Guide to the SEC…Playing Well (and not so Well) With OthersPosted: September 7, 2011
As I’ve mentioned before I learned a lot of things from my time at Ole Miss. Besides bourbon smuggling, bow tie wearing, frat tabbing, mud riding, bottle throwing, fight song singing, and hob knobbing, I learned the art of procrastination.
Yep, it’s Tuesday night going on Wednesday as I’m writing this. Two days late. My excuse(s)? Well I was out of power, then restored to power, then had to help someone move (esp. since he’s the reason I got to post last week), then indoctrinated my nephew for his birthday by taking him to a baseball game and converting him to SEC football, and then there were all the games on TV…and…and…
Well, I’ve finally finished my cartoons and am ready to bring you my third and final installment of the “Guide to the SEC” Trilogy (although there may be prequels at a later date). In this issue, which I dedicate to fans, students, and alums of the other 11 SEC schools, I will tell of the things I’ve learned from watching, arguing over, and fighting in, games with y’all. While we may have been on opposite sides of that “war” we call Saturday football, we as fellow warriors share some of the same stories and observations. Such as…
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Down Here Some Folks Take Football Seriously, Very, Very Seriously!
The first SEC game I ever attended was in the Fall of 1996. After spending my first two Ole Miss games watching cakewalk opponents (yes Ole Miss once took care of those easily) I was a tad overconfident in my school’s ability to defeat any foe. And then came Tennessee. It was going to be a home game…but the home game was played in “neutral” Memphis (much closer to Oxford, MS than Knoxville) and you know we had that “home field advantage”.
Well folks, I learned quickly that when you step two yards into the state of Tennessee, you are in Vols Country. And by Vols Country I mean folks decked out in orange so bright it makes your eyes bleed. I also realized that a school on probation, with walk on players, which Ole Miss had to deal with due to certain infractions, was no match for a Peyton Manning Tennessee squad. Yep, that Peyton Manning.
I should tell you before that date I used to like the color orange and the song “Rocky Top”. In fact Rocky Top is quite stirring the first time you hear it played by their band. But they play it after every first down, 3 yard run, kick return, timeout, fumbled snap, punt, TV timeout, and so forth and so on. After a 48-3 drubbing I can still see Peyton’s throws and hear that dang song in my nightmares.
Yes folks they take their fight song and blaze orange very seriously. And it gets worse when you head into Neyland Stadium which I finally managed to do last year. I was a little blueberry in a bowl of oranges. Ole Miss stunk the place up and I heard Rocky Top a lot.
Yet every team in the SEC has their traditions they take seriously. My own school in fact used to before the current administration came to power.
Take for example the University of Georgia. Those Georgia folks are quite fond of a canine called UGA. “Uga” is bulldog royalty. I think they might be on their 10th one now. His dog house is larger than the school president’s and possibly Hershel Walker’s. Students must clear the path lest he be forced to move his paws and exert himself too much. I believe he even has graduate assistants who must taste his food lest any Harvey Updyke type have any nefarious ideas. And to all of us in this conference this is quite understandable. Especially fear of crazed “Bama” fans.
Speaking of…of all the crazies in the SEC they do crazy 100 x worse in Tuscaloosa. Winning 7 or 14, or 106 national championships (depending on who you ask) brings you a lot of fans. The drunkenness that comes from winning is far more potent than any smuggled 4th quarter bourbon.
My first live experience with the “Bama-Waggoners” came during my sophomore season (yeah I said season). By then, I had a few games under my belt and understood the tailgating culture, and what to expect from visiting fans as far as parking, partying, trash talking etc. At least I thought I did. Most visiting fans would arrive on Friday before a Saturday game. We knew as students that our own administration would sell us out and our commuter parking in order to cash in from the visiting RVs. That was fine by us since it gave us a legitimate excuse to skip class (esp. since we were already planning to do). The Bama fans came in quite early, as in Tuesday night, Wednesday morning early. They took over our entire campus with fleets of RVs. I had to walk an extra 30 minutes to get to class and was late a few times.
So folks, by my account I had every right then to spend the next couple of nights making noise in the Bama RV park, esp. at 3 AM, and pilfering annoying RV magnets. Yes I admit it, but remember, there’s also a statute of limitations! And yes they beat us, beat us bad, with Shaun Alexander, and I got even madder. My roommate and I had quite the collection on our fridge.
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Football Brings Out my Inner Jerk
As you can already tell, college football brings out the inner jerk in your normally mild mannered and polite Southern Blogger. As I became more adept at SEC culture and had attended a few years of games I became more familiar with our opponents. I would research them weeks before the game. By research I mean learn all the gossip, scandals, and funny player names to use against them. I also had my standby taunts.
For example, it always annoyed me that we could never beat Auburn. At the time we were at the same level as them. Same type of team, same personnel, same type of fans, same record, they even had our former coach. And yet, we’d lose to yet another school from the state of Alabama, and I’d be pretty ticked. So when I exited the stadium to their trash talk and to their plethora of pom-poms (no one loves pom-poms quite like Auburn) I would throw back the only thing I had left, a cheap yet effective shot. I’d yell “Roll Tide”. It never failed to bring out scowls and epithets.
But Auburn was mild in comparison to my utter contempt for LSU. Man oh man, was LSU my favorite game. I’m talking a real rivalry, one in which you had a real chance of being arrested or put into a coma. Their fans and students would drive up from “Red Stick” pretty early in the week. I could tell many of them would be out looking for a fight. They’d go into stores and restaurants in Oxford ready to start trouble. And trouble would ensue to be sure.
