Recently, ESPN’s SEC blogger Chris Low did a list of five things he loves and hates about SEC football. It seemed like a good idea, so here are my votes on what I love. Feel free to leave yours in the comments, and it doesn’t count if a thing you love is your team. That’s obvious. The hates are coming up soon.
1. The camaraderie
Fans from other conferences hate it, and it can get tiresome from time to time. Even so, I love the collective spirit within the conference. The schools are like 12 brothers: there’s rivalries and resentments, but in the end we’re somehow all in this together.
My favorite example from last year was when College GameDay went to Vanderbilt. A lot of people barely even consider the Commodores part of the conference in football thanks to their historical struggles, but the “S-E-C” chant came out loud and clear. Even the nerdy brother is in on this.
2. The high level of competition
The SEC had a down year in 2008, but that’s forgivable considering the amazing run of success this decade (and it still produced the national champion). For as long as I can remember, it’s been an “any given day” conference.
I mean, even in 1996 when Florida set a record by winning five SEC games by 30 points or more, one of the close wins was by seven over 2-9 Vanderbilt. If you don’t show up ready to play, you can get a run for your money or even beat.
3. Bryant-Denny Stadium on game day
I’ve only been once, and it was in 2005 when Alabama massacred Florida 31-3. The feeling before the game was that the fans were eager to prove that Alabama was “back,” and it sure seemed like they did on that day. As it turns out, they feel like they need to prove that they’re “back” every four or five years.
Anyway, the Tide fans brought their A-game that day and it was the closest I’ve ever heard to the Swamp’s A-game in another venue. When they yelled “we just beat the hell outta you!” near the end, I cringed for the young ears in attendance, but it was impressive to hear as a visitor. If I ever go back to see a game without my Gators involved, I’ll be cheering for the Tide.
4. The insanity
To thrive in a high pressure environment, it often takes a special kind of crazy. It just so happens that there isn’t a higher pressure conference than the SEC.
You’ve got the intense, all-business types like Nick Saban and Urban Meyer (and Dan Mullen, I’ll predict). You’ve got Steve Spurrier, who had to be at least a little nuts to bring his pass-first style into a run-first league. Lane Kiffin can’t resist stirring the pot it appears, and he is employing Ed Orgeron, a man who probably shouldn’t be trusted with a properly sharpened pencil.
Rich Brooks has his famous, ahem, vocabulary. Houston Nutt is crazier than a sack of weasels. Everyone agrees Les Miles is crazy, but I’m with those who say he’s crazy like a fox. Gene Chizik may not be crazy (yet), but the people who hired him in the Auburn athletic department sure are. Bobby Petrino apparently has a pathological need to switch jobs every so often.
Just about everyone is nuts, and I love it. It’s never boring around these parts.
5. It’s always football season
There are four seasons in the SEC: football season, recruiting season, spring practice, and summer workouts. Sure, there’s other diversions along the way like basketball and baseball, but in the end, it’s all about football.
There are probably a million reasons why, but it pretty much has been that way forever for the whole league except Kentucky. When you win a national or conference championship in football, you just say you’re national or conference champion. Every other sport requires you to say that sport’s name along with the champion part. That just about says it all.