Friday, December 5, 2008

The South Rules College Football

As a kid, right through my college days, I was interested in college football. I was a huge Roger Staubach fan at Navy which caused me later to be a Dallas Cowboys fan. If Roger had been drafted by Pittsburgh I probably would be a Steelers fan today. (shudder) Anyway, in the late 1970's I pretty much stopped caring about the college game. I watched the NFL relentlessly, but my entire college viewing interest had fallen off to maybe one or two bowl games over the holidays for the next nearly 30 years. My stated position was that I only had time to watch the best players play the game-- not amateurs.

In 2005 we returned to the South after about 22 years in exile in places like Chicago, Northern California, and Southern California. In short order I fell back under the sway of college football. All I can say is, it's different here. I grew up in the heart of Michigan v. Ohio State territory. I lived in the midst of the Texas v. Oklahoma, Cal v. Stanford, and UCLA v. Southern California rivalries among others. None of it comes close to SEC football passion. (Y'all can throw in Clemson, VATech, and GA Tech from the ACC too. Their fans are more like SEC fans and not like UNC, UVA or Duke football fans.) As the man says, it's Southern Fried Football. Color and pageantry? You bet.

Today's WSJ has an interesting piece on the dominance of Southern college football. And by Southern they're really talking about the SEC. It seems appropriate when #1 'bama is facing #2 Florida in the SEC Championship game this weekend. The national chin-waggers can go on and on about the BCS and determining which team is #1. Who cares? The #1 team in the nation is facing the #2 team in the nation this weekend-- one week after the final regular season games. I would say the winner Saturday is #1... no matter what happens a month from now in some bowl game. Now is when everybody is amped up and playing hard-- by January it's more like a post-season exhibition game.

From the WSJ article comes this:

...among states that have more than 10 native sons playing in the National Football League, the top six producers by percentage of population are Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Alabama, Florida and Georgia. Meanwhile, traditional Northern football states like Pennsylvania, which has long sent young men to heralded northern programs like Penn State, Notre Dame and Ohio State and has stocked the NFL for decades, are falling behind. Today there are 45% more native Louisianans (64) than Pennsylvanians (44) in the NFL, even though Louisiana has only one-third of Pennsylvania's population.

Now, that's all very interesting but they never quite get to the reason the Deep South... the Southeast... the by-Gawd Dirty South is dominant. The article goes all around it, talking about "speed", the effect a famous loss to Southern Cal had on Alabama, and the fact that LA, MS, SC, AL, FL and GA are the top producers of football talent by population. But they never can quite just spit out why that is. Folks in the Deep South know why, even if a New York writer can't say it. Do they even play college football in the Northeast these days? I don't mean intramurals.

As for Saturday's game for the national championship--- Roll Tide, Roll.
And next season? Go 'Cocks!