A Big 12 Kid's Perspective in the SEC World

Eric MariottContributor IAugust 13, 2009

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 02:  Defensive back Robert Johnson #17 of the Utah Utes is hit by receiver Julio Jones #8 of the Alabama Crimson Tide as Johnson drops the interception attempt in the second quarter during the 75th Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 2, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Congratulations to Alabama and the SEC, you have yet another convert.  I hope you are happy, because I have an incurable disease, and I must share my plight with you Bama fans.  As an Oklahoma State Alum, I wanted to share with you how Alabama/SEC football has affected myself and what it’s like for an ‘outsider’ looking in. 


          The beginning of my story starts out with meeting a woman back in Oklahoma about 7 years ago.  She was the cousin of a high school friend visiting from Alabama.  We had lunch together as a group and did social things together on holidays when everyone was back in the area.  This woman and I started to develop an interest in each other socially which quickly turned romantic.  We talked on the phone nightly for 1-2 hours a night, even longer.  I was living in southern Oklahoma, and she was living in this mysterious place called Tuscaloosa.  Realizing that a ten hour drive was a pain, I drove a little over an hour to DFW airport and flew to Birmingham one weekend a month for about two years.  During one of those trips this same lady wanted to take me to a football game.  It had been a few years since I had been to a college football game, so I was excited.


          We arrived on the quad that Saturday to something I had never seen of that magnitude before.  Children running and throwing footballs, men and women dressed well to go watch a football game, and the aroma of excellent food everywhere.  Last but not least, the people were friendly.  During that game, I saw “some guy named Croyle” get injured in the game, met at least 40 people that my girlfriend knew, and finally saw a stadium that held more than 75,000 people and it was packed.  I said to myself that these Alabama fans were crazy.


          That was when the trap was set.  I ended up moving to Tuscaloosa and married that chick that took me to the football game.  Fast forward 5 years later and I will share with you what I have learned/experience since.


          From the second week of July until the second week of January, silence occurs at 2pm in my office so that we can listen to the craziness that is Finebaum.


          92, 138 isn’t a random number.  Even the children know what that means in the elementary schools. 


          It’s only cold the last two games of the season in the SEC, versus being only hot the first two games of the season in the Big 12. 


          The number of Alabama polo shirts in my closet: 8.  The number of Oklahoma State polos in my closet: 1. 


          I have learned to think of my wife wearing a houndstooth hat is sexy. 


          The people here hate Coach Fran worse than I did, and I hated him in the 80’s when he coached Pittsburg State in Kansas.


          The people here hate Les Miles more than I do, and I hated him when he was an assistant coach at Oklahoma State in the 90s. 


          I have a split personality:  I hate anything Crimson if it has anything to do with OU, but love it when has Bama on it, while only Oklahoma State orange is the only acceptable orange EVER to me. 


          I learned what Fat Phil meant.


          Defense can win a game.


          ESPN Gameday comes to those who win.


          Tailgating is more than a hamburger or a hotdog that is literally cooked on your tailgate on a shoebox sized grill. 


          Men wear khakis and women wear heels to games sometimes.


          What it felt like to have your team be ranked #1 in the country, and wow, it sure felt good.




          I experienced all of those things.  I love the atmosphere that is SEC football.  This truly is the best conference in the country and I am glad to be a fan of it and participate.  I love how time stands still on Monday mornings around the water cooler and how folks actually study up on their team and their opponents.  How has this affected me?  Well, I didn’t graduate from Alabama; my wife did, but somehow I would love for my kids to go to Alabama and enjoy the experience here.  I love coming to The Quad to tailgate and make friends and listen to Pat Forde talk on ESPN radio, and be standing 30 feet away watching him.  I love walking in to the stadium and hearing a roar of 92,138 crazy fans screaming and not seeing an entire empty section, even when your team is ranked 12th in the nation.  This is what football really is: it’s fan loyalty, even when the loyalty seems a little crazy.  It’s the rivalry with Auburn, Tennessee, and LSU,  a rivalry so intense that sometimes it gets a little out of hand.  People that didn’t even know me took me by the hand and said, glad to have you as a fellow fan.   


          I miss Big 12 football, especially now that Oklahoma State is becoming a great program, and I try to catch what games I can.  I am grateful for my education, my experiences, and all that came with going to college there, but now I am here, and I have a new home, and a new disease.  Thank you for taking me in and treating me like I have been a lifelong Bama fan.  So if you don’t mind, I will write a column here from time to time.  I am a convert, and you have to deal with me.


          One last thing, above hating Tennessee and Auburn and LSU….I still really hate OU.



Roll Tide.   Go Pokes.