Earlier this week when Vanderbilt won its first-ever national championship outside of the sport of women's bowling, #TwitterAfterDark got rather heated on the subject of conference pride. The victorious Vanderbilt squad started chanting "S-E-C! S-E-C!" on ESPN. Soon after the sentiment migrated to Twitter. And it wasn't just Commodore fans chiming in. As has become customary, the whole of the Southeastern Conference was boasting of Vandy's accomplishment.
As far as I could tell, T. Kyle King (former manager of Dawg Sports and author of Fighting Like Cats And Dogs) was the first to advise against such behavior.
If you're a fan of an #SEC baseball team other than Vanderbilt, and you rooted for Vandy, YOU WERE ROOTING AGAINST YOUR TEAM'S INTERESTS.— T. Kyle King (@TKyleKing) June 26, 2014
As you might imagine, others strongly disagreed with this approach. Some vehemently so. (Check out Kyle's timeline for the blow-by-blow analysis.) I found myself mostly agreeing with Kyle, with some caveats.
What about you? Are you all SEC all the time? Or do you root against conference foes at all costs? Or somewhere in between? Do you have a logical system or is it a gut feeling that you won't know how to process until the game starts?
I put these questions to the Garnet And Black Attack staff. Read their answers below and supply your own in the comments section.
Like any good lawyer, the answer is - it depends.
In the BCS game this year, I had mixed emotions. On the one hand, I think we're all aware of how fun it is to troll fans of opposing conferences, particularly the ACC. A good S-E-C chant angers others the way a U-S-A chant angers other nations during the World Cup. Any time you can get other people irrationally angry at you, you've won the trolling war.
That said, we all have our standards, and we all need to pick our lines in the sand. For me, it will always be Georgia. Why? Becuase to hell with Georgia, that's why. I'll pull for them in instances of absolute necessity, but otherwise, I'm fine giving away an S-E-C cheer or streak.
But if we're left with two bad options, give me the SEC. Oh sure, I wasn't thrilled to see Alabama win the national championship two years ago. But if the alternative is to give Notre Dame fans a sense of pride? Forget it. Seeing the team that survives the SEC dominate whoever the rest of the country puts forth just goes to show that our close games against those teams proves that the best teams all reside in the conference in which we play.
This logic only strengthens the better we get - as many of us know, Clemson fans love to brag about BCS games they've made thanks to garbage revenue-sharing rules that guarantee their entry despite the fact they can't beat us. Congratulations on your berth in the Orange Bowl a few years ago Tigers, where you lost by 37 and had to listen to Train at halftime. We'll take our wins in the rivalry and the bowl game, thank you.
As for this week? Vanderbilt - though they'll hate to hear this - retains that "never hurt a fly" feeling for me, even though they have of course beaten us before in all the major sports. But Vandy has never bothered me the way Georgia, Tennessee, or Florida will. Of course, if they beat enough of our good teams that keep us from championships, they'll get there. But for now, I've no qualms with our nerds beating the ACC's nerds. Way go to, ‘Dores. And thank you for extending yet another streak of ACC futility.
Jorge De Los Gallos:
I think it's a selective notion for me. Was I rooting for Vanderbilt in the College World Series finals for "ESS EE SEE" related reasons? Absolutely. Did I plan on rooting for Auburn in the National Championship game, only to find my heart squarely behind the Noles? Yes also. But I've begrudgingly rooted for Auburn in other non-conference matchups, so what's the rub? I think I possess the somewhat unfortunate predilection for hoping dominant teams dominate, and I don't doubt this is a function of growing up in awe of the Jordan/Pippen Bulls. Now, rooting for SEC schools usually dovetails with this approach, but it's also what led me to root for FSU in January. They were just so damned good, had the Heisman winner, fostered goodwill by decimating Clemson, and also Auburn's an asshole who always beats us so screw ‘em. Now, let's say Vandy somehow stumbled its way into the title game even after falling to South Carolina. I think ‘Hoops' "But aw, it's just Vandy" factor compounded by the SEC connection would mitigate the pro-dominance stance. I guess there's a lot less inertia when the SEC team in question is less irritating. But all other things equal, I think the idea that I could be watching a historically good team play a historically good game edges blind conference loyalty. Fortunately, the SEC is home to a handful of historically good teams, so it usually works out.
Let me start this off with two relevant facts about me as a sports fan: 1) I am incapable of watching a game without picking a team to root for. It doesn't matter how slightly I favor the team I choose, I have to choose one. 2) There are a handful of constants in the teams I pull for (Gamecocks over everything, obviously. Screw Florida and Clemson), but for the most part I make rooting decisions based on an infinitely variable, arbitrary and often illogical set of personal rules.
There are all kinds of factors that influence those rules in any given game. Maybe I like a team's mascot, or a particular player or they're just fun to watch and I pull for them. Maybe I don't like the state a team is from or I think the program's fans are annoyingly full of themselves, so I pull against them. Conference affiliation is one of those things I often use to choose teams. ChickenHoops gave some of the same reasons I have (trolling other conferences is great, a strong conference reflects well on us), so I don't really need to talk about those again. But I almost always pull for the SEC, even if it sometimes means pulling for a team I don't necessarily care for.*
*Note: This is not applicable to you, Florida Gators. Lose every game in every sport forever please.
