COLUMN: Dear Coach DeBoer


Dear Coach DeBoer,

Even though you’ve been down here for a few weeks, I would like to welcome you and your family to Alabama. I hope that we can share many wonderful years together. I’m sure you probably still have some questions about us since you haven’t spent much time in the South – until now. So I’ve decided to generously give you a few pointers, some tips that should help you as you get to know us.

My first suggestion to you is when someone from Alabama asks where you are from, tell them that you’re from the South – South Dakota. And then make a comment about your accent. A bit of self-depreciating humor will really get you off on the right foot with folks down here.

And please don’t be offended if people initially mispronounce your name. DeBoer sounds a lot like “da beer” as in, “Hey Verne, hand me da beer!” This is a phrase used frequently in our state.

I know you’ve probably been eating a lot of healthy food in the Northwest, like grilled salmon. Not so much here. In Alabama, most of the fish we eat is catfish, and it will be dipped in cornmeal and deep fried in grease. You will discover that it is delicious. Oh, and you need to know that when we say barbecue, it does not refer to just anything you throw on a grill. No! The barbecue we refer to in the Deep South is usually pork – most likely ribs. In fact, if you haven’t already, you should make a pilgrimage to Dreamland. And if you really want to ingratiate yourself to your fan base, just order ribs and white bread – no sides. The old-timers will love you for that. It’s what they call “old-school.”

Speaking of restaurants, be aware that when waitresses call you “hon,” they are not talking about Attila. This is a term of endearment you should get used to. And please don’t do anything silly in a meat-and-three like order water with lemon. This will cast immediate suspicion toward you and your family. You always order sweet tea – pronounced “sweetee.” Yes, it’s pretty much brown-colored glucose, but learn to sip a little of it.

When people talk about greens in Southern restaurants, they are not referring to something you putt on at a golf course. Greens are something Southerners eat – after they are doused with pepper sauce – it’s the tiny bottle you see on almost every restaurant table in the South. The pungent smell will make you think someone poured vinegar over dozens of tiny peppers – which they did. Don’t worry. Shake a little of it on your greens and dig in. You’ll be glad you did. We won’t talk about grits right now, but until we do, you need to remember one thing: never, ever, put sugar in them. Just butter will work just fine.

It’s OK to play golf – even Nick Saban likes to play golf. However, getting boned up on NASCAR will make people fawn all over you.

You may notice that our dirt down here isn’t black and flaky. Nope – it’s red clay. No need to wonder why; that’s just the way it is in this part of the world. However, it is okay to ask someone if you can make pottery or bricks out of it. You can.

Something else that may strike you as curious are the huge expanses of leafy green vines that seem to be all over the place. We call that kudzu, and it grows so fast it can cover a good-sized house in about two days. It will be perfectly acceptable to look at it, shake your head and say, “Wow. Kudzu and Southern Baptists are everywhere in this state.”

I saw a picture of your beautiful family. I’m certainly glad that your wife and daughters have straight hair. That’s because in the summer, our combination of heat and humidity can cause Cher’s hair to curl. Tell your girls that ballcaps and ponytails are perfectly acceptable in the world of Alabama summertime fashion.

Finally, a couple more things that are really critical. Throw the ball to the tight end. Please. Even Coach Saban didn’t do that enough. And be sure to beat Auburn every year. Do that, and all the other stuff I talked about won’t matter, aiight? Oh, sorry. That means “all right.”


Joe Hobby

Joe Hobby is a barbecue-loving comedian from Alabama who wrote for Jay Leno for many years. Find more of Joe’s stories on his blog: Follow him on Facebook at Joe Hobby Comedian-Writer.