By: Dan Hancock (@danhancock78)
There was a distinct and palpable difference in the air on the final morning of SEC Media Days in Birmingham. Day Two had come in like a lion and out like a sedated lamb. The Johnny Manziel hangover, minor pun intended, was short lived on the second day and the new coaches of the SEC didn't provide us with any lasting memories. Not to say that it was not interesting, but in comparison to Day One and Day Three, it was not as entertaining.
I know this may sound hard to believe, but covering the first two days was pretty tiring. I'm not a coffee drinker, but I was in need of some caffeine. On my way downstairs, on my way to Starbuck's--I was curious what a barista from Alabama sounded like: "How many pumps of cream you want in y'ur coffee, shug?"-- the elevator doors opened to a sea of Crimson. The Tide had come in. Alabama was the main event of this year's event. Fans started showing up about 4 hours early in the roped off lobby just to have a chance to MAYBE see and possibly greet Coach Nick Saban. Locally, he's known as "Thee" Coach at "Thee" University. Sorry Auburn. You had your day, but it seems the Alabama faithful in attendance were in far greater numbers. Either 'Bama has more devoted fans or the Auburn grads were at work. I'm leaning towards the latter.
The day officially kicked off with Les Miles addressing the grand Media Room. Les may not win the West, but he definitely won the award for longest opening address. Most of it was football related, which means he came prepared. He did chase a few squirrels when he talked about hyperbaric oxygen therapy research on his summer vacation and provided a descript recap of his sons' baseball season stats. It seemed that Coach Miles initiated the theme of day, which may be a continuation of a theme from the week: scheduling. Everyone has their own opinion and some provided their own solution. Les presented his suggestions in a style similar to a politician on Election Day. If Miles had an agenda, it was initiating a scheduling resolution. When The Mad Hatter took over for Nick Saban at LSU in 2005, I don't think he realized that he would soon be facing Saban annually when Nick returned to the SEC. Miles has spent the years since the Tide's return to glory trying to find a detour around the Alabama game. As Rick Flair was often quoted as saying, "To be the best, you have to beat the best. And to beat the best, you gotta walk that aisle! Woo!!" Maybe Coach Miles should embrace his inner Nature Boy. Dig in and get some.
The award for Most Cordial, again, goes to Georgia head coach, Mark Richt. Coach Richt has always seemed to understand that this event is called MEDIA DAYS and he actually engages with various members of the MEDIA. Richt spent as much time talking with the local media outlets as he did with the national, four-letter types. As I stood and listened to Coach Richt speak, I couldn't help but thinking that he has blessed with a long leash and an abundance of patience from DAWG Nation. Richt has had his program on the verge of championship contention for more years than not. Many other schools in the SEC would only give their head coaches a year or two to get the job done, even at the bad schools. Richt has survived twelve seasons between the hedges. I ask myself, "Who would be better for Georgia than Mark Richt? Who is a better example for what is good coaching can mean to players as citizens than Mark Richt? I think the answer to both is "no one." For the week, I was a member of the media and tried to provide a sense of neutrality. Today, I can admit that I grew up a Gator fan and was taught to dislike Georgia. As I got older, I learned to respect their traditions, and honestly appreciate what Mark Richt has meant to the UGA program. It's obvious that Coach Robert Cleckler Bowden was a great influence in Richt's 15 total years at Florida State, as a graduate assistant and offensive coordinator. It took Bowden 17 seasons to win his first title. I hope that UGA remains patient as the Bulldogs work towards getting close to another national title.
It was time. The seas parted. The noise was silenced. The godfather had arrived. As we waited to kiss his ring, Alabama head coach delivered his address with a control and aire reserved for a select few heads of state. When Nick Saban speaks, people listen. I was born with a disorder where I cannot control the need to be sarcastic and ridicule people. When Saban stood at the podium, I was frozen in his command of the crowd and respect him too much to take any jabs. As someone that is not even a pimple on a fleas butt in this field, I would sound like a moron to do so, anyway.
If I had any suggestion for the SEC home office, it would be to not put Vanderbilt in the final block, after Nick Saban. The sounds of keyboards clicking were replaced by the rustling of potato chip bags being opened and boxed lunches being enjoyed, while Coach James Franklin spoke. It gave a whole new meaning to the word AWKWARD. The electricity generated from the first part of the day was soon eliminated and there was no chance of switching the breaker to turn it back on.
It was an absolutely incredible experience to be a part of this event. I think we can all recall the first time we tried crack. For me, this experience was not much different. I knew I would enjoy doing this. My only hope was to provide the 1010XL audience with a unique perspective of the 2013 edition of SEC Media Days. I've got the bug, for sure. I would love to continue doing this and serving as a Gator blogger and an SEC contributor. Thanks again to the 1010XL/92.5FM for providing me with this opportunity. Stay tuned for future blog entries. As for the 2013 season, whoever you root for, may all your 3rd downs be short and tailgates be epic. Forty-one days until kickoff...
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