An Inside Look at…Why we Love College Football

Bet you didn't know I was a 1940s football legend

Hey y’all,

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…

When Alabama won the 1935 Rose Bowl, it gave pride to the entire region

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…

In Alabama people take their religion seriously, the Saturday kind too.

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.

This is hypothetical since no one from Ole Miss would ever hang out with this guy

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.

From farm-house to frat house in three generations

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…

S-E-C, S-E-C

- Southern Blogger

Our family photo album


Guide to the SEC…Playing Well (and not so Well) With Others

Hey y’all,

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…

(Click any Picture to Enlarge and Read Text)

You can be a little too color coordinated!

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.

(you should definitely click on this picture)

I bet they even have a dog named "Houndstooth"

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.

This incident really happened in 1998. Yeah I did some throwing.

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.

Sorry Slim, y'all didn't "win the fight" or the game!

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.

Way to ruin my fun Vandy!

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.

Perhaps you'd be more comfortable in the ACC

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.


We don't tailgate on asphalt!

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Going to Church on Saturday

Can’t you just smell it? The crisp air, the falling leaves, and the sweet smell of bourbon! It’s college football season down in the South. You see, Southerners have two religions: One we do on Sundays throughout the year, and the other, where we worship at “cathedrals” that on Saturdays become the third largest cities in our states. This weekend is our upcoming “Holy Week” whereby pilgrims filter in from their dorms, frat house, farms, towns, and neighborhoods in order to commune with their coreligionists (even the “Sabanic” Alabama fans). Ah, the first week of football season!

Now by football season, I’m of course speaking of the SEC or Southeastern Conference. I don’t know what you call what those other teams and conferences are doing, but it ain’t football. Well now friends, (and former friends who are mad I insulted their schools) you can’t hear my accent (or put-on accent) on the internet. There’s a difference between the word “foot, comma, ball” which is played up north, and “Foo-Boll” which is what we play down in the SEC. I’m going to be writing about the latter (surprise, surprise).

Like everything else, we do things a bit different down here. And like food, manners, leading battles, writing novels, and producing beautiful women, we do some things much better. Football is another of them. I didn’t grow up in SEC country, but when I attended Ole Miss in the fall of 1996 I became a convert to this new religion…and what is it that they say about the zeal of a convert? So here is my guide for anyone who wants to know what it’s like to attend a game in the SEC. Sure it will be a bit Ole Miss biased, so there won’t be a lot of talk about winning championships and such, but I think the fellow faithful of other schools will get what I’m talking about, and will have shared similar experiences.

When I first went to Ole Miss I got my student season tickets within the first two days of school (See The South Will Blog Again, Guide to the SEC, Back to School Edition). I stood in line and received  my envelope of tickets, a total Noob to the football culture that awaited me. Sure, I knew there would be some good games ahead of me as I peaked inside and noticed the Auburn, LSU. And Mississippi State games, names of teams I had seen on TV, but really, I had no idea just what a big deal this would turn out to be.

At the time Ole Miss had a bit of a primer as to what to expect. On my initial campus visit (which had an evangelistic fervor to it) I was informed that Ole Miss students dressed up for football games, and told about some of the school traditions, fight songs, and cheers. I was also informed about the Grove. So for my first game I put on an Oxford shirt, khakis, a necktie, and my white (eventually to be sweat stained brown) Ole Miss “bar cap”. This was to later be my game day “uniform” and a part of my Saturday morning ritual. I then walked from my dorm with some friends and first entered the Grove.

Sunday Best and Student Sections

The Grove (always capitalized) is a wooded park-like area of campus, surrounded by some of Ole Miss’ oldest school buildings. It to me is what the South is supposed to look like but doesn’t always live up to. It was intoxicating. I saw the students dressed in their “Sunday best”, the gorgeous coeds wearing their sorority “hearts” the Rebels stickers, heard the band playing “Dixie”, a lot (not that I ever minded), the generations of alumni, the smell of fried chicken and whiskey, and the general aura of camaraderie, rivalry, and ease of manners that comes from shared ritual.

