Sports 56 WHBlog Q

July 27, 2008

SEC Media Days: A Recap

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Will Askew @ 11:17 am

I’m more and more amazed about how important college football is to the fabric of Southern society and to the hearts of people here. I love college football, but I have never really understood the psyche of the “Southern college football fan.” And nowhere is that fan more present than at SEC Media Days.

Day 1:

Wednesday was pretty slow. I spilled coffee on George Lapides’s lap before anything even started, so I’ve got that going for me. I’ve got to be honest…if there’s one person besides Nick Saban at SEC Media Days with power, it’s George. He just owns the Wynfrey Hotel. I’m kind of surprised that there weren’t fans waiting for him like Saban with as much experience as he has here. Wednesday was the only day without people making the rounds early, so the early shows were somewhat uneventful. With Sports 56 Middays, the action started to heat up a little, with Florida, Vanderbilt, LSU, and Mississippi State showing up.

Tim Tebow was a presence. The guy understands how much power he has, and the responsibility that goes along with it. He went on three mission trips (three!!) in the offseason, and just gets how to be a star athlete. Other than Nick Saban, Tebow was certainly the biggest name here, and the media following was fitting. One thing I was surprised at…Vanderbilt was the only team here who sent all of their players down to radio row for interviews. That’s frankly kind of embarrassing for the other schools. Is LSU too big for radio now? Does Mississippi State even care about being relevant? Very frustrating.

I will say this about Vanderbilt…they may not be the best football team in the SEC, but that is a first-class program. From the SIDs there to the head coach to the players, everyone was classy and friendly. And George Smith is a great story…he had transverse myelitis his freshman year and was temporarily paralyzed. He has come all the way back, and with Earl Bennett gone, he will be one of the focal points of the offense. I love a comeback story, and George Smith’s is a great one.

We finished the day talking to Bobby Johnson, who is like Steve Martin with a Carolina accent. Another class guy. He told us that three Memphians–John Stokes and DeAndre Jones of MUS and Chris Marve of White Station–could be in the mix at linebacker. Being a MUS grad myself and dating a White Stationer, that’s good to see.

Day 2:

By far the craziest day–Alabama, Tennessee, Ole Miss, and Georgia were here. Nick Saban’s mere presence alone caused grown Alabama fans to weep. I’ve never seen anything like it. I have to say, I didn’t expect Nick Saban to participate much in the radio row portion of the festivities, because, well, he’s Nick Saban. But he walked around to most of the stations, even hitting ours for a couple of minutes before heading upstairs. Even more surprisingly, he came back down afterwards and hit the others. Shocking. And his entrance did kind of go like this (thanks to EDSBS).

Saban

Of course, Wednesday was Subpoena-gate day, with Phil Fulmer getting served before even walking in the door. If I may for a second talk to my fellow Alabama fans…

I know a lot of you have this hatred in your heart for Phil Fulmer that will never die, because he apparently turned us in for cheating. So you sit there and call him in to give a deposition, and serve him at SEC Media Days, because that’s embarrassing to Fulmer. Let it go. We beat them on the field last year 41-17. I mean, really…isn’t that what matters? The probation is over. We cheated. We got caught. Get over it, and don’t cheat again next time. Seriously.

Ok. I feel better. About this whole story, I’m not sure how big of a story it actually was. It’s easy when you’re actually there to get wrapped up in a story like this, but I’m not too sure it’s that big of a deal, frankly. So he got called in for a deposition. Great. Frankly, the bigger story was how big of an ass the Jackson County attorney’s office looks for serving it to him in front of everyone.

Thursday, as opposed to Wednesday, was a much more productive day. Someone at our station talked to every person there save Mark Richt, which was amazing with all of the power people running around. Probably my two favorite interviews were Thursday, with Georgia d-lineman Jeff Owens and Alabama safety Rashad Johnson. They were really good guys.

As far as Ole Miss goes, I got the impression from everyone that optimism abounds. If I were on with Wolo and Stats and playing Buy, Sell, Hold, I would hold Ole Miss. I do think they will improve, and I don’t think their coach is a complete moron. I do think, though, that we need to wait and see. I will say this–some guys from ESPN 1380 in Little Rock were there all week, and they HATED Houston Nutt. Used the term “snake” to describe him. That’s no way to talk about they guy who did this, boys.

“DARREN MCFADDEN! BABY!”

Thursday, I had a beer and sat by the pool. And got in the hottest hot tub ever. I swear, the thing was like a thousand degrees. It could melt rock.

Day 3:

Friday was the least eventful of the three days. Everyone was beginning to clear out at this point, and most of the name schools had already gone. Arkansas, Kentucky, Auburn, and South Carolina all were in attendance today.

I have to say, of all the schools there, I think Kentucky would have to win the Apathy Award for Universal Indifference. They didn’t show up on radio row, and I couldn’t really find anyone who cared. Unlike Wednesday, when there were actually people that we wanted to talk to, Kentucky had none. South Carolina was somewhat similar, although Steve Spurrier’s press conference was entertaining. “We’ve got a good tight end…He’s going to be part of our ball-catching plan” may be the best line of the week.

Arkansas’s players, Elston Forte and Jonathan Luigs, made the rounds on radio row today, and were very nice guys. They seem to say that the transition from Houston Nutt to Bobby Petrino is going extremely well, although I’m sure it’s not as rosy as everyone said today. From what I understand, the players really liked Houston Nutt, and Bobby Petrino’s personality is very different. But he’s a really good football coach, and that’s what matters.

Despite everything, I really like Tommy Tuberville. He’s just a cool guy. He showed up a day early just to walk around radio row, and continued Friday. He just gets it. I really do wish he would stop beating Alabama though.

With that, we packed up and headed home. I will say this about the drive–it’s much easier now that Highway 78 is almost done. The fact that it’s still not done yet is still amazing after 30 years of work, but oh well.

Overall, we had a great week. It was invaluable experience for me personally, and I finally got to visit the heart of SEC football country in the craziest setting of the season. Now for the games. By the way, WJOX in Birmingham has the hottest production staff ever. Every time one of them would walk down radio row, heads were turning. I need to get my resume ready. Just kidding, Eli. Kind of.

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