With recruiting season now firmly behind us, there’s a slight lull in the college football news cycle where the line between sanity and fanaticism is easily identifiable. For SEC football fans itching to get their post-National Signing Day fix, spring football is right around the corner.
Every team has their diehards. You can find them showing up at work after a “sick” day the first Wednesday of every February ready to talk about who is ready for a breakout spring. In the SEC, it just so happens that those lunatics are neither few nor far between.
SEC spring football is just another cog in a wheel that spins all year round. In Alabama, you can find them draped in houndstooth from head-to-toe on an unseemly, yet typical, warm late-April day at Bryant-Denny Stadium with 90,000 of their closest friends. In Kentucky, it’s that one guy (there’s only one guy).
All across the conference, spring football is like a three-week sample platter for the football-crazed masses of the Southeast. However, it’s important to remember a few things in order to properly appreciate football in the spring.
First of all, be unfettered in your optimism, especially if your team is terrible.
Reality is very clunky and stupid. Don’t be bothered with it.
Never mind the fact that the redshirt sophomore you’ve become enamored with has been buried on the depth chart since he arrived on campus. You still see him as the four-star recruit with immense untapped potential. Besides, he’s playing for a new position coach this year, and this guy’s history of putting guys in the NFL may be just the kick in the pants this kid needs.
A realistic interpretation of that scenario is boring, and usually winds up with the player spending his senior season at McNeese State or UT-Chattanooga. There’s plenty of time for reality when your team is getting their teeth kicked in during conference play. This is a time for unrestrained hope.
So, go ahead and say things like, “He’s gonna have a HUGE year,” and don’t feel guilty about the unfair expectations you’re heaping on a 20-year old who has spent the past three years trying to cope mentally with being labeled an “underachiever.”
Also, in the instance of high-profile position battles, it’s very important that you pick a favorite very early in the process, and ride it out ‘til the bitter and bloody end.
Spring football in and of itself is relatively free of drama, so when you’ve got an important role on the football team on the line you have to milk it for all the enthusiasm it’s worth. I mean, how long can you spend talking about whether or not your team will finally wear black uniforms?
What you can talk at lengths about is a critical position battle. So, as Josh Dobbs, Riley Ferguson, Nathan Peterman and Justin Worley all battle it out for reps at quarterback when the Tennessee Volunteers kick off camp on March 8th, declare an early winner and use some shadowy form of broken logic to defend your selection against all doubters.
Some will call it trolling, but, once again, spring football is like boiled chicken. It requires a great deal of spice before it’s palatable. So give it the Emeril Lagasse treatment. Hit it with a “BAM!”
Finally, be sure not to miss your team’s spring game. No matter what anybody tells you, it’s a very seminal moment of your football season.
Thus, you should be there at all costs. There’s no wedding, childbirth or court hearing more important than showing up and acting like you belong in an asylum while watching your team play themselves in April. And if you can’t make it, dammit you had better watch it on TV. And if you live on the opposite end of the country and you don’t get Fox Sports South, you should probably break copyright law and pirate a feed of it on the good ol’ World Wide Web.
In all seriousness, spring football doesn’t have much purpose beyond giving the team extended reps during a lengthy offseason. And not only is it meaningless football, it’s usually bad football. However, it’s still football.
In the Southeastern Conference, that’s really all that matters. So from March 2nd—when the Georgia Bulldogs, Texas A&M Aggies and the Vanderbilt Commodores kick off spring in the SEC—until April 20th when the final six teams in the conference conclude their spring, all of us lunatics will watch intently like it really matters.
Because to some of us, as crazy as it sounds, it somehow does.