The point is, and we talk real slow down here, so it may take awhile to get to it, that we believe some things regardless of science and sometimes common sense. And what we mostly believe in — across racial, political, religious and economic lines — is football. We believe absolutely in our supremacy over all pretenders, upstarts and false prophets from the North, East, West and some heathen parts of Florida that are too sissy to mix it up with the real men of the SEC. We have been fed that belief since we were infants. That, and an unhealthy amount of Coca-Cola in our baby bottles.
But for years and years, we have even had the science of the BCS on our side and have grown accustomed to the pretty way that crystal trophy catches the light; for three years it has not even exited the state of Alabama. We are sure of this pre-eminence — so sure that we view all the years when the South was not dominant in college football as a surreal space-and-time fluctuation, like the dancing hot dog and bun they used to show at intermission at the Bama Drive-in theater on Highway 21 north of Anniston, Ala., which we watched through a blur of Boone’s Farm. It was just temporary, just intermission, ‘til the real show resumed.
We felt no disappointment in January, when two SEC teams played in a rematch for the national championship in New Orleans. We have long known that the real battle was in playing each other anyway. South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier, who was nicknamed the Evil Genius when he was the head coach at Florida, said recently that it is harder to win an SEC championship than a national one. “Ask Nick Saban,” he said, though he might have just been trying to be a smart aleck.
My uncle John Couch, who made tires for 20 years at the Goodyear plant in Gadsden, Ala., is a Crimson Tide fan. Years ago, in the era of Bear Bryant and Shug Jordan, he suffered through a brief Auburn resurgence, in years he cannot precisely recall, nor cares to. But he remembers seeing a co-worker strutting around the plant in an old Auburn jacket. He remembers how he walked up to the man, leaned in close to him and sniffed. “I thought so,” he said. “What?” the man asked. “Mothballs,” he said.
Rick Bragg’s Down Here is everything I love all at once - great writing (a given from him,) college football and the dominance of the SEC.
24 days, 8 hours, 11 minutes and 8 seconds to kickoff. Not that I’m counting.