“If a man watches three football games in a row, he should be declared legally dead.” Erma Bombeck
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a man because in the South, all of us suffer for months on end. From February until Labor Day (that would be the first weekend in September since my husband cannot differentiate between Memorial Day, Labor Day and Arbor Day) we suffer through honey do projects, months of college basketball and pro baseball until we arrive at last to the opening of college football season. The sports gods provided us with a brief reprieve this year by throwing the Olympics in and ESPN has provided us with two weekends of Little League Baseball to get us to the end of our long, dark off season.
The people I truly feel for are the people trying to plan a nice fall wedding in the South. Trying to select a date from September to November is torture because every Saturday is consumed by college football games. I am reminded of my friend’s wedding in November some years back. The football game of the weekend was Steve Spurrier’s return to The Swamp to take on the Florida Gators. After the ceremony, everyone returned to the bride’s parents house for a reception tea prior to that night’s formal reception. As the crowd gathered around the television, Coach Spurrier proceeded to spank the Gators which made for lively entertainment, especially since the majority of viewers were Gator fans. There was a fair bit of sulking but my friend’s wedding was made all the more memorable by allowing her guests viewing time of their favorite team.
Fans of southern college football follow their teams with a passion not seen in other areas of the country. How else do you explain the ability of a mediocre Tennessee team to pack 105,000 people into Neyland Stadium on a Saturday night. Ask any Georgia fan over 40 who scored the winning touchdown over Florida in 1980 and they will, nearly without fail, tell you in great detail-here’s a hint, it wasn’t Herschel Walker. Bear Bryant has been dead for nearly 30 years but his legacy endures forever in Tuscaloosa with crowds of fans donning versions of his signature hounds tooth hat. Only in Florida do you understand what “wide right” and “wide right II” mean. I would give the award for most crazed fans to the state of Alabama, where the hatred between Alabama and Auburn is palpable across the state-I mean really, who poisons trees in Toomer’s Corner and brags about it? Welcome to college football in the South.
Our athletes are just short of gods for the remainder of their lives, despite their success or lack of success in the NFL. We shrug off the suggestion that Heath Shuler was a draft bust only to recall with clarity that he set many Tennessee passing records, until some kid named Peyton Manning showed up. Herschel Walker spent his USFL and NFL years as a journeyman running back but for Georgia fans he lives on as the 18 year old Freshman running back who decleated Bill Bates of Tennessee at the goal line for a touchdown.
But in the South there are the “also ran” teams of the SEC. Despite going on to win two Super Bowls and two Super Bowl MVPs, Eli Manning could never push Mississippi to a conference title, although he was the conference MVP once. Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State are the annual whipping boys of the SEC. Occasionally, Kentucky will put together a .500 team and Vanderbilt and Mississippi State will reach up and bite another SEC team in the butt. For the most part however, its an annual blood bath between Georgia, South Carolina and Florida in the east, and Alabama, LSU and Auburn in the west.
So fear not college football fans for our long, dark winter is nearly over. On Thursday night we shall all camp out in front of our flat screens to watch South Carolina beat the pants off Vanderbilt and proceed to overdose on college football all the way until Monday evening. Happy College Football Season everyone!!!