Draft King Analysis|
September 7, 2014
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com
Reader feedback is always welcomed here on Draft King. Sound off with your thoughts on Twitter (@LouPickney) or via email at LouPickney@gmail.com.
Last night I visited Ohio Stadium for the first time ever, attending the Virginia Tech/Ohio State game. I'll have more about that (and the first two weeks of college football and opening weekend of the NFL) in my next column. But, being in a real "When Worlds Collide" type situation living here in Columbus, Ohio, I decided to have some fun with things. And, I figured, why not share that fun with my readers on here?
To properly explain what happened, I need to give a little bit of back story. I try to be as transparent as possible on here about my background and influences so as to give proper context to my NFL Draft projections. I tend to watch more SEC football than the average fan, in large part because I grew up in Nashville and my brother is a grad (and season ticket holder for) Mississippi State. I live in Big Ten country now, though I spent the past two years in Huntington, WV so I have a better-than-average take on Conference USA and some context on how the WVU crowd thinks of life in the Big 12.
But it's the SEC part that is key, because that involves friends and family and time-honored traditions and some passions that run very deep. As for the schools, it's all over the board for me: I have vivid memories of being a young child and visiting my Mom's side of the family in east Tennessee and seeing their very strong love of the Tennessee Vols. Family in Nashville on my Dad's side tended to lean toward Vanderbilt, in large part because they are the local school and your generally are well-advised in life to support your neighbors.
But I've known fans from most of the SEC member institutions, from Florida fans I met while living in Tampa for five years to being thrust into the middle of the never-ending conflict between Alabama and Auburn in my year of living in a southern suburb of Birmingham in 2006-07. When Georgia beat Tennessee in 2002, my friend Amy who I worked with at WTSP called me and played the Georgia fight song on my answering machine.
In short, I've lived it. And one caveat: my alma mater is the University of Evansville, which dropped its football program after the 1997 season. Believe me, I remember -- I was there when it happened. I did color commentary for WUEV radio for the school's final game, which at the time we didn't know was going to be the end of the road. So, in that respect, since then I've thought of myself as a jilted fan who can cheer for whichever team I want whenever I want for the duration of my life.
But I also appreciate the fun that can be had in winding people up. That is something I really enjoy, getting a rise out of people without them realizing I'm trying to rile them up. Maybe that's my radio background coming through, or an extension of how guys break each others balls about things. But whether it's getting my friend Jimmy worked up about Italy soccer and the Miami Dolphins, or mentioning the phrase "high def" to my brother (who hates that term), or even the rare Clay Travis style trolling of a school's fanbase, eliciting a spirited reaction out of others is a great time.
When you can generate emotion in others, you can do nearly anything.
I went to the game with a girl who is a major fan of Ohio State, and she bought me a Buckeyes shirt to wear. Now, keep in mind, eight days before I drew some cheap heat at the TV station where I work for wearing a purple Evansville polo on college colors day. Seemingly everyone else there was wearing red, though in some ways that was actually apropos. But for last night's game, not only did I sport a red Ohio State shirt, I plastered photos of me wearing it all over social media.
I let no one know what I was doing since I wanted organic responses.
So, what were the reactions to me seemingly shifting my allegiance to the Big Ten and Ohio State? It was somewhere between the response to Dusty Rhodes donning an nWo shirt (baffled) to a beloved pro wrestling babyface turning heel (shock, disdain and disgust) to some support from Columbus/OSU friends. Here are just some of them from a variety of sources.
Jessica: Gooooo Virginia Tech!!!!! Love you Lou but screw the Buckeyes #theycheat #f-ohiostate #itsallabouttheU
Jeremy: You realize of course you can never set foot in Florida again, right?
Brandon: Good Choice my strongly worded friend! Join the Buckeye Nation! Go Bucks! #OSUFootball
Lane: I might have to unfriend you because of that shirt. LOL!
John: Lou is perfectly acceptable to experience nonSEC football and their traditions. However, actually wearing the clothing is blasphemy
Matt: Smug Muggin like Titus
Gary: this is as bad as when Barry Windham joined the 4 Horsemen!
It's worth noting that the Windham angle with the Four Horsemen from 1988 was tremendous. And after the game...
Brook: Keep going to Ohio games. I like the result. #luckylou #fuckeyes
Beverly: What was the outcome?!? You look great!!
Virginia Tech beat Ohio State 35-21. Fun game, tremendous atmosphere, many stories to tell. More on that soon...
My point with this? To illustrate why people get into college football so much -- there is an emotional involvement with a threshold that pro sports fandom simply cannot reach, at least in most circumstances. And I love pro sports, especially the NFL. But when you talk about people's connection to universities, or even conferences, it's simply on another level.