Attempting to explain the relevance, and importance, of college football in the south ...
Simply put, it's different down here - just ask former Heisman trophy winner Frank Sinkwich.
"I'm from Ohio ," the University of Georgia legend once said, "but if I'd known what it was like down south, I would have crawled down here on my hands and knees."
Football in the south is an interesting beast. It's not a game, it's not a pastime...it's a way of life. It's a mixed drink of family, religion, politics and pageantry, spiked with shots of antagonism, arrogance and pride. .
Southern football isn't tailgating, it's all-nighting. It's not about painting your face, it's about painting your chest. It's not about grills, it's about cookers. Inside the stadium, you don't talk to your neighbors, you yell at them. Those around you aren't strangers, they're 80,000 of your closest friends. You don't go on the road when you travel to see your team play...you go home.
Southern football is why you drive through Wrightsville , Georgia and see "The Home of Herschel Walker" on Highway 15. It's why hundreds of adults in the state of Alabama are named "Bear". Southern football is Billy Cannon, Bo Jackson and Archie, Eli and Peyton Manning. It's Bobby Bowden, Vince Dooley and the Ole' Ball Coach. It's detergent boxes under toilet paper, frat boys in team-colored pants - it's Lynyrd Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet in button-down shirts, Southern Living with a cowboy hat; it's a clash of styles that produces a scene often imitated but never duplicated. Ever.
The players, the coaches and the rivalries are captivating here in the south. Florida-Georgia weekend causes more people to call in sick on Monday morning than the stomach flu and strep throat, Alabama-Auburn divides households, neighborhoods and the entire state, and The Egg Bowl is a true late November fixture. The storylines are just as alluring. Think "The Choke at Doak", "Lindsay Scott!!" or the 1961 Clemson-South Carolina game where a group of USC students impersonated the Tiger football team in pre-game warm-ups, catering to the crowd and the band before flopping all over the field and mocking Clemson's agricultural background with milking hand-motions.
Though the press tries to hype the last week in the regular season as rivalry week, every week is rivalry week in the south.
Something down here makes this game different. College football has a legitimate influence on state government, a major affect on commerce and local economies and is the lifeblood and pulse of God's country.
Perhaps former Tennessee Volunteer radio personality George Mooney put it best: "Southerners are proud of their football heritage, their schools, and their teams. And they share a deep pride that goes with being from the South," he said.
It's a match made, and currently outplayed, in heaven - Let the season begin!!!