Bama fans camp out on ‘Gump Twitter’


CW / Hannah Saad

Leah Goggins | @leahisonline, Assistant Culture Editor

Are you a bammer or a barner? Are you ride-or-die for the Tide? What tier Gump are you? On Gump Twitter, these questions are required for entry.

Celebrities have stan Twitter. The Crimson Tide has Gump Twitter.

Gump Twitter, like most other corners of the internet, hosts a spectrum of personalities, from devoted Finebaum callers to current UA students. They’re what two-time University of Alabama grad Lacey Cencula would call “a different tier of people.”

“Gump Twitter isn’t very rooted in reality,” Cencula said. “They’re very much Alabama-or-die … They take it to another level.”

Gump Twitter, like stan Twitter, only includes the most dedicated of fans. While beat reporters and casual fans can reside in the mainstream, Gump Twitter bubbles up at the heart of it all, making memes and criticizing refs without filters.

Lacey Cencula, @dddrop_the_lace

Cencula has always been a perfect fit for the Bama fan Twitter scene. As a student at Oak Mountain High School outside of Birmingham, Cencula was awarded the superlative “Best Twitter Feed” and decided to apply to the only college she was interested in attending: The University of Alabama.

“I knew where I wanted to go,” Cencula said. “I wasn’t going to waste my time with applications and initially paying to apply to other places when I knew I wanted to go to Alabama.”

Cencula kept up her Twitter habits as a student at the Capstone, and soon enough, she had gained enough popularity to rise through the ranks of Gump Twitter. Retweets from accounts with larger followings, like Tuscaloosa News writers Cecil Hurt and Hunter Johnson, helped boost her profile, Cencula said.

But when it comes to fully being a part of Gump Twitter, Cencula doesn’t see herself as a full-time Gump.

“It really depends on what mood I’m in, so if I want to stir it up and be a full, Alabama, hard-core gump, then it’s easy to get that base going,” Cencula said. “They’re simple to reach out to, because all you have to say is that Alabama is the best at everything.”

As much as Cencula enjoys keeping in touch with campus through her Twitter feed, the combination of tweeting about sports and tweeting as a woman has often had its drawbacks. Sexist sports fans on Twitter have zeroed in on Cencula more than once, barging into her mentions with corrections and gender-based insults when they disagree with something she says.

“It’s something they lean on when they don’t have anything else to say,” Cencula said. “They take the easy way out and call me out on the basis of sex.”

The instance at the top of her mind was a tweet about a penalty leveled at the Tennessee Volunteers during a football game. Cencula was promptly “dragged by Tennessee fans,” she said. The dragging included a barrage of insults that led Cencula to accumulate the most aggressive replies to her tweet in a thread the same day.

Despite the negativity that often plagues her Twitter experience, Cencula isn’t giving up the platform anytime soon.

“I get on, I see what I want to see, I post what I want to post,” Cencula said. “It’s just not worth getting into it with a stranger.”

Luke Ratliff, @fluffopotamus88

Luke Ratliff, a junior majoring in public relations, got into Gump Twitter about midway through his freshman year at The University of Alabama. His entry point was the Alabama basketball program, with which Ratliff’s face has now become nearly synonymous.

“I’m very humble about it,” Ratliff joked. “But it’s hard not to realize the impact I’ve had socially on being synonymous with Alabama Basketball.”

Ratliff’s face has now shown up all over the place, oftentimes without his actual presence. At a recent road game against Rhode Island, reporter and UA alumnus Marc Torrence tweeted a photo of a Bama fan in the stands proudly sporting a giant cardboard cutout of Ratliff’s head. It wasn’t the first time Ratliff saw his own image duplicated on another campus this year.

“Originally, what happened was … I woke up on Saturday, a game day, and College GameDay was at Florida-Auburn in Gainesville,” Ratliff said. “I had myriad texts from people sending me pictures of my face on College GameDay.”

Two UA students had taken advantage of Bama’s bye week in early October and driven down to Gainesville with Ratliff in tow. Later that month, Ratliff went home to North Carolina for a wedding and was recognized more than 400 miles away from campus.

“Someone, a UA grad, I believe, walked up to me, recognized me from basketball, and just started talking to me about basketball,” Ratliff said. “So I realize I’m pretty synonymous with the team and all that, and I appreciate it.”

Ratliff recognizes that his time as a student will come to a close in the next couple of years, he said, and he looks forward to passing on the title of Alabama basketball’s unofficial ambassador. 

“I hope they [take on the job] soon, because I’m getting tired,” Ratliff said.

As far as Gump Twitter goes, Ratliff is a proud member.

“I’m a Gump elite,” Ratliff said.

Bama Uniform Tracker, @BamaUniTracker

@BamaUniTracker, a senior studying engineering, has always been interested in the designs that athletes wear at game time. His account, which he keeps anonymous to avoid bias or personal opinions filtering into his feed, chronicles University of Alabama athletics matchups with simple, detailed uniform graphics. It was an idea that @BamaUniTracker had admired at other schools, like Clemson and Virginia Tech, and he wanted to see a Crimson Tide equivalent.

“I thought that I might as well be the one to do it,” @BamaUniTracker said.

He started out with three teams in mind: football, men’s basketball and baseball. Though @BamaUniTracker recognizes that football is the most popular sport on campus, he said that the uniform possibilities with other teams are hard to beat.

“Basketball, or even baseball, is probably the No. 1 sport we have here in terms of uniform combinations,” @BamaUniTracker said. “As time goes by, I’m looking to add more. My next additions will probably be women’s basketball and softball.”

The University of Alabama’s football uniforms may not be as diverse as the uniforms seen in other sports, but @BamaUniTracker said their recognizability gives them an edge.

“The key is branding and keeping something consistent,” @BamaUniTracker said. “Alabama, Penn State, USC – these are teams that have had the same uniforms for decades and decades, and they’ve created this strong brand. You see an Alabama helmet with no logo on it, and you know that it is Alabama because of that brand.”

Despite the classic styles of certain uniforms, putting together a game-day graphic still takes a while. Depending on the opponent, @BamaUniTracker said, a graphic could be done in 20 minutes or much longer. For Saturday’s game, @BamaUniTracker will have to put in some extra work to master a new uniform: Western Kentucky.

Until then, a retrospective catalog of Alabama Athletics sportswear is always available on @BamaUniTracker’s profile.

INFO BOX: Decoding Bama Twitter
Gump: A person who lives and dies for the University of Alabama – but mostly its athletics department. There are three Gump “tiers,” according to Twitter user Will Elliott, who claims to have invented the tier system in his Twitter bio:

Tier 1: Normal people

Tier 2: Anonymous accounts that thrive on unfiltered tweets

Tier 3: The pettiest of the petty, trolls with a frail grasp on reality

FOG: A “football-only Gump” is a diehard Alabama football fanatic who doesn’t concern themselves with any other facet of the Capstone’s success.

FPG: A “football-primary Gump” is a well-rounded Bama athletics fan who can acknowledge that they still care more about Crimson Tide football than any other sport.