Lesson #1: Football = Religion.
The SEC, or Southeastern Conference, is the church, at least where I come from. College football is a conversation starter.
Everyone has a preferred team, either their alma mater or the big school in the state they are from. And each team has a major rivalry that divides households: Alabama-Auburn, Florida-Georgia, USC-Clemson, Tennessee-Vanderbilt, Georgia-Georgia Tech.
Schools included in the SEC conference are the University of Alabama, the University of Arkansas, Auburn University, University of Florida, University of Georgia, University of Kentucky, Louisiana State University, University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), Mississippi State University, University of Missouri, University of South Carolina, University of Tennessee, Texas A&M University and Vanderbilt University.
The ACC, Atlantic Coast Conference, is the other conference in the region. It includes Boston College, Clemson University, Duke University, Florida State University, Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), University of Maryland, University of Miami, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, University of Virginia, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) and Wake Forest University.
Lesson #2: Know Your Traditions.
Each school dates back to the early days of our country and the traditions reflect that. Do the phrases “Death Valley,” “between the hedges” and “roll tide” mean nothing to you? Do some research.
- Clemson: Howard’s Rock is a rock in the Death Valley stadium that players rub before entering the field. It serves as their good luck charm.
- Tennessee: Vol Navy refers to the flotilla of boats that sail the Tennessee River on game days. “Vol” is a shortening for Volunteers, the University of Tennessee mascot. Tennessee is called “The Volunteer State” for the many citizens that served in the War of 1812.
- Georgia Tech: The Ramblin’ Wreck is a 1930 Ford Model A Sport Coupe that is present at all major sporting events for the school. It has led the football team into the stadium since the 1960s. The term “rambling wreck” also refers to students and alumni of Georgia Tech, named for the contraptions devised by engineers from the school.
- The Georgia-Florida Game: Known as the “world’s largest cocktail party,” this meeting of rivals is held in the neutral city of Jacksonville, Florida. The game has gone on every year, except during World War II, since 1926. The Landing is a retail district where much of the pre-gaming takes place.
- Auburn: You will hear fans chant “War Eagle,” which is the school’s fight song. There are many stories surrounding the phrase’s association with the team, but the most prominent is that in preparation for a game, fans were saying that it would be war. An eagle was spotted and so began the “War eagle.” There has been an eagle as a mascot, not to be confused with their actual mascot of the tiger, that flies above the stadium. After a win, students throw toilet paper in the trees in front of Toomer’s Corner, a local corner store.
- LSU: Their mascot is also the tigers, but they are the only team with a live Bengal present for every game, known as Mike the Tiger. There have been six Mikes.
- Georgia: Uga, an English bulldog, is the official mascot of the team. There have been 9 Ugas and there is a mausoleum which houses previous mascots. Before every game, a trumpet player in the stands plays “Glory, Glory,” the rally song. Games in Sanford Stadium are known as “between the hedges” because of the large bushes surrounding the field. It keeps crowds from rushing onto the field. After victories, fans ring the Chapel Bell to celebrate a win.
- Alabama: “Roll tide” is the battle cry of the team, the Crimson Tide, named for their colors. You will see an elephant on many of the school’s logos, which was named for the big players in 1930.
Lesson #3: Be Prepared.
Know what type of game you are going to: day or night, hot or cold weather. Attending a cold-weather game means you should be drinking mostly liquor to keep warm. A day game means that tailgating could begin as early as 9 am. And remember: eat before you drink!
A few of our gameday essentials include:
Standard tailgating fare is fried chicken with all the fixings. Other staples include chicken salad sandwiches, burgers, barbecue, coleslaw, and fruit salad.
Expect keg beer at most tailgating tents, along with bloody marys and mimosas for early morning games. Lynchburg Lemonade and mystery flask swigs keep you buzzing before the game.
Cornhole and ladder ball are two tailgating games to keep you entertained, and drinking, until game time. Cornhole consists of wooden boards with holes in them that you try to throw a bean bag into. Ladder ball is a similar concept, with a ladder of PVC pipes where you try to loop a string with two balls on the end on the rungs.
Lesson #4: Dress the Part.
I never went to a big sports school, but would attend games with my friends. I always knew to pack a dress in whatever the school’s colors were.
And most importantly, HAVE FUN!