December 3, 2011
I’ve said it before in this blog and I’ll say it again: I’ve been really blessed in this career. Yes, I’ve worked really hard… but the rewards have been outstanding and they keep coming.
What I’m referring to in this instance is that I’ve now had the pleasure to cover a Super Bowl (granted, it was Super Bowl XL – yes, the one in Detroit – so I feel like I’m due a “do-over” in a location like Phoenix, Miami or San Diego, but I digress) and last year, my first SEC Championship. Sure, the Super Bowl is bigger, but the SEC Championship – in my opinion – is more special.
If you’ve never been to Atlanta for one of these extravaganzas, and you’re a fan of the SEC, you owe it to yourself to take the trip one of these years (and, really, you could be a fan of ANY team in the SEC - your team doesn’t have to be participating in the game to fully absorb the awe and wonder of the event. I can say this firsthand because I don’t “have a team” in the league – of course, that means I also don’t have a team I love to hate… but hey, maybe you could come root against your favorite rival to spice up the experience?)
First of all, the events leading up to the showdown on Saturday are unique and impact the Atlanta community in more ways than the inevitable economy boost. Our own SEC Network studio analyst, former UGA All-American OL Matt Stinchcomb, participated in the annual “giving back” portion of the week, the Allstate SEC Good Works Day (something he does every year) and we talked about the impact it made on him not long ago. I could tell how much he enjoyed the day and it reinforced how much I want to start participating in those kinds of projects in my own community.
I think what hits me most about this event is the anticipation. Obviously, the rigors of the thirteen weeks of football leading up to it certainly play a role – but now that I’m here in Atlanta, having attended both the Coaches Luncheon and the press conferences this afternoon, I’m REALLY ready for kickoff! If you wonder why I’m here, with the entire College GameDay crew already in town and CBS providing the broadcast of the game… I’m serving as a reporter/correspondent for ESPNU. I’ll be on “The Whip” and also provide some contributions in a couple of SportscenterU hits during college basketball games in the early afternoon, leading up to kickoff.
Thanks to the SEC Digital Network, you don’t need a press credential to hear what Georgia’s Mark Richt and LSU’s Les Miles shared with the media this afternoon. You can watch both head coaches with this link here.
My favorite moment from the Coaches Luncheon was Miles’ response to a fan’s question about what he plans to do about his propensity to eat grass, given that the Georgia Dome is lined with artificial turf. Miles deadpanned that his sports information director, Michael Bonnette, brought along a jar of grass, just in case, and warned, “if I reach for the grass, you know something big is going to happen.” Drew big laughs from the crowd and Richt, needless to say.
In other links…
ESPN.com SEC Blogger Chris Low put up a stunning statisical comparison of the coaches this afternoon. Two men who know how to win.
Some entertaining Twitter noise leading up to the big game… no, I don’t follow any of these players, but I do follow beat writers who follow the players and will retweet their “best work.”
My two favorites came from two young men with major potential to help decide the game.
First, from Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, clearly ready to erase bad memories of the season opening loss to Boise State… @aaronmurray11 shared with the fans, “Heading back to ATL! Gonna do it right this time #SECchampionship”
Meantime, the “Honey Badger,” a.k.a. Tyrann Mathieu of LSU, can’t contain his enthusiasm for playing on the big stage tomorrow. @TM7_Era tweeted, “Football is an art!!! AND IM THE ARTIST THAT EVERYBODY WANNA SEE- TM7″.
That’s definitely what I want to see… the art of SEC football, mano a mano, one more time (and maybe not for the final time this season.)
Sleep may not come easy tonight for this fired up football fan, but it better – I tape my first hit for College GameDay at 8:15 AM!!
Finally, my lasting visual from the afternoon, which hit me right as the whirlwind day began. Highlights from all 12 SEC teams were playing on a reel as we took our seats at the Coaches Luncheon… the montage of great shots set to rocking tunes ended with this image:
Five years running, the SEC Champion has gone on to win the BCS National Championship… “Where Champions Play,” indeed. Will history repeat itself? If LSU wins, will it face Alabama in the National Championship game, guaranteeing a sixth straight BCS Champ for the SEC? Even if LSU loses, will it still play for all the marbles in New Orleans? Answers to come. There’s a conference championship to be settled first…