The nation’s finest football conference welcomes two new schools in 2012. With the addition of Florida State and Clemson, the SEC opens its arms to two programs that might as well have been in the SEC from day one.
Think about it. Tallahassee is a short drive from the white sandy beaches and emerald green waters of the Redneck Riviera. What’s more SEC than that? Clemson is essentially Auburn with a lake and a stepchild in the ACC, so a move to the SEC is only natural.
Of course, I jest. Instead of FSU and Clemson, two Southeastern schools with deep-fried fanbases, the conference big wigs gave the nod to Big 12 expatriates Missouri and Texas A&M in a TV ratings-driven power play.
Regardless of motive, let’s give these new conference members a proper Southern welcome. For SEC fans that’s a warm smile, firm handshake, some friendly trash-talk and a prompt handoff of an ice-cold beer — with a koozie, of course, just to be polite.
Missouri and Texas A&M are set to join our SEC family and, like meeting your sister’s fiancé, you’re warm to the idea but need evidence of his moxie. Let’s check out Missouri first.
Missouri is the third SEC team named the Tigers. I am unsure of the Show Me State’s connection to tigers. But, Missouri’s Tiger moniker dates to the Civil War, and that translates to instant SEC credibility.
The tradition of homecoming began at Missouri in 1911. This seems about right. Isn’t it fitting for homecoming to start somewhere like Missouri? If Vermont laid claim to homecoming, for example, I just wouldn’t believe it. Heck, I wonder if anyone from Vermont has ever heard of homecoming.
It’s a tradition for freshman Missouri players to run through the famed columns on the Columbia campus. I’m told by my brother-in-law, Aaron (a HUGE Mizzou fan; welcome to the SEC, bro!), that the columns are the second-most photographed landmark in Missouri, behind only the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Have you ever seen a photo of the second-most photographed landmark in Missouri? Me, neither.
Mizzou’s football stadium is nicknamed “The Zou.” The nervous laughter you hear emanates from Athens. Dawg fans, like the rest of us, have seen too many talented Big 12 teams like Oklahoma depart The Zou with an “L.” Watch out come Sept. 8 in Columbia.
While Missouri will compete in the SEC East, let’s head west to College Station, Texas, and frisk the SEC West’s newest member, the Texas A&M Aggies.
A&M has too many traditions to mention in this prime real estate. In summary, however, those traditions viewed from an outsider’s perspective seem like forced enthusiasm.
Texas A&M is the opposite of Missouri when it comes to homecoming, because the Aggies have no homecoming game. Why not, you ask? Because at Texas A&M, every game is homecoming!
The night before home football games, a “Midnight Yell” is held during which very enthusiastic Aggie fans . . . you guessed it! Yell! I hope you can sense my enthusiasm with all these exclamation points!
“Aggie” is short for “agricultural” and harkens back to Texas A&M’s history as an agricultural research institution. Aggie fans yell “gig ‘em!” instead of “go” and, consistent with the innocent 1950s vibe that permeates A&M’s culture, they form a “thumbs-up” sign with their hands. They also say “Golly gee whiz how about that!” when Texas A&M gains over 10 yards.
OK, kidding on that last one. But you get the point.
It’s tradition at Texas A&M to kiss your date when the Aggies score. Great tradition if you’ve got a hot date. Not so great if you waited until Friday to nab your date and wound up with someone just glad to be in the stadium.
Will these traditions help Missouri and A&M compete in the SEC? We’ll see. Buckling their chin straps and tackling people — this isn’t the Big 12, folks — will have a more meaningful impact than running through columns or yelling at midnight.
But we’re all family now, so, on behalf of SEC fans everywhere, Go Mizzou and Gig ‘Em Aggies!
Ben Prevost is a contributing columnist for The Times. Contact him at email@example.com.