Alabamans generally stick to deer. Tennesseans will hunt anything with four legs, or two, or various numbers in between. If you told a Tennessee fan that there was a terrestrial lobster living in the hills of East Tennessee, one that measured ten feet in length and weighed over 400 pounds and fed on hunting dogs and wild pigs, one that could run a mile in three minutes, and one that was definitely something you just made up on the spot? They would bring it back to you in five days, and maybe three if they ditched work to track it. They definitely ditched work to hunt it.
Tennessee definitely leans toward the liquor shelf a bit more than Alabama. This may be due to a long legacy of 'shine consumption in east Tennessee, or it may be due to the rule that the lower the elevation, the more likely it is that alcohol will be consumed in 12 oz. installments pulled from a carton. You may not even be able to drink physically drink scotch in Death Valley; it would just fly away from your mouth and into the ether like dust sprites in a Miyazaki movie.
Generally speaking, this is a brown liquor versus Bud in a can rivalry. This is a broad generalization, but it works, particularly when you remember how much more Tennessee fans have needed hard liquor over the past decade. (We've never seen a moonshine fountain at an Alabama tailgate, for instance.)
They make appearances at Tennessee games, but Alabama shares rival Auburn's affections for the plastic-y crutch of the lazy college football fan. Look, the crowd is vibrating and there's a faint hiss of fine-threaded plastic, said the player distracted by the shaker who has never existed.
The Alabama fan generally thanks you for coming to Tuscaloosa. Don't interpret this as a sign of hospitality; it's passive-aggression of the highest degree, the churchiest fuck-you they can deliver after throttling your poor football team in four hours of sheer agony. Per reports, they are much less obliging to visitors following a home loss. We have to rely on reports, since Florida has not been competitive with Alabama in Tuscaloosa since the Clinton Administration, but that's the gist of it re: Alabama fan behavior.
They're the most spoiled fans in college football, and act like it. Doubt this for a second? Listen to a crowd at Bryant-Denny when even the smallest mistake is made. A state crisis occurs; a committee must be convened. Balls, mistakenly passed for some reason, must be run instead. The kicker. DAMMIT NICK, I LOVE YOU, BUT AT LEAST MIKE DUBOSE MADE DAMN SURE THEY HAD A KICKER. They're spoiled -- but they own it.
Tennessee fans are more consistent. They start surly, rain or shine, and finish somewhere between bitter resignation (in defeat) or vehement, excited hollerin' and random acts of gleeful violence. When the Volunteers beat Florida in 1998 in Knoxville, the goal posts wandered out of the stadium, into an O'Charley's for a brief second, and then down the street until they were tossed into the Tennessee River.
If Alabama fans' souls are salty ribs slow roasted over years of cool, never too-excited low-temperature excellence by a grumpy perfectionist, then Tennessee fans are a rusty but rumbling pressure cooker left unattended for years in a kitchen corner. The chefs long ago forgot what was in the pot originally; several head chefs have come and gone and never bothered to tend it. It will blow up one day, but until it does it doesn't really cause problems for anyone. (Yet.)
5. Will they shoot me?
Alabama fans would plot it out real creepy-like, because process. A Tennessee fan would up and shoot you cold in the leg, because they're mad, sure, but they a.) don't wanna put off this fresh boiling hatred with planning, and b.) don't really want to kill you so much as teach you a lesson about sassin' and respect.
6. Slander and libel
Bama cheats. Tennessee snitches on said cheating. (There's historical proof of this, actually.) Both accuse the other of being rednecks, or the wrong pedigree of rednecks. (There's probably an intense unspoken divide over the propriety and value of Salt Life truck stickers somewhere in here.) Two percent of the fanbase will get into intense discussions over which state has the greater share of credit for the United States' space program's success. The other 98 percent will trash each other's choice of clothing, with most of it devolving into sniping about houndstooth and unmatchable Cheeto orange.
At one point Alabama fans will mention the recent history of the rivalry, and eight straight wins, often by huge, humiliating margins. After some bitter silence, they might almost feel bad for mentioning it. (Might.) (But will not.)
7. Student body
Alabama has one thing Tennessee doesn't have: this man.
Sorry, buddy. You were on camera, and will have to serve as the iconic representation of the Alabama Titleist Youth, the most extreme and hypertrophied variation on the Southern Frat Boy, the deeply unfair and yet very real slice of the Crimson Tide fanbase who always ends up in the scope of CBS's crew.
It's not that Tennessee doesn't have something like this. It's just that they don't go quite as hard, or in the same numbers, or with the same uniformity. Their schwoopy Bama Bangs--and lord help us, somehow in 2015 after ten years of internetting, this hairstyle is still a very real thing, somehow--the ties at games, the open desire to, as Johnny from 11 Warriors once approximately put it, "skip youth and go straight to being fifty and in an ill-fitting golf shirt."
That still is from 2011, when LSU beat Alabama 9-6. It's also 1983 in that picture. Four years later, it's probably somewhere around 1985 in that picture, actually. Time works differently in Alabama, and even differently from Mississippi, which pipes in a good chunk of those neo-Confederate preppies from Williamson County, Tennessee and Cobb County, Georgia. We're not saying these dudes are even neo-Confederates. They are, rather, people who have no interest, ever, in living anywhere but on a golf course in suburban Birmingham. (Or maybe Mobile, if one HAS to.)
Both fanbases, loudly and in line at Starbucks or the Racetrack or at the Dollar Tree or at their job at a bank or the TVA: OBAAAMMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRR [screaming extends into infinity forever]
Standard fare, food-wise. Alabama leads in branded merchandise on display at tailgates and distasteful prop joke displays. Tennessee leads in sheer numbers of camp chairs put out and other leisure-outdoorsy gear. Alabama fans seem to have more televisions than is necessary, but we're not from Alabama. Their standards of TV-having, like their football standards, are obviously more demanding than ours.
10. Who's taking you into the apocalyptic scenario of your choosing?
Probably Tennessee fans, who tend to own more generators and who have spent marginally more time outdoors in harsher conditions than Alabama fans. You'll probably be okay with either one, so long as you don't talk politics or bitch about carrying the flat-screen over a few mountain passes in a pinch. (Oh the flat-screen's coming. We ain't missin' Monday Night Raw, even on DVR reruns, for nothing.)
11. Deepest insecurity
For Tennessee fans: that they are forever doomed to chase the unattainable, that their parallelogram doesn't have the talent needed to be a top 10 program, and even if it did they can't keep that talent from the other SEC powers, and even if they managed to they wouldn't find a coach who could use the players correctly. It is the anxiety that every pair of pants you buy has a hole in the crotch that you can't see when you're wearing them but is glaringly obvious to the rest of the world.
For Alabama fans: that they are an Alabama fan, but too much of an Alabama fan, and therefore a Gump; that Stone Cold Steve Austin will hang out with them in person once, and be disappointed; that college football and/or Alabama football will collapse in a hailstorm of lawsuits or NCAA penalties, and then they will have literally nothing else to love like this.