Summer’s loosening grip and early hints of fall signal several important events: A return to routine, lengthened shadows cast by soaring Southern pines, and the bouncing of my private school tuition check.
Fall, of course, also heralds college football’s arrival — that low-key, casual affair — and even better, Southeastern Conference football.
In this exclusive article for SEC Banter followers everywhere, I’m pleased to offer professional advice for enjoying the 2015 college football season. From tailgating to managing expectations and family commitments, this is the definitive guide to taking in the finest months on the calendar.
Some tips are genuine, some are sarcasm-laced. All are SEC Banter style.
Here we go:
SEC football is a serious endeavor, and you should take it as seriously as possible. If your family, career and faith are important to you, that’s all well and good, but SEC football must be elevated in importance above all else.
You’re watching 18- to 21- year-old guys try out for the NFL, while ostensibly representing a school you may have attended for a little while. What could possibly influence your happiness and self-worth more than that?
Because you take SEC football so seriously, there’s no substitute for preparation. Preparation means starting early.
If your team has a monumental game (UGA vs. Alabama, Auburn vs. Alabama, anyone vs. Alabama), shut everything down by Wednesday afternoon at the latest. Stop working, stop communicating with family, and stop binge watching Game of Thrones — anything else that detracts from your 100 percent focus on the game.
An exception is playing golf Friday before the game. Golf offers a chance to hone your game-day attitude and prepare properly for the big contest. Playing 27 holes usually works best.
While you’re serious, keep expectations low, especially if you’re a Georgia or Louisiana State University fan. Low expectations equal pleasant surprises when your team does well.
Bet lots of money on college football. Sure, you’ve had five to six down years in a row and lost a sickening amount of cash, but there’s no reason to think that will continue. Go in heavy. Bet big. And remember, there’s always the Hawaii game if you’ve had a rough day.
Two words to dramatically improve almost any tailgate recipe: more cheese. Two more words: more bacon. Two final words: more meat.
On a mid-October Saturday afternoon, your wife is with one of your kids at a play date or, more likely, doing an activity that costs money. Your other kid has a friend’s birthday party at 3:30 p.m. and can’t get there without you.
This presents a golden opportunity to teach a valuable lifelong lesson in commitment and standing up for what’s important. Simply explain to your child there’s no way in hell he’s going to the birthday party because you made a commitment to watch the game, darn it.
If your team loses a big one, avoid all sports media whatsoever. This means no Internet, television or newspapers for a week. It will just make you sick.
Go to the Ole Miss vs. Alabama game, regardless of whether you care about those teams. This game defines SEC football on many, many levels. Just go.
On the flip side, unless your blood relative is the starting quarterback, do not, under any circumstances, attend the Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt game. Blood relative might even be pushing it. For example, if your first cousin is the starter for Vanderbilt and you live in Nashville, within walking distance of the stadium, perhaps attend the game.
You know that confident, to-heck-with-it feeling after two well-mixed adult beverages? You’ve solved all your problems and have no doubt your team will pull off the huge upset. Remember that feeling was brought on by two beverages, not 10, and try to keep it that way.
Believe in your coaching ability. Of course you would’ve run it on third-and-goal from the 3, instead of trying that cute tight end dump pass. Everyone knows you’re better than the coaches who command millions of dollars in salaries, so keep second-guessing them. Especially after two well-mixed adult beverages.
CBS play-by-play man Merton Laverne “Verne” Lundquist Jr. and his broadcast partner, Gary Danielson, do not despise your SEC team. Stop trying to yell at them through your TV; you know they can’t hear you, right? On the other hand, that SOB referee who always calls back a 50-yard touchdown run with a phantom holding call, by all means yell loudly at him.
If invited to watch SEC football on or near a body of water, accept it. If the invitation involves salt water, accept immediately.
At the office, it’s generally productive to explain why your team is better than your co-worker’s team, has far superior traditions, and why your collegiate experience killed his, especially if the guy is an ACC fan who has an inferiority complex about the SEC.
Your wife is out of town on a girls trip just when SEC conference play heats up. You’re in a precarious spot because she handles all babysitter arrangements and you don’t have a single babysitter’s phone number. The only realistic option is to call your parents and have them take the kids for the entire weekend, so you can properly enjoy SEC football.
And book a tee time Saturday morning. Boom — everyone’s happy.
Finally, despite the tongue-in-cheek remark above about taking SEC football seriously, I believe in the opposite. Please don’t take it too seriously. Life’s too short. If you and your family are healthy and at least reasonably happy, consider college football a welcome diversion for a few hours a week.
But definitely start game-day preparations on Wednesday. And add more cheese.
Ben Prevost is a contributing columnist for The Times. SEC Banter runs on Thursday during the college football season.