The Grove takes football tailgating and classes it up Kentucky Derby style. I couldn’t imagine wearing jeans and a t-shirt to the Grove or to a football game ever. I know that sounds strange to lots of people, and sounded really strange when I informed people at my graduate school, Virginia Tech, of my way of life. But once you’d been to the Grove you don’t tailgate on asphalt.

There was lots of tradition that both warms my heart and makes me sad today when I think back. Sad because several poltroons of the highest order have taken it upon themselves to ruin the school in the name of the almighty Nike. What I can tell you was that back in the day, I and many others would listen to the band play our fights songs, then we’d do the “Hotty Toddy” cheer, and after playing “From Dixie with Love” which combined Dixie and the Battle Hymn of the Republic would march out to the stadium, somewhat inebriated, full of hope (and a little piss and vinegar) ready for the Rebels to charge and take down those Yankees, even if those “Yankees” were hardly Yankees at all.

Oh, but then I got to the stadium and got my first taste of the militant law and order culture that pervades the leadership of my alma mater.  I had student tickets. The good news was that it gave me 50 yard line seats for $5 a ticket. The bad news was having to enter through the student gates. There one had to run the gauntlet of a cadre of private security known as “Cobra Security”. They were kind of like the villains from G.I. Joe only with redneck rather than quasi-Eastern European accents. The more dressed up you were, the more you looked like a “typical Ole Miss student” the more you got manhandled and strip searched. The cause… looking for smuggled bourbon. If you gave those folks any “guff” you might get a thump on the head or some mace.

My "buddies" Cobra Security

In any case, I got to hand it to the Ole Miss students. Some of the same guys who flunked science or who would fail engineering miserably were experts at concocting and designing elaborate systems to smuggle in their whiskey. This included soft plastic flasks, tube systems, items with false bottoms, and let’s just sat “strategic placement”.  The easiest way to smuggle in bourbon was to bring a date. Ole Miss girls were “bourbon mules”. Now ladies…I don’t mean to say you looked like mules, far from it, but am explaining how women were able to smuggle whiskey “across the Cobra-can border”.  The way they did it was to place a bottle underneath a row of “feminine items” which no good ol’ boy wanted to touch, and they were through. Sadly, I think they wised up and started hiring some rough looking gals to search the women.

Now about those Ole Miss girls….I love them and always will. Girls in the Deep South KNOW football. I always say the ideal Southern girl looks like Reese Witherspoon and throws like Peyton Manning. And these women understand the game! You won’t hear them ask “what does a two point conversion mean?” or “when is halftime?” or “what’s going on honey?” No, what you’ll hear is “You @#$%# suck (insert player name here)!” or “I can throw better than that!” or shut the @#%# up (insert team rival here)!”

The camaraderie was another thing. Even people who didn’t talk to each other or get along with each other in class, for no other reason that they were strangers or of a different major etc. became your “family” during the game, especially a rivalry game. I’ve seen our students get jumped and guys from rows back jump in for the rescue, or other pieces of etiquette like sharing your bourbon, or helping to shield other fans from the security when they were filling their cups of Pepsi with it. There was also a shared misery of losing, shared joy of winning (one of the few acceptable times down there to hug another guy) and the mutual cynicism of a school that is the Charlie Brown of the conference. So yeah, I saw as many losses and wins, and you know what? So what! We partied harder, and classier, and with more style than any other team in the country. Or at least we once did.

Hell hath no fury like a Southern Woman whose team cannot score!

I Used to Hate Some of my Best Friends

This brings me to the other fans. Look, this piece is about you too. (I hate you all but I also respect you) See, you hate them, and I mean HATE them during game day, but after it’s all said and done they were just like us. It’s sort of like Catholics, and Presbyterians and Baptists are branches of the same faith. We have our differences but we aren’t “heathens” like the &@#$# Big Ten! So since my graduation I’ve become great friends with alums of other schools, even the most hated ones. They’re the only people who get what I’m talking about.

