Recently a friend passed along a photograph of a door: a beautifully polished, wood front door. Why this door? Because carved smack into the middle of it is a big letter G. You might think the G signifies the homeowner -- Mr. Green or Ms. Grable. Or that it's the signature of the door's prestigious manufacturer, like the double-Rs on the front of a Rolls-Royce automobile.

Nope. The G stands for Georgia -- not the southern state famous for peaches and peanuts and pines, but the University of Georgia. Anyone who passes a G house knows instantly that its owner is a Georgia alumnus or, even more likely, a University of Georgia Bulldogs football fan.

Now, sports teams around the world attract rabid followers, who wear team colors and insignias. But some Americans carry their sports loyalties to extremes. Let's say your favorite school is the University of Florida in the state just south of Georgia. You can buy Gator pencils, Gator umbrellas, Gator car magnets, Gator watches and golf balls and pillowcases, Gator binoculars and Gator barbecue grills. As you've guessed by now, the university's mascot is the alligator, or gator. Plenty of people go to Florida games dressed from head to tail -- and we do mean tail -- in a green alligator costume. And yes, you can get your own front door, into which the image of a menacing alligator has been chiseled.

Some say this team gear is a conversation-starter. Or that it shows the hypnotic appeal of sports in our culture and the ingenuity of American marketing. Or that it exposes the affluence and decadence of lives so empty that people spend good money on Gator baby diapers and Gator front doors.

Hey, nothin' wrong with a little Gator Love, buddy! Gators rule! Go Gators! Gators rock! Gators forever! Hail to the Gators! Gator magic! Gator zone, baby! Bite 'em, Gators! Yeah, Gator Nation!!