It’s September 3rd and another football season is upon us. It should be reason to celebrate. There’s no sport on this Earth that I love more than college football. Tonight I’ll watch the Tar Heels and Gamecocks in what I’m told is called “The Carolina Clash.” I’ll watch the Blue Devils’ game against Tulane. I’ll watch teams that I have absolutely zero interest in and that kickoff way after I should be in bed.
Like I said, I really love college football.
And yet, I’ll never fully be able to embrace it the way I want. For you see, I’m an SEC fan living in ACC country.
You call us names like “redneck” and “ignorant” and “pathetic.” You tell us our opinions are flawed. The local media goes out of its way to make us feel unwelcome. And why? What is our crime?
Our crime is that we like to watch better football than the ACC is capable of consistently providing.
Understand that not all ACC football is unwatchable garbage. Just most of it is. Like the vast majority of it. The conference has what? 14 teams? Three (maybe four) of them are not just a hot steaming pile of poop.
And here’s the worst part. On a college football Saturday, It’s always the dung heaps that interrupt what is usually a battle between two SEC teams that are both in the top 25. What’s that? Top ranked Mississippi State and number five Alabama are kicking off right now? Sorry. WRAL is sticking with this barnburner between two 4-5 teams.
I recognize I am a long way from Tuscaloosa, where I went to college. Here, my tastes and I are in the minority. I just wonder how anyone that is watching college football on a Saturday can look at the ACC Network game and be interested. Is it the country singer that no one has ever heard of that will inevitably show up each week to be filmed eating Bojangles and driving a Ford (it could be Chevy or Dodge, but really, who cares?) truck? Is it the church A/V club picture quality and camera work? Surely you know there is a far more important game that this nonsense is forcing you to miss, right?
Then there’s this adorable thing you people think is called tailgating. Now, don’t get me wrong. This state does a fine job of tailgating. The food is great (as long as it isn’t what you seem to think of as barbecue, but that is a different article for a different time) and everyone has a good time, my judgmental self included.
You’re all just going to have to trust me when I tell you that a Chapel Hill tailgate and yes, even a Wolfpack tailgate is a quaint little affair compared to the epic pregame parties that happen before SEC games. My friend David once told me that back in 2004 when Ohio State came to Raleigh to play the Wolfpack, he and his family had to leave their house at 5:30 in the morning on that Saturday to get a tailgate spot a block from Carter-Finley.
I have been to a games in Tuscaloosa against the likes of Louisiana Tech and Florida International and Tulane that required you leave by Thursday morning to find a tailgating spot that was even on campus. Now, I do wish that Bryant-Denny was more like Carter-Finley in that way, but don’t try to impress me with stories of the hardships created by tailgating if your tale doesn’t involve having to sleep in a parking lot.
The final thing that makes college football season hell on SEC fans here in ACC country is you, the fans of these so-so teams. Are you a Florida State or Clemson fan? Good. I don’t mind listening to your “best case scenario” chat. I don’t mind conspiracy theories in general. Hell, my native state may as well change its slogan from “Sweet Home Alabama” to “You know Gary Danielson hates the Crimson Tide, right?” given all the times I’ve heard it said by relatives I’ve watched games with. The majority of ACC fan talk is so much more insufferable.
“You know how hard it is to win when State has to play the other team and the refs?”
“ESPN has always hated Virginia. Just listen to the way they talk about us.”
I’ve heard both of these statements made without even so much as a hint of irony. Look at the history of Wolfpack football. For that matter, look at the history of most ACC football teams north of Clemson. Do any of them jump out as worthy of the man taking strides to hold them down?
Then there’s the statement that makes my blood boil. It tends to go something like “Hell, if everything goes right, Carolina might go 8-4 this season.” How sad is it to be excited about a season where the ceiling is the Music City Bowl? That would be like me bragging that if everything goes right for the Alabama basketball team, we might make it to the quarterfinals of the CBI tournament!
I know that there are a whole lot of people that wear purple or black that want me to mention that the tailgating atmospheres in Greenville and Boone are superior to the ACC tailgate scenes in the state. That may be true, but your teams play outside of power 5 conferences, so it’s hard to care enough to make the drive to check them out with my own two eyes.
I also know it’s important here for me to tell you that I am a realistic guy and that I’m not homesick for Alabama at all. I realize that states like Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana, where the SEC is king don’t have a whole lot else going for them. I’m happy to be a North Carolinian. It’s where my home is. It’s where my children are born and where they’ll grow up watching at best, mediocre college football.
There are things about SEC fans that annoy me too. I won’t bore you with talk of seven consecutive national championships, especially seeing as how the conference hasn’t won one in two years. Also, I only celebrate three of those titles. I don’t care what Florida, LSU or Auburn did in that time. I hate those teams. I would sooner root for ISIS than Auburn.
Ending this piece isn’t easy. I’m not really sure what to say, because it’s not as if I have learned some lesson. I don’t really have a whole lot nice to say about ACC football. I mean, it’s easier for me to see the season ending with no SEC teams in the College Football Playoffs than it is to say that I think Alabama, Auburn or Georgia are going to win the National Championship. So there. That’s the best compromise we’re going to come to.