Now there are three types of rival fans. The first, silliest and easiest to make fun of are the “sidewalk alums”. The name comes from them coming no closer to campus than the sidewalk, i.e. never were students. These are the fans you stereotype in order to make fun of the students at the other school. Almost every SEC school is embarrassed by their “Sidewalk fans”. Of all of them, and I’ve seen them all, the Alabama ones are the craziest and scariest. Of course they are also the most numerous and winningest which brings out the crazy. But here’s the deal…many sidewalk alums donate a lot of time and money to the schools they love and root for. And that money gets back to cleaning up the campus and paying for the facilities the students use. And when push comes to shove, a “sidewalker” can be a great friend indeed in a fight.

The second type is the other school’s students. They are your peers and the most likely to fight you. The toughest in my experience were the LSU students. They didn’t back down at all. Hated ‘em, respected the @$%# out of ’em! In my day, the Ole Miss administration placed our student section, and the visiting student sections next to one another (they’ve since been moved to opposite endzones). This meant there was only a ten foot “no man’s land” between the two sections. This meant after every big play, or controversial call a hail of bottles, cups, or any throwable item would fly through the air. Back to LSU…they were better than us, and usually beat us…which made it that much sweeter when we pulled a victory out once in awhile. I remember after one such occasion when this one brave soul decked in the purple and gold version of the “Grove attire” I told you about, flanked by two friends propping his whiskey soaked body up, stood up in front of our entire section and flicked us all off. He had tears, tears of utter rage in his eyes. He was struck with dozens of projectiles from our people, but I had to admire such courage and “patriotism” in such a suicide mission.

These people really do exist!

Then there are the alums. Some alums are passionate, but most including our own (especially our own) can be a bit boring. Maybe that’s because they’ve partied so hard in their younger days it’s all out of their system. But in any case I always used to chuckle at a certain kind. We’d have these middle aged guys, with the official coaches caps, official coaches polo shirts, pulled up khaki shorts, high socks, gleaming white sneakers, and radio headsets doing a walk of shame after every Ole Miss defeat. We used to call them “hitched up” people. These guys would go through three stages of grief. As you first walked by them, they would be in shock about a defeat that they shouldn’t have been in shock by. Then after a few minutes they would go through a brief anger period whereby they would denounce the school and vow never to return. And yet, inevitably by the end of the walk back to the RV Park, these same fans would comfort themselves with the mistaken belief that Ole Miss would somehow still win a national championship.

Hitched-up hope springs eternal.

Ah…fun times and funny times. I wouldn’t trade those football memories for the world. To this day any time I meet a fellow alumnus anywhere in the country I will say a “Hotty Toddy” cheer, and share our similar stories. And when the weather cools, and the leaves begin to fall, anywhere I am, I begin to smell the bourbon and the fried chicken, hear the cursing, cheering, and the band playing “Dixie”, remember the 4th quarter friendships and the game day enemies, and I return to the Grove, where I’m forever 19 and ready to lead the charge.

Thanks again for reading y’all. This week I went through an earthquake, hurricane, and power outage to bring you this post a bit tardy. Thanks to a friend with power and wi-fi I was able to get this up a day late. I will return to the SEC and lampoon all those other fans of the rival schools just so you don’t feel left out in GUIDE TO THE SEC…PLAYING WELL (AND NOT SO WELL) WITH OTHERS.

- Southern Blogger


Guide to the SEC…Back to School Edition

Hey Y’all,

Southern Blogger just celebrated a birthday and this blog has survived into its fourth week. The semi-popularity of this semi-satirical blog I attribute to my loyal readers and their efforts to re-post and promote this little island of humor about the South from a Southern perspective; that is, from one who knows it and lives it like many of you do.

Since I’m a history major and historian by trade I definitely had fun co-blogging with some of my favorite Southerners of all time. But now we will switch gears a little bit and will get into our 4×4 Delorean with KC lights and head back to the future.

During your birthday you get a bit reflective and nostalgic. As a new generation heads back to college this week, or maybe for their very first experience, I was reminded of how I became the “Southern Blogger” I am today. It’s all thanks to my alma mater Ole Miss (pre Dan Jones) .

