Last night the University of Alabama faced the University of Georgia in the College Football National Championship, in all places – Atlanta- the heart of the South. The games dramatic ending when Alabama’s freshman quarterback connected with a freshman receiver allowed the SEC and the South, in particular, to showcase each team’s “best and brightest” on both the field and in the stands.
I’m a product of the South and I’m proud of our region. I’m proud of where we are and how we continue to handle the multiple challenges we face daily. I love everything about the South. So much so, I built a website dedicated to promoting its attributes. I grew up listening to and watching SEC football so naturally, I’m biased on why it’s the best overall conference in college football. I’ve also become a fan of the fans that support the 14 SEC teams that showcase what the South represents.
For the better part of my life, I’ve been a University of Tennessee fan. I know the feeling of seeing your team win the National Championship (yes, I realize it was 20 years ago) and the frustration of watching the same program squander their resources over the past decade. Fans of other SEC teams can certainly relate.
Watching the games incredible finish, I’m reminded how much pride and class the SEC demonstrates. This season I visited six of the SEC’s 14 campuses writing the Tailgating SEC Style series. The dozens of fans I met welcomed my friends and me into their tailgate tents or area and did so with the gracious hospitality the South has patented over two centuries.
Sure, SEC fans are competitive and when necessary, defend their schools and teams honor. There are always a few rude and nasty folks that give “sportsmanship” and “hospitality” a bad name. For that small percentage of our fan base, I’ll offer a blanket apology to anyone who needs one. Southerners – by birth or relocation – should know better.
Despite my gridiron objections to Alabama and Georgia for being bitter rivals of my home state team, each possesses a fan base that exudes class at the highest levels. I was fortunate to visit both Tuscaloosa and Athens on my tailgate tour and immensely enjoyed interacting with fans I met and likely will never see again. But if I do, it would be as if we were old friends.
And the athletes; what an amazing demonstration of raw football talent! I don’t mean to infer the Alabama and Georgia athletes are not well coached; far from it, because Nick Saban and Kirby Smart are two of the SEC’s greatest minds and men in college football. The teacher and the student, Coach Saban proved to the country once and for all why he’s the greatest living, if not the greatest college football coach of all time.
Georgia’s fans were disappointed and rightfully so. The “Dawgs” outperformed the Tide for at least 50 of the games 60 minutes, yet it wasn’t enough to deny Coach Saban and his team a sixth national championship. The one certainty is Kirby Smart’s Georgia Bulldogs will be a team to be reckoned with for years, if not decades to come.
The SEC securing another NCAA championship doesn’t mean I love the South any more than I do already. But this year, this game, in particular, gives me yet another reason to express my love for the South and all it stands for.
And as of today, there are 14 SEC teams who believe they will win that coveted title next season. That’s one reason we love our football. #SECRules
Paul Stanley, Founder, OneSouthernMan