But there is one big reason I tend to pull for the SEC as a whole: it's fun. Of course nothing compares to the emotional investment and reward of seeing the Gamecocks do well. But the SEC is something I can cheer for when my team isn't involved in a game. Even if the payoff from seeing my conference do well doesn't really compare to that of seeing my team do well, it's still enjoyable. That's part of why I find the debate about whether or not fans should pull for their conference both fascinating and ridiculous. Being a sports fan is irrational and deeply personal in so many ways. Anyone is welcome to tell me all the nice, logical reasons that pulling for the SEC is wrong, and I completely understand why some people feel that way. But as long as I'm having fun I'm gonna keep doing it. I firmly believe that everyone should make their rooting decisions based on whatever weird, arbitrary criteria they desire because it keeps things interesting. (Unless they want to pull for both Carolina and Clemson. If you do this, you are wrong and you should be ashamed.)
As someone who grew up in Big Ten country and wasn't really into sports until college, I didn't understand the SEC pride thing when I first got to South Carolina. I mean, I would never cheer for Michigan or Ohio State in anything ever (except against Clemson). That being said, I jumped headfirst into being all about conference pride pretty quickly once I was at USC. I don't even know why, really, I guess I realized the conference had some pretty good teams that did a lot of winning, and cheering for SEC teams above others just seemed like the thing to do.
Ever since, I've displayed my SEC rooting interests proudly. In the rare instances that I do hope an SEC team loses, it's either because it would help the Gamecocks, or because they're playing against Northwestern or Illinois (and I like to give myself false hope that either of those two could pull off an upset).
It's been seven years since I decided to go #AllSECEverything, and I still can't entirely explain why I am this way. My family thinks it's obnoxious and they don't understand why I talk about hating Georgia for an entire football season, then turn around and pull for them in a bowl game. I don't even understand it all the time, to be honest. Maybe it's just because I've been that way for a while now and I don't see any reason to change. It's also probably because I don't know a ton of other SEC alums up here, so I feel a weird desire to represent the conference somehow. Mostly, though, like Kaci said, I think it's just fun. Especially in instances where the Gamecocks aren't playing and I'm watching (or hate-watching) a game, it helps to have a team to pull for. And it doesn't hurt that a good amount of the time, the SEC team happens to be the one that wins, which generally makes it more enjoyable to cheer for them.
The Meat Locker:
When football season starts for me, it's pretty much just tunnel vision when watching the Gamecocks and assessing the SEC East. Watching the standings intently and playing out all the scenarios in my head in how the Gamecocks can prevail in the east and end up in the SEC Championship. Since we've only gotten to experience that once (2010), there's a lot of mental preparation that goes into how to to process the fact that after beating Georgia or Florida or Missouri for that matter and for some reason, we're still on the outside looking in.
While we've grown accustomed to being on the outside, we've all had to adapt and come to terms with the taste of defeat. In the effort of continuing to stay off-course from the original question, let's remain excited for the future state of the program and the fact we've already got a top five recruiting class for 2015. Let's remain excited for our chances of coming back strong in 2014 and having an extremely legitimate shot of taking the east.
Now, back to the original question. Because I've devoted so much time to monitoring our division and the SEC, it's totally taken away from my ability to really focus on any other teams/divisions and most likely I'm going to be familiar enough with one of the very likely teams represented by the SEC in the National Championship and that's who I'm watching and pulling for.
I place the root of my SEC devotion solely on Clemson fans. While I attended Lander University, I spent my undergrad years in the upstate of Greenwood, South Carolina listening and analyzing to the thought process of the Clemson faithful and how the ACC is stronger than the SEC and that nine times out of ten, Clemson would beat South Carolina ‘six ways from Sunday' in any sport, blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, yadda. The sound of those idiots remains with me today and has thus caused me to become an SEC faithful.
So, in closing... Thank you Clemson. You are the reason that I pull for the SEC in any instance. I pull the SEC because it is the superior division for every reason. While we don't have time to pull out exact numbers, let's go back and realize how many National Championships, NFL Draft prospects, etc reign from the SEC. That conference produces the best competition and as a sports fan, I'm thankful for that. Go Gamecocks, beat Clemson and everybody else.
Connor "Cornelius" Tappington:
I'm often far less aware of what goes into my rooting decisions than I'd like to be. Being a diehard South Carolina fan makes most choices pretty easy, but out-of-conference games and contests that otherwise have no bearing on SEC standings are more difficult. Sometimes I don't know who I'm rooting for until I find myself reflexively celebrating after one team makes a good play.
But if there's a central precept from which I derive the vast majority of my rooting strategies, it's this: burn down the village of my opponents and salt the earth that nothing more may grow there. Were it mathematically possible, it would be my preference that every non-South Carolina team in the SEC East would go 0-12. And Clemson would go 0-13, invited to a bowl just so another team could humiliate them on national television.
It seems to me that Gamecock fans should be especially appreciative of this philosophy considering that their sole division championship came thanks in part to the fact that Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee were all pretty bad in 2010.
There are some exceptions to this rule, and this is where the gut feelings I mentioned come into play. The SEC has accumulated a certain amount of prestige in college sports (ICYMI), and I find myself rooting for the preservation of its status whenever I perceive it to be in jeopardy. The impulse isn't strong enough to keep me from hoping the Gators to lose to another Big East team if they ever make it to a bowl again. It was strong enough to have me rooting for Auburn to knock off Florida State (the mounting evidence that Jameis Winston is, at best, probably not the most solid dude in the world also helped), but I would have been cheering for the Seminoles if Alabama had made it to the BCSNCG. I'm not sure where I would have fallen on Alabama/Ohio State. And Georgia vs. Clemson was/will be the most confusing three hours of my life.
1) Whatever needs to happen for South Carolina to improve its position in the standings/rankings
2) May all of each of our opponents die long, painful deaths
3) S-E-C! S-E-C!
4) Miscellaneous whims