During games in those days, as mentioned before, our student sections were near each other. I’d see dozens of people getting carted off to jail on both sides, and hundreds of bottles and cups whizzing through the air. I even got hit by friendly fire.
And they were obnoxious! (Well so were we ha ha) Once after a touchdown one of their students stole Colonel Reb’s cane (10 years before he became our chancellor) and was dancing profanely with it. For the first and only time in my life I rooted for Cobra Security and police brutality. One of our guards who looked like he used to play football, leapt into the crowd, threw a few punches and the cane was retrieved. Anyway we won some and lost some, but I hand it to the LSU faithful…they were the most fun to hate on. Which reminds me that…
No Matter What, Some Folks Will Just Plain Hate You!
Yes, by hate I mean Mississippi State. State has a complex. They are the “people’s” college, the land grant school that represents all of Mississippi…or at least Mississippi’s cattle industry. And they emphasize this point with their enthusiasm for the cow bell. Cow bells were illegal, but so was bourbon and that always got by the geniuses at Cobra. They’d ring them and clang them, and belt mono-syllabic (that means one-word for those of you from State) insults and cheers.
Man they were annoying! To get to the game you had to run a gauntlet of their sidewalk alums decked in camo and mud. They’d shout stupid nonsense about “Winning the fight” on the field a year ago (they didn’t) and how they were real Mississippi and not into “book learning”. So they were the “anti-college” that represented the parts of the state that don’t get in the travel brochures.
I hated them and everything they stood for. I’d go hoarse making fun of them and quoting from the movies Deliverance and Sling Blade quite liberally. In fact, during my senior year, during an imitation that lasted the whole game, I once had Billy Bob Thornton’s Sling Blade Character “Carl”, apply, graduate, attend graduate school, and become a professor at Mississippi State. Our folks laughed, theirs didn’t get it.
Ughh…State….anyway in my last game as a student me made a 20 point 4th quarter comeback. That was a fond memory.
For the record I used the same material for Arkansas, esp. after watching in shock as their fans did a call the hogs “Sooey” cheer. Pretty scary stuff. I just emphasized the “Squeal like a pig” Deliverance lines a little more.
Those fans sure were annoying, but that wasn’t half as bad as being “too nice”.
Some Folks Just Don’t Belong…
…in the SEC that is. You come to expect a certain amount of mutual “hate” during games. In fact I thrived on it and looked forward to it. It’s the reason I’ve always found Big Ten and ACC games disappointing. They missed that combat factor.
So I was in for a real shock when I attended my first game at Vanderbilt. Vandy was an ideal locale for a good road trip. Nashville was 5 hours from Oxford, I like classic country music, Vanderbilt was an easy win (back then), and tickets were easy to come by. Real easy.
Nobody went to Vanderbilt games to root for Vanderbilt. Even the city kids they gave thousands of free tickets to. So that was weird, as was fact that the tickets had children’s cartoons on them rather than former players or coaches etc. Even weirder was the first Vandy students I saw while walking up to the game were not tailgaters but “artsy types” in all-black having a street theatre performance. But even that wasn’t the weirdest.
No friends, the oddest thing was the pre-game ceremony. Their band marched over to our section as their P.A. Announcer welcomed us to the game as “guests”. Then they played our school’s fight song. Man, I had NO RESPECT for that. LSU and State would never stoop so low. So after we pummeled them it didn’t feel as fun.
Thankfully a recent return to Vanderbilt showed me some changes. They have more fans, they have SOME students that are like the rest of us, drunk, profane, and into football, and they stopped sucking up to their visitors.
Still there are just some things that shouldn’t be in the SEC. Like the fact that Florida could win championships with a guy who cried and was too touchy feely. Or how Kentucky actually pays their basketball coach more than the football coach (that’s weirder than Vandy caring about academics). But the most un-SEC team to me is South Carolina. Whenever I see them in person or on TV they rub me the wrong way. See, the state of South Carolina is as Southern as it gets. I love Charleston, devour shrimp and grits, agree that Carolina girls are among the best in the world, and can rock out to some Wilson Pickett. So it’s beyond weird that the state that brought us Vanna White and Preston Brooks has a flagship school that raves to techno at the start of the 4th quarter. Their “traditions” seem very recent, very school-sponsored and very Kansas State like. I see lots of gel hair, tight t-shirts, official school sponsored (as in safe and PC) gear, and hear electronic music, choreographed cheering, and a general lack of SEC trash talk.
I don’t know….they’ve only been around us for 20 years. It takes at least 50 to build up a decent rivalry or worthy fight song. Still, if I had my druthers we’d trade them to the ACC for Clemson. At least Clemson gets football culture.
Well folks, I’ve prattled long enough about my thoughts on the SEC. Know this, despite it all; I admire the students, alums, and fans of the other schools. Since my gradation from Hotty Toddy U. I can count LSU, Georgia, and Auburn alums amongst my closest friends, talk football every Sunday with my Tennessee Vol loving pastor, had pleasant visits recently to UT, UK, and Vandy, have had friendly run-ins with State grads, and always pay attention when a certain Florida alum is reporting from the sidelines. So despite it all, while I don’t quite count them as brothers and sisters, the other schools’ folks are at least misguided cousins. But hey, that makes us all family.
And whoever’s playing come bowl season, you’ll hear me chant “S-E-C, S-E-C, S-E-C”.
– Southern Blogger
Next Week, hopefully on time, I will begin a new series with So You Wanna Write…a Country Song.