As college football comes to an end with the Florida State University Seminoles defeating the Auburn University Tigers 34-31 in one of the more thrilling championship games in recent memory, it’s time to say farewell to the Bowl Championship Series and to the SEC’s streak of 7 straight BCS championships. Perhaps the most telling part of the last few years of the BCS has brought an “us vs. them” mentality to how fans and teams of SEC schools interact with the rest of the county. Many sports commentator, blogger, talking head has always wondered why fans of a particular SEC school will turn around and root for another school in bowl games simply because of conference affiliation. It’s usually said with derision, especially when Kentucky fans stick out their chests and loudly boast, “SEC! SEC! SEC!”
Well, things are different down south. People talk slower. Things move at a different pace once you hit you hit the southeastern part of the country. And, for the most part, we’re all family down here. The rest of the country, for the most part, thinks we’re slower mentally, partially do to accents and speech patterns and what is displayed on TV as representing the south. The mindset is that if it’s southern, then it must be redneck or inferior or just plain backwoods if you will. And southern people resent that assumption. We’ll say, “ma’am” and “please” and “thank you.” We’ll eat our fried chicken. We’ll drink our sweet tea. And we’ll take our sports a bit too seriously.
The SEC has Alabama football fans and Kentucky basketball fans and you may not find any fan bases in either sport to rival them. They’re passionate and borderline crazy. But that’s the environment that is created in the SEC. As far as athletic excellence, there simply isn’t a better conference in the country. Prior to Auburn’s BCS title game loss, the SEC had won 10 of the last 18 men’s basketball and football titles. In almost every sport, there’s an SEC dynasty. From Kentucky’s men’s basketball to Tennessee’s women’s basketball, to Alabama football, LSU baseball and Arkansas’ track program, when you compete in the SEC, you’re playing against the best of the best.
So when other SEC teams win, as they often do, there’s a sense of pride among the rest of the teams, particularly the fans. My team didn’t win, but they played against the best team. And to a lot of people, mostly not in the southeastern US, that seems hokey. It doesn’t make a lot of sense and I wouldn’t expect it to make sense to an outsider. It really is an SEC thing and you just might not understand.