The bowl season will soon be upon us, inciting heated discussions on forums and social media sites across the country. The debate will be on whether a 1-loss SEC champion should overtake Ohio State for the chance to play Florida State in the BCS National Championship game. This is obviously predicated on the fact that OSU and FSU both win their games as expected. This purpose of this article is not to argue for or against either of these choices, but to point out why the arguing is taking place.
Picture this scenario. You walk into a New York bar during this past World Series, which was featuring the St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox. You sit down, order a drink, and strike up a conversation with the person next to you. “Hope the Red Sox can pull this one out for the AL East.” Those might be your last words if this hypothetical situation was indeed real. While few would argue that this would be absurd, this is what happens with SEC football. Why is this the case? Why does the love of a conference almost equal the passion for their beloved team?
No one takes more pride in their culture than Southerners. What started during the Civil War has now expanded into other ideals. We love our sweet tea, front porches, church on Sunday morning, “ya’ll”, and SEC football. Heck, many even take pride in things seen as embarrassing by most (e.g. Being a redneck or getting questionable tattoos). Although NFL TV ratings will always be king (largely due to fantasy and gambling), there is little that people care about more than college football in the south. SEC football isn’t just a sport for many, it’s a way of life. It’s a chance for Southerners to stick it to “Them Yankees up north” or “Those hippies out west.” If you are in the south and you tell someone that you aren’t from there, you’ll likely get a response like “Bless your heart” or “You poor thing.” The south is the best and we take pride in it.
Everyone Loves a Winner
When I was growing up, the debate always raged on which power conference was the strongest? The battle raged back and forth between the Big 10, Big12, Pac12, ACC, and of course, the SEC. Each year, the pendulum would swing in a different direction. From 2000 to 2004, all five major conferences won a BCS title (Oklahoma, Miami, Ohio State, LSU/USC, USC). Fast forward to 2013, where the SEC has won seven straight BCS championships. With success comes an abundance of supporters. SEC fans were always passionate, but they have now reached feverish proportions. Fans of other schools have been eager to move to the SEC, hoping to get a piece of the BCS pie. Just look at the growth of Missouri and Texas A&M since they moved to the SEC. Both schools have seen immediate success, which has increased the desire for newcomers even further. It is easier to root for your team and conference when they are winning, and the SEC has done plenty of that.
Quantum Solace (In Defeat)
Quantum: “Something that can be counted or measured.” Solace: “Comfort or consolation in a time of distress or sadness.” The problem with such a dominant conference is that there will always be punching bags year in and year out. Instead of loathing in the fact that their team is terrible, fans have adopted the mantra of pointing to the fact that their conference is dominant. You’ll often see tweets/posts like this “I’d rather be 2-6 in the SEC than 6-2 in the other power conferences.” Really? You would rather win two games and not go to a bowl game than be in a slightly lesser conference? Once again, compare this logic to professional sports. Would you rather miss the playoffs because you were in the toughest division or sneak in because yours was terrible? Of course not. But in a strange way, SEC fans of terrible teams take solace in the fact that their conference is the best. It helps take some of the sting away.
Those who know me well can speak to the fact that I am an avid Ohio State fan who has been born and raised in the south. While I am also a big Vanderbilt fan, OSU is my first love. It’s not easy trying to root for a Non-SEC school in the heart of SEC country, but I continue to fight the helpless fight. While I loathe the success shared by the conference, I also admire it. This is the most dominant run for a conference in any sport for a long time. People ask me all the time if i wish OSU was in the SEC. Of course I do, but that is unlikely to ever happen. Until then, I’ll continue to enjoy living in the south, where SEC football is king.