Don’t worry we’re getting to the humor soon.

I grew up in a Southern state…Virginia. But going down to Mississippi for the first time was a whole ‘nother level of Southern. In fact the whole SEC (Southeastern Conference for those of you who are “sectionaly challenged”) is like its own country. So I’m going to reminisce and satire the SEC from the perspective of one who was an outsider who became an insider.

Hope you enjoy!

-   S.B.

WHAT DID I GET MYSELF INTO?

Kids these days! Haven't got a clue.

Take a look at the kid in this picture. He’s totally lost…both physically and figuratively. When you first enter college you have lots of hope, fear, and confusion. There are forms to sign, classes to find, hoops to jump through, and people to meet. Lots of people. People pushing this cause or that club, each handing you a shiny brochure. You have no idea what to do. Well, thankfully I’m here to set the young man straight and maybe any of my gentle readers.

So this guy is wondering which he should sign up first. Should he purchase his books and get ready for class? Surely that’s the way to get ahead and make good grades. After all you wouldn’t want to wait too long and have the bookstore run out of your required texts.

What about car decals? I know he’s probably heard of the parking Nazi’s that infest college campuses. Merciless Gestapo agents of the Academia/Meter Maid Complex. Better get one of those before the grace period (which varies from five minutes to five days) runs out.

Or what’s this? A sign that says college football season tickets? Hmmm. Sounds interesting…but in high school you could see all the games for little cost and just walk up to the games (I know, not y’all in Texas…you have a head start on football craziness over the rest of us).

What should he do first? Well this ain’t Duke, Harvard, or Stanford, so forget about buying the books first. In any SEC school, I can pretty much guarantee you that those books will be sitting on the shelves through most of the semester. They won’t sell out. Well, this is where I need to put an asterisk on my comments for Vanderbilt. If you are going to Vanderbilt you need to buy your books ASAP! Vanderbilt is like the nerdy kid in our conference the rest of us cheat off of during the exam.

Parking decals? Important, but you don’t build a lifetime of memories on whether or not you got fined for illegal parking or were towed. It happens…to us all. Get the decal by all means but don’t hurry.

No son, you need to get you your season tickets. In fact within two days of your arrival! We are talking less than $10 a ticket for top notch football. Future NFL stars, storied programs, national champions, tailgating, coeds in sundresses, spilt bourbon, fight songs and fights with rivals, and the best camaraderie in any part of the country. For the next 4 to 7.5 years of your life, THIS will be your real classroom!

WHEN IN ROME DO AS THE ROMANS DO…

WHEN IN THE SEC, DO AS THE GREEKS DO

In the South being social is next to Godliness. A major part of life in the SEC is Greek life…or rather the “Greek System”. Going Greek is a big deal down in the SEC. Not everyone does it, and it’s up to you…but Greeks dominate the social, political, and school spirit scenes on campus. If you choose to forego this opportunity be forewarned….The student union gets pretty boring after awhile.

It’s funny to me what passes for a fraternity outside of the South. In fact Yankee Fraternities aren’t half as good as their Dixie cousins. That’s why they call them “Frats” up there I think. For you see, the Yankee frat, is what the media and Hollywood portray the entire fraternity world as: loud, fist pumping, Ed Hardy wearing, gel haired, rope necklaced, obnoxious “Bro-heims”. Sad really.

Now when you first get to school and you consider joining a fraternity, know that in the SEC there are some pretty high standards. Some gents have it already made. Their families are known and they grew up in the region and know the routine. Others have a little bit of a learning curve. Then there are the totally clueless.

It's not hard to tell who's NOT going to do well here

Consider this picture. There’s certainly a uniform in the South. We all know it. It’s unspoken…but it’s a way of dressing fathers teach their sons, and young men learn going to church and social functions. By the way in the South it’s not advised to wear beach attire to church. Here we have fifteen gentlemen from fifteen states depicted going through rush. Can you identity the three that don’t have a chance down South?

It’s not a hard quiz. They only have those at Vanderbilt.

