Thursday, August 29, 2013


College football is here and for my Clemson Tigers it kicks off this year with an epic bang. The level of give a damn is as high for a game as I can ever remember. Playing Georgia should be our birthright and  I am not going to lie, I miss being an SEC fan.

Both sides of my family are from Alabama and I grew up the son of an Auburn grad. It was not till I was a student at Clemson that I made the switch and even then it was hard. I did not want to let go of that attachment I had to not just Auburn but the SEC. It was more than just football to me and everyone else.

As a kid in the eighties I remember not being all that proud of where I was from. Everyone around me was loud and proud but I always got the feeling it was a pride born out of insecurity.

Make no mistake about it, the south to this day still suffers from the toll of post civil war reconstruction. It is only in the last twenty years that the South has begun to see real economic and social progress throughout parts of the region. Still,  if you want people to instantly underestimate your intelligence just speak with a southern accent anywhere north of Virginia and west of Texas. There are some awesome things about being from Dixie but growing up in the south, especially the rural south leaves you with a good many hurdles to overcome.

However, there was one thing that would make my chest swell with pride, Bo Jackson and Auburn Football. I knew that it was impossible that any football game could be as well played or cared about more than the Alabama Auburn game. I knew that Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Florida and Tennessee were evil, vile institutions supported by the scum of the earth but I also knew that they were the only teams who had the ability and the right to challenge my Auburn Tigers.

We knew that football in the south was the best in the world and this was at a time when the national sports media was hesitant to recognize it. Sure, they might give Alabama some props from time to time, but it was obvious that they wanted to talk about Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State and Southern Cal. But as more games became available to watch by everyone in the nation it became evident where the best football was being played and more importantly who's fans cared the most.

All those teams I hated and fan bases I loathed, those people were also the only ones who understood how important college football was to our identity as a people and a place. It was truly the only thing we could put in front of the nation and say "Nobody does this better than us." This chip resides on the shoulder of almost every old school SEC fan and binds them into more than just a football conference. What has always made the SEC the best football conference is not the quality of the teams but the passion of the fans.

There are plenty of years when the SEC is not the best or even second best conference from top to bottom in terms of football but with the exception of  Kentucky every other fan base loves college football and their team with everything it has. Old Miss, who has never actually been that awesome at football is one of the best tailgating experiences in college football. There are never any half empty stadiums or Saturdays that don't matter in the SEC. Everyone cares.

This is what I miss about being a fan of a SEC school. I miss opposing fans that give a damn. As a Clemson fan we have Florida St, Georgia Tech, and NC State as the three teams on our conference schedule every year who give a damn. It does not matter how good or bad Duke, Wake Forest or North Carolina is. They will not bring more than a couple thousand fans on the road and the Clemson fans traveling will literally take over their home stadium. To have a conference where everyone is invested in football from top to bottom is what makes the SEC the best conference in football.

ESPN discovered this fact about fifteen years ago and has invested itself heavily into the future of the SEC and manipulated the landscape of college football to further that agenda.

I am not a fan of NASCAR but it is also a regional passion that has been watered down by popularity and expansion and SEC football will soon see the same fate I am afraid. The fire that fueled this passion was having this level of excellence and uniqueness in a place full of struggle in a region looked down upon. It will not survive the pedestal that ESPN has put it on. It will not endure the Johnny come lately fans that come with all the swagger but lack the chip on their shoulder of the long time sufferers. It will break apart as it spreads itself thin, into areas of the country that have nothing in common with one another and it will be a great national treasure eroded.

For now, and from its inception the SEC has been the standard for what the college football experience should be about and whenever Clemson gets to play an SEC school we get to be a part of it and it feels like coming home.