An Inside Look at…Why we Love College FootballPosted: December 18, 2011
Well old times here are not forgotten and neither is this blog. I’ve been away for the past few weeks job searching, running errands, and getting ready for Christmas. I hadn’t had much time to properly cartoon and I figured y’all wouldn’t want to read an article sans cartoons. In any case, I’m sorry it took so long, but I think I might have come up with a good post here.
My last post, which was three weeks ago, was on Southern pageant culture. Our guest blogger, the Budget Blonde did an excellent job with her stories. We smashed the record for most hits in a day the day it was posted. It also generated a lot of discussion. It’s interesting to me that the most popular posts and search engine results for this blog have been for subjects such as beauty queens, football trash talking, and believe it or not Preston Brooks. Despite our other talents in music, cuisine, and literature, it means Southerners are very passionate about beauty and violence. If I were some Yankee I might act appalled and try to psycho-analyze this, but nah…that sounds about right to me.
Instead, I’ve decided to do a final college football post for the season. Now friends, this is not simply just a crass attempt to get more site hits, but rather my last chance to cartoon my favorite subject for the year. With all the bowl games on television, including such gems as the Maalox Bowl, and the Famous Kansas Whole Grain Wheat Bowl, I’m reminded of one thing…our people totally and utterly dominate the sport…that is when you get to the real games.
The rest of the country knows it too. See, I’ve been reading some college football message boards and sport news comments lately. Yankees, well many of them, are really mad that two Southern schools, in the same conference, in the same division, are playing for the national championship game (I guess they couldn’t find a patsy this year). And of course, with that, we have to get all the usual snide remarks and put downs about our people. Which of course brings out my inner Preston Brooks, and thus…
Well, rather than argue on the useless forum of message boards, I decided to retaliate the best way I know how. After all, the cartoon, is mightier than the message board. So without further ado I bring y’all and Inside look at why we love (and dominate) college football.
- Southern Blogger
In the Beginning…
It used to not be that way. Strange as it seems now, there was once a time when the South wasn’t very good at football. Football began as a northeastern sport, a blue-blood rugby-style game, that came out of the prep schools and colleges of the Northeast. Remember folks, the Ivy League was first a sports conference before it became an academic cachet. Consider how many teams copied the Bulldogs and Tigers names from Yale and Princeton. It was a rough and tumble sport for rich kids to prove their manhood, similar culturally to lacrosse today. Think of the schools that are good at lacrosse today, and you have the schools that dominated football 100 years ago.
Football, because of its speed and violence was an immediate hit. And it became popular in Dixie eventually as well. Yet the best coaches and players in the South came from north of the Mason-Dixon line. It was still a Yankee game. Even as the sport became more democratic and public schools and Catholic schools became dominant, the game’s elite teams were largely the teams that comprise the modern Big Ten.
Things started to change in the 1920s and 1930s. A new generation of Southern born players and coaches emerged. The Southeastern Conference was formed. Schools like Alabama went out west to the Rose Bowl and won. Georgia Tech and Duke (when it was a Southern school) became gridiron powerhouses. Southern players such as Don Hutson and Charley Trippi became household names. Throughout the Great Depression and leading up to World War Two, the South’s great college teams gave hope and voice to a beaten down people. Regional rivalries were put aside as Southerners united to cheer on Georgia, Auburn, or Alabama whenever they played Michigan, Nebraska, or Notre Dame. Southern pride put on pads and a leather helmet. Following World War Two the game became increasingly more Southern.
Passionate about the things we love…
Well that’s how this whole obsession began. And obsession is the word. If you have ever spent any time in the South, particularly the Deep South in the Fall, all of the talk is about college football, well regional college football. Preachers in Alabama will ask God to bless the Tigers or Crimson Tide (depending on their faith) at the end of services. Ladies at the beauty parlor (and we still call them beauty parlors) discuss the merits of Mississippi State’s latest recruiting class or Georgia’s running game. A neighborhood kid getting recruited to Florida is more important than being elected president.
And when you come down for a visit, you better be prepared to talk shop. My college roommate at Ole Miss remarked about how he once tried to bring up a non-SEC school at the barber shop. The barbers were talking about high school teams, then Ole Miss, then the other conference teams when he brought up Michigan State (where his father went to school). Michigan State of the Big Ten…”the Big What son?” was the reply.
Point being, we don’t really care so much about other schools and conferences. Doubtless you’d have to be a real ignoramus not to acknowledge the traditions and talents of say USC , Nebraska, or Ohio State. I’m sure those gentlemen knew of those programs. Only down there there is an attitude of “we don’t care how you do it up North”. I think with older generations especially, it comes from a time when the rest of the country put the South down, even in things like football. For decades the national title votes, Heisman votes, and marquee bowl games went to Midwestern and West Coast schools, at the expense of good Southern teams, which makes it all the more ironic when those folks up there complain about SEC dominance today.
We also stick together. During bowl season, and even at times during non-conference regular games, you will hear a chant from students and fans of SEC teams. Much like the Olympic “U-S-A, U-S-A” chant, you will hear an “S-E-C, S-E-C” chant at the end of a game the conference wins. And back at home we are all chanting this whatever our school affiliation. As an Ole Miss grad, I may hate LSU and Mississippi State, but I darn sure will cheer for them against anyone else. Conference pride, regional pride matters. We are all from the same family, even if some of the schools are our “misguided cousins”. Blood is thicker than alma mater. To my knowledge other conferences just don’t do that. Would an Ohio State grad root for Michigan? Does USC pull for UCLA in their game? Not really. “Big-Ten, Big-Ten” is not a chant. It’s not even the right number of schools. And I thought they were supposed to be better at math than us.
It’s all about family…
In the South our college teams are beloved members of our extended family. They are in our thoughts and prayers always, and we support them win or lose. We are even quite irrational in defense of them. Our college teams and our alma maters are things that our passed down from generation to generation. That same sharecropping family in Alabama that listened to Dixie Howell lead the Crimson Tide to victory in 1935 might later have sent two generations of students to the University. Like our football programs, our schools and our region have improved dramatically over the past few decades. No longer a rural poor backwater, the South now boasts top universities, economic and population growth, cultured urban centers, and our share of success stories off the field.
The South has risen again. It hasn’t risen again in secession or Civil War, but rather risen from defeat and Depression to become a powerful and integral part of the United States culturally, politically, and economically. We’ve come a long way as a people, yet in our football pride and power, we still assert the things that made us who we were and are…our sense of military prowess and pride. We get hit, and hit ‘em back harder and rise gain.
We will join the rest of you come Olympics time and say “U-S-A, U-S-A” but right now it’s bowl season…
- Southern Blogger