It may seem vicious and it’s not for everyone, but be prepared. If you plan to rush down in the SEC don’t look like a Cheese Head, a cast member from Jersey Shore, or Laguna Beach. Be respectful, be traditional, and don’t be too much of an idiot and you should be okay. Hey…its good practice for working in an office someday.

Sororities are their own ballgame. I don’t profess to have learned all there is to learn about them. All I can tell you is that SEC sororities are filled with future Miss America’s. (My alma mater produced three thank you very much). These women smell nice, talk real sweet, and pretty much have all of us completely under their spell whether we admit it or not.

They may look cute but they WILL run you over!

Now from what I gather, sororities teach young women skills such as drawing in curly Q’s, putting up colorful signs, power walking, collecting promise rings, and blowing up lots of balloons…and I mean LOTS.

I kid…sort of…except for the balloons part, that’s 100% true.

Thing is, these girls also have high GPA’s, great organization skills, good manners, and eons of hours doing charity work. Smart, beautiful, dedicated…I’m sold.

It does tend to get a little weird on bid day though. Man I’ve seen these girls get so excited they run into traffic and scream gibberish uncontrollably like some sort of perfume smelling, pretty mass exorcism.
Only down side is those young ladies who for whatever reason didn’t make the cut…it’s not happy times for them.

Calling it like it is folks.

DON”T BE AN EXPERT…

THEY DON’T NEED NO OUTSIDERS TELLING THEM WHAT TO DO

As for book learning…we have it down here too. It might surprise Yankees that Southerners are pretty smart sometimes…oh like when it comes time to inventing American music, writing the nation’s best literature, leading our soldiers in war, and well…writing the Constitution.

Still…there’s a difference between being smart and a “know it all”. Nobody likes experts down here/there. Big mistake!  You’re going to be in a lot of general required courses your first two years. Nobody wants to be there, including the professors. I warn you. Don’t participate…or if you must keep it to a minimum. Whatever you do DO NOT raise your hand to “impress” your professor with historical inaccuracies of a Hollywood period piece five minutes before class ends on a Thursday when your school is hosting the ESPN game of the week. You will be sorry…you will be called out…you will be cursed at…you will be threatened…and you might be killed. There are frat daddies who are minutes away from a night of debauchery and you are babbling about Viking helmets. Think about it. Again, doesn’t apply to Vanderbilt.

After two years when you are in classes with others of your major…go for it. Talk it up…but still…don’t be too much of an expert (or a leftist/vegan/Hipster/collegiate activist etc.)

After a couple of weeks on campus, a lot of what I am saying will just make sense and come naturally. You will either begin to love it, or at least adapt to it, or you will soon be packing your bags.

Not worth it dude.

The only really hard part for me was the first week in the dorm. Ole Miss had sex segregated dorms, and class level segregated dorms. That’s right, I was in an all freshman all male dorm with little supervision with people away from home for the first time. I heard things and saw things and even thought I saw things that I still have nightmares about. Think the scene in “Shawshank Redemption” when the inmates chant “fresh fish…fresh fish!” and you’ll get an idea what I mean.

Just stick it out. It will get better. I ended up loving it!

Now friends, there are naysayers and doubters and politically correct folks about to poo poo all I just wrote. But I speak the truth as I know it.

I went to an SEC school and I turned out pretty smart (just don’t count my typos). I have an advanced degree and work in the cultural sector. I’m even about to be published. Yeah I like being smart and around smart people. But my college days also taught me how to be “smart” in other ways. It taught me how to be social, how to talk to ANYONE, how to dress professionally, how to tell good stories, how to laugh, how to live and die for my school with camaraderie, pride, passion… and most of all how to sit down, enjoy the finer things in life, and not be in such a dang hurry.

Yeah I’ve been around since then and seen other schools.

Yeah, I’ve seen Harvard Square.

Can’t say I’m a fan of Cambridge…

But after all…I’m an Oxford man through and through.

Hotty Toddy,

Southern Blogger.

This is pretty much what it looked like August, 1996.

We’ll get back to the SEC once football gets rolling with GUIDE TO THE SEC…FOOTBALL GAME DAY.


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