On the Clock: SEC Media Days Starts the Football Countdown
There's a good chance if you live south of Cincinnati, Ohio---today is cause for Celebration. And while you may not be one of the thousands descending on Hoover, Alabama, site of the SEC Media Days celebration, there's a good chance most life-long southerners are at least paying attention.
And despite a 2-year National Title drought by the league and it's seemingly diminished stature after Ohio State and Clemson both walked away with titles and Heisman Trophy's the past couple of years--everything will start--and end with talk about Alabama and the guy in the photo above....Nick Saban.
In the state of Alabama and in the southern states, "Media Days" officially kick off the start of the season. Taking place in mid-July of every year, it is the precursor to training camp...and shortly thereafter--the start of the season.
For those who've never attended, SEC Media Days is somewhat of a misleading title. It's more like going to a Comic-Con or Fan Festival. The lobby and conference areas of the Wynfrey Hotel are jammed with fans and TV crews--with a handful of surviving radio stations thrown in for good measure.
I covered Media Days in 2004-2008, the era when it blossomed or became over-exposed depending on your point of view. The event went from an informal affair to an all-out circus.
The years I covered the event---there were roughly 700 to 1000 writers, still photographers, radio folks, tv photographers and reporters and a handful of TV Network types. The past couple of years....those numbers have swelled to double that amount. Even10-years ago it was messy, in the lobby a couple hundred fans straining to see their coach and his players walk in and go up the escalator.
At the top of the escaltor---the local TV photographers looking for any video they can of said coach and players following each in a pack, jockeying and trying to get directly in front and walking backwards in a herd of their peers.
The coaches...and players would shuffle from room to room. The extra-large writers room with hundreds at their tables with laptops and audio recorders straining to get a question and a largely generic answer.
Meanwhile the TV guys sit in the various conference rooms A Room, B Room, C Room and so on....waiting for someone to come to the podium and get 5 minutes worth of questions. All getting the same rehearsed answers.
But sometimes there is drama---or adventure.
In 2008, we were there when then University of Tennessee coach Philip Fulmer got out of his rented car in the Wynfrey atrium and was immediately handed a subpoena to be deposed in an allegation related to an NCAA Investigation of the University of Alabama.
Because the event was so frigging serious (and still is), it was inevitably left up to former South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier to lighten the mood. He would almost always make a funny joke about Tennessee or the University of Georgia and the highlight of the 3-day event for him was a visit to a nearby Arby's...something that became a tradition of sorts....
Ironically, Spurrier was also a target--though we aren't sure why--after not voting former University of Florida QB Tim Tebow as the "All-SEC" top Quarterback. It didn't matter that Tebow had already secured the meaningless title. Florida fans and many others demanded what amounted to a Congressional investigation....
Alas, the event itself now is hyped to the extreme now by ESPN and broadcast non-stop on the "SEC Network". Which is perfectly acceptable here in the South. No, I don't watch it, nor do I long for covering it. I was inevitably a long day spent fighting with others for an absolutely meaningless quote.
But if the game is for the fans--this is the ultimate in "Fan Friendly" events. It also means football is near...and that alone is cause for celebration form most Southerners.....