The Civil War II: North Frats vs. Southern Fraternities, Part 1 of 9

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“Civil war? What does that mean? Is there any foreign war? Isn’t every war fought between men, between brothers?” – Victor Hugo

Being in a fraternity is like graduating from a state school, or writing a column on TFM: we like to think anyone actually gives a shit. I mean, we have some self-righteous notions about the superiority of Greek life, right? Chances are good that you’ll click down to the comments here and read some entreaty about the talent of the fraternity man and his ability to make lots of money (as if the first question any Fortune 500 CEO asks prospective employees is “Frat?”). And we have rosy outlooks about our house and our chapter. Our particular school, of course, means a lot to us as well. There’s something else, though — a strong undercurrent of division I’ve noticed ever since someone commented below one of my articles: “Why is a Northern Jew telling me anything?” That one went in the scrapbook, by the way, and to answer your question: because we have all the money and run all of your entertainment.

The South is better than the North, the North is better than the South, and on and on. It’s easy to understand; frat life on either side of the Mason Dixon is vastly different — almost incomparable if not for the simple fact that they proudly display Greek letters and homoerotically haze freshmen. So, let’s break this down once and for all. Which region of the country has the superior fraternity life? Is it the “racist half-wits” from the South? Or is it the “classless A-holes” from the North?

First, a few rules and notes: in the interest of fairness, I will be breaking this down in nine separate categories over the coming weeks, and attempting to find a winner in each individual category in order to avoid generalizations. For our purposes, the South will be anything below the traditional Mason Dixon, with a couple noted exceptions — I’m counting Maryland as a northern state because I think that’s basically how they feel about it (everyone from Potomac is nodding their head while eating Rosh Hashanah leftovers). Texas will be considered as its own country. Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada will be counted as part of California, and California will not be counted at all. Sorry, California.

As for me, I’m as independent a party as you’ll find. Though I live in New York and attended Penn State, I’ve been to several schools and houses across the South and had the time of my life. Also, my school recently covered up kid-rape, so, you know, I don’t really have a horse in the race here. Nevertheless, I have a deep appreciation of fraternities and Greek life, so I’m attacking this with the anthropological passion of Jane Goodall, minus having sex with gorillas.

Our first category will be General Attitude. Let’s dive in:

General Attitude

A quick story: I went down to Georgia for a wedding and ended up playing golf with the groom’s party because I didn’t know many people there, and that southern hospitality ain’t no joke. I saw a huge old mansion just off the course and just offhandedly asked some dude if there are a lot of old plantation houses still around. His answer: “Not since your boy Sherman burned ’em all down.” As his buddies all nodded in agreement, I thought, “Who the fuck is Sherman?” Then some forgotten synapse fired to remind me that in 7th grade we spent half a Social Studies period talking about General Sherman burning the South in the Civil War before we moved on forever.

Not to trivialize the Civil War here, but I think we’re all in agreement that the general outcome was a positive one, so it’s fascinating to me that these guys still kind of viewed it as a “loss.” And there’s another phenomenon at work here: The Loser’s Lament. For example, Notre Dame football has probably never even thought about Navy except for the week of the game, but I can guarantee you Navy has a hard-on for Notre Dame the first day of training camp. The Tri-Lambs celebrated like crazy after winning the Greek Games, while the Alpha Betas felt pissed then moved on to climb a new sorority’s mountain of vaginas. So, whenever a northerner sees a bumper sticker that says, “The south will rise again,” he doesn’t proudly point to his “Remember how we won?” sticker. All he thinks is, “Isn’t that racist adorable?”

I truly believe that a disappointing loss in a war 150 years ago, regardless of the larger implications, still colors the history and attitude of the southern man, handed down generation after generation. But disappointment breeds care, and if there’s one thing a southerner does, it’s care. And identify. They find solace in their region and history and families, and it’s the reason the southeast is the only place you’ll ever hear a stadium full of people chant, not for their team, but for their league. It’s something no one from the North understands, and I have to say, that’s kind of a shame. The South cares more, and so it bleeds fraternity life a bit more, celebrates it more, talks about it more, makes cheesy, awful videos for recruitment more, and that’s something.

Then again, there’s an old expression in football and sex: “Act like you’ve been there before.” There is something just a touch desperate about it all. While we northerners tend to brush off the debates so we can keep fist pumping, the southerners take to the comment threads of TFM to plead their case about the southern man’s superiority. Sorry, guys, no one’s really listening but the choir.

Nevertheless, I suppose I’d rather have a chapter room full of people who care than a bunch of guys in lax pinnies who can’t get their noses out of the coke bowl long enough to put together a decent week-long. So, yeah, I’ll give this to the South, but maybe give the recruitment videos a rest, you fucking geeks.

General Attitude: The South wins over The North.

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