIFs of the Montana state flag. 

This level of adoration truly has a likeness to any form of worship. These players are deified by their fans, and this praise has only heightened as Gump Twitter and other internet communities bridge the gap between athletes, students and the larger UA community. There is nothing like a perfect game to inspire creativity among Gumps, but UA athletes don’t have to seek perfection to win the devotion of their fans. Win or loss, Gumps’ commitment to the Tide does not waver. 

In March, Gumps experienced collective heartbreak when men’s basketball lost to the UCLA Bruins. That loss was heartbreaking, as it was the first time in 17 years that the team made it to the Sweet 16. Alex Reese’s epic buzzer beater was followed by a disappointing performance in overtime that cost Alabama its ticket to the Elite Eight. 

Despite the sting of the loss, Gumps praised Reese, Herb Jones and John Petty Jr. for their grit. Gumps are there to celebrate victories and mourn losses alongside UA athletes. But more than their dedication to sports, Gumps are committed to each other. 

Alabama fans lost one of their own in April. They banded together to host a memorial for Cameron Luke Ratliff, a staple of the community. As a leader of Crimson Chaos — the official student group of UA Athletics — Ratliff inspired students to invest in sports.

Nate Oats, men’s basketball coach, said that Ratliff embodied college athletics. Members of the community raised more than $58,000 through a GoFundMe organized by Coach Bryan Hodgson to support Ratliff’s funeral expenses. Sports matter because of the lessons they teach in teamwork, but because of their capacity for community building. 

In a year where many experienced loss, sports provided community. Those who view athletics as a trivial pastime are blind to its potential. Sports’ true value lies in its ability to bring members of the community together. This closeness isn’t limited to the games alone. It is a unity that extends to all aspects of life.

In the fall, Bryant-Denny will welcome fans at full capacity. Other sporting venues will likely follow suit. What does this mean for the UA community at large? While students don’t all have to love sports, they should follow in Gumps’ footsteps and take care of one another. 

After a year spent in varying levels of isolation, sports create an opportunity to rebuild the community we have missed. UA students should take advantage of every tailgate and home game this year so that the community can rebuild what it has lost.