COLLEGE STATION, TX - SEPTEMBER 26: The Southeastern Conference logo and the Texas A&M Aggies logo is seen on a screen during a press conference for Texas A&M accepting an invitation to join the Southeastern Conference on September 26, 2011 in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Aaron M. Sprecher/Getty Images)
Welcome, Aggies, to the SEC. Congratulations on making it to a conference that recognizes that it takes more than one team to make a league. (And on getting away from Iowa State and Baylor.)
But you might be unfamiliar with some of the finer points of being in the SEC, which is understandable. So we've put together a welcome package of sorts for you. This is the last time we will ever do anything for you, because you are now subject to the "nobody makes fun of my brother but me" rule.
Here's what you need to know to be the fan of an SEC team:
- Verne Lundquist will mispronounce your quarterback's name, even if your quarterback's name is John Smith and he is a Heisman candidate. But you must love Verne anyway. Really, you must; it's in the CBS contract. (Gary Danielson is another matter.)
- You will lose at least one game a year because of an awful officiating call or bizarre rule enforcement, but it's okay because it usually evens out. Unless you're Derek Dooley. And that a special case, because the space-time continuum hates Derek Dooley.
- You like barbeque, right? Okay.
- Some teams in the SEC have more than one mascot, though they will tell you that they do not. The Tennessee Volunteers are represented by a dog -- and I have never made the connection between the two. Auburn will tell you that they are the Tigers, and "War Eagle" is only their battle cry -- except that they have an eagle at all of their home games. The Alabama Crimson Tide's mascot is
Bear Bryant's ghostan elephant, which is notably not a tide of any sort. And Ole Miss is a case study in multiple personality disorder that we will get to shortly.
- How many Chick-fil-A's does College Station have? Five? Um, you're going to need a few more.
- Sometimes, you will play Vanderbilt. You will outgain the Commodores by 200 yards, turn the ball over once, and dominate the game in every conceivable way. When it is over, you will win by four.
- Our nation has a well-developed set of money laundering laws -- study them. No reason.
- At least one of your games each season is likely going to have Andre Ware as the "analyst." No, he clearly doesn't watch much SEC football. We apologize in advance.
And now, let's introduce you to some of the teams you'll be playing against over the next few years:
Alabama. How do we put this kindly? The Tide will claim every national title that is not bolted to the floor. But they're fine people otherwise. Seriously, very few of them are tree-killers. And they do bring a lot of tradition to the conference. You might have heard of their greatest coach, Bear Bryant. Man, if only you could have had Bryant coach at your school.
Arkansas. You know the Hogs, but not like we know them. You played Arkansas before a select few of their fans went a special kind of crazy and started filing open-records requests for the coach's text message bills, then hiring currently-employed coaches and announcing it at a middle-of-the-night press conference that looked more like a pep rally, then getting angry at everyone who pointed out that probably wasn't the nicest thing to do.
Auburn. You will not have to worry about them for the next five years. Google "cam newton $200,000" and you'll know why.
Florida. Most Florida fans do not realize that football was invented before 1990, and Steve Spurrier was not actually the man who invented it. The team is usually a solid one, if not great, but despite this will never play well in the state of Mississippi or poorly in Jacksonville. No one can explain this phenomenon. To send them into an apoplectic rage, just mention Ron Zook or Steve Addazio.
Georgia. The Dawgs have not won a national championship since 1980. This information is useful to have around, since they think of themselves as a perennial contender for the crystal football. They are apparently not well-recognized in Montana. Their mascot is a bulldog that has died far more frequently since they keep refusing to name the interim mascot as a permanent one. Their bloggers are some of the smartest and wittiest, though, so we keep them around. Just make sure you have at least four hours to devote to every DawgSports post.
Kentucky. They play basketball. That is really all you need to know about Kentucky, because that is all their fans know about Kentucky.
LSU. One of two different sets of Tigers in the SEC, many of us have taken to calling them the "Bayou Bengals" as a way of telling the two apart. But LSU has one thing over Auburn -- a real-live Tiger. You can watch him live, if you'd like. LSU fans must also be referred to as "corn dogs." No one really knows why, though it allegedly has something to do with their fans smelling like corn dogs. No one knows why that it is, either. In fact, LSU is a land of mysteries, as anyone who has ever read the transcript of a Les Miles press conference knows.
Mississippi. Every male SEC fan must apparently visit the Grove before he dies. (I have not done this yet, though I intend to rectify the situation as soon as possible.) Also, they had a thing with the whole "Col. Reb is a racist" argument, so they have unveiled a new mascot -- the Rebel Black Bear. Trust me, I wish I were making that up. They are the Rebels. And the Black Bears. And the Rebel Black Bears. Really, call them whatever you want -- they're probably going to lose their annual game against you anyway.
Mississippi State. They ring cowbells. Very loudly. Part of this is because of tradition. Part of it is also to distract themselves from the fact that their football team usually isn't very good. They were supposed to now be a force to be reckoned with because of head coach Dan Mullen, who was to be a head coach somewhere else within the next few years. Mississippi State fans are ringing their cowbells very loudly right now.
South Carolina. You might think that all the talk of SEC championships and national titles from Gamecock fans this year is because of their breakthrough season last year. You would be wrong. South Carolina fans always seem to think that their beloved Gamecocks are on the verge of a BCS championship, despite nearly 100 years of evidence and a thousand destroyed Steve Spurrier visors to the contrary. They routinely packed more than 80,000 people into a stadium even when the team was going 0-11, which really says more about the number of things to do in South Carolina on a Saturday than anything else. They do not see anything wrong with having a chicken for a mascot, and they have heard every pun you can think of involving their name. Really.
Tennessee. You will likely, at some point in the course of your life as an SEC fan, be able to tap out "Rocky Top" on a table by memory. This is because Tennessee's band plays it at every opportunity. When they have only 11 players on the field for a crucial last-minute play against LSU, for example. Their current head coach, Derek Dooley, is the only one to have served two consecutive years in the last four. Longtime head coach Phil Fulmer was shown the door after
consuming all the doughnuts in Knoxville a disappointing 2008 season. He was replaced by Lane Kiffin -- we'll tell you all about Kiffin sometime, but we don't have 1,000 words to spend on him right now. Dooley is the son of Vince Dooley, which is good for him, because he wouldn't have been hired if his name was .
Vanderbilt. We won't make fun of them here, because being a Vanderbilt fan is hard enough. But enjoy Nashville when you have a road game against the Commodores.