Smug SEC fans should stop whining, enjoy success
Tuesday, August 26, 2008 3:14 AM
By Rob Oller
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Jim was on fire. Not engulfed in flames, mind you, but burning all the same. A match had been struck on his anger, by the mere mention of the Southeastern Conference.
Sometimes it takes getting away to come away with a new perspective. Spend enough time following Ohio State football and you'd swear the Buckeyes have become the sole punching bag for college football fans living beyond the borders of the Big Ten. It has become fashionable to hate Ohio State.
A recent trip West, however, turned up another villain in the mix: the SEC. The arrogance of that deeply Southern conference wears on those whose allegiances lie outside of Dixie.
Fans such as Jim, a Salmon fisherman in Bodega Bay, Calif., have no use for the SEC, which he thinks resembles a fashion show diva strutting the runway.
"I can't stand it," said Jim, who grew up in the East before relocating to Pac-10 country about 30 years ago. "They think they're soooo better than everyone else."
Jim is only one voice, of course, but he assured that his disdain for all things SEC is shared by many of his buddies.
Regardless, the point is that the SEC's recent success -- three national championships in the past five seasons -- combined with Southerners saluting their own achievements, have turned the conference into a corporate version of the Buckeyes, which is to say neither is hugely popular away from its own turf, if for different reasons.
Nationally, Ohio State is viewed as underachieving at best and overhyped at worst. An overrated team tends to be a persecuted team, and most of the country thinks the Buckeyes were in over their heads during losses to SEC members Florida and Louisiana State in back-to-back national championship games.
Not coincidentally, most of the Buckeye bashing originates from SEC backers, who are the first to point out that OSU's bowl record against SEC teams is 0-9. They also are the first to campaign for a playoff system that will expose teams such as Ohio State as frauds while allowing the SEC to prove its dominance.
If there is one thing more annoying than an arrogant fan base, it is a smug fan base. The SEC happens to feature both. Plus, SEC fans like to whine. At least that's how outsiders see it.
People tend to forget that not every team from the south belongs to the SEC, an oversight that is particularly galling to successful programs like Florida State and Miami.
"I think SEC fans annoy Miami fans. It's probably that arrogance," said Randy Mell, who helps cover college football for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "SEC fans won't tell you they invented football, but that (the SEC) made football matter."
Fans from the SEC are particularly proficient at proclaiming their conference the most difficult to win, then citing that belief as a reason more SEC teams don't make it into the national championship game. When they do win it all, that's as it should be.
The hue and cry south of the Mason-Dixon Line will increase this week as SEC'ers rip Ohio State for playing Youngstown State. The criticism would be more legit if the SEC didn't play patsies of its own, including Georgia Southern, Norfolk State and Wofford, which, like YSU, are members of the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA).
The SEC needs to be careful here. Is it the best conference? Probably, but that does not excuse its constant crying about how the difficult intraconference schedule borders on the unfair. Just play the games and shut up about it. Proof of your power can be seen -- consecutive national titles -- and doesn't need to be heard.