Last week I met my sister for an extended weekend in Disney World. It was just the two of us. We have been going every year since we were kids. We just lost an aunt to cancer. My sister was one of her primary caregivers for the better part of the last year, so I knew she needed a break.
We were walking around Disney’s zoo/amusement park hybrid Animal Kingdom on our first day there when I noticed a man in a Georgia hat talking to another man in a Missouri t-shirt. They were standing in line at a fast food restaurant.
It was clear they didn’t know each other. These were two strangers that recognized they had something in common and struck up a conversation around it. For the record, Georgia guy is glad Mark Richt is gone. Mizzou guy thought that was nuts.
This set off a little light bulb in my head. If there is a Mizzou fan here, surely there is someone that represents each SEC fan base on Disney property this weekend. Nearly 20.5 million people visited the Magic Kingdom alone in 2015. That’s like 56,000 visitors per day. Between the drivability and cheap flights, there’s no way I’m wrong.
So, an experiment was born in my head. I didn’t have any t-shirts packed that would give away any allegiances. When I am in the sun, I wear a Boston Celtics cap to avoid burning my bald head. I could claim to be from every fan base and no one would be the wiser. So, whenever I passed an SEC fan, I would say “I’m not wearing my gear today but (insert team cheer here)”.
I jotted notes about their reaction down in my iPhone and will use them now to determine who is the friendliest fan base in the SEC. The following is compiled in the order I met these fans.
TEAM: Florida Gators
FAN: Older lady. Maybe 70. Riding a Jazzy scooter. Wearing a t-shirt featuring Mickey Mouse in a Florida football uniform.
WHERE: In line for Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
CHANT: Go Gators!
RESPONSE: She asks if I’m a fan. I say I didn’t bring my hat with me. She gives me a gator chomp, we high five, she tells me to have a blessed day.
FRIENDLINESS SCORE: 9/10 - I got the distinct feeling that if I were wearing a Carolina hat that “have a blessed day” would have turned into a “go to hell.”
TEAM: Alabama Crimson Tide
FAN: A family of 7 (Mother, Father, 3 younger sons, and grandparents) all wearing white shirts with a big crimson A and a Nike swoosh. Their names (including “Mee Maw” and “Big Daddy” for the grandparents) were all printed on the back with what I assume is the year they each graduated from Alabama.
WHERE: Walking into Pandora: The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
CHANT: Roll Tide!
RESPONSE: The kids gave me a very loud and enthusiastic “Roll Tide!” back. The grandparents were a little more subdued. The mom was very casual, like we were in Hawaii and I had just said “Aloha!” Dad wasn’t having my nonsense. He gave me a cold stare and what can only be described as a reluctant head nod.
FRIENDLINESS SCORE: 6/10 - One bad apple spoiled an otherwise fun bunch. The kids push this family over the midway point.
TEAM: Vanderbilt Commodores
FAN: Middle-aged man in a Nike tank top sporting the Vandy logo.
WHERE: In line to get some ice cream in front of Expedition Everest in the Animal Kingdom.
CHANT: Anchor Down!
RESPONSE: A look of absolute confusion. I assume it was because either he had never encounter another Vanderbilt fan before or perhaps he needed a tank top, found this one in the bargain section of a Dick’s Sporting Goods and has no allegiance to Vandy whatsoever. I repeated “Anchor Down!” and he said “okay.”
FRIENDLINESS SCORE: 2/10 - I want to give the guy the benefit of the doubt and assume he wasn’t a jerk, but just a bargain shopper.
TEAM: Auburn Tigers
FAN: Obese child. Maybe 11 years old. Maybe 250 pounds. His Cam Newton jersey was probably purchased 3 years and 40 pounds ago.
WHERE: Also in line for ice cream in front of Expedition Everest in the Animal Kingdom.
CHANT: War Eagle!
RESPONSE: “WAR EAGLE, MOTHERFUCKER!” accompanied by a very aggressive high-five. I guess it’s hard to put out a vibe that says “I’m a serious adult. You should respect me.” when you’re wearing an R2D2 t-shirt.
FRIENDLINESS SCORE: 8/10 - I could have done without the sass mouth.
TEAM: South Carolina Gamecocks
FAN: Mid-to-late 30s dad wearing Cocks gear from head to toe. He keeps staring at me strangely.
WHERE: In the security line in front of Epcot.
CHANT: Spurs Up!
RESPONSE: A smile, a tepid “spurs up” followed by “I think I know you. Are you on the radio in Columbia?” “Used to be” I say. “I thought I recognized your voice. ESPN, right? I loved that pregame show.” I say yes and thank him. Then we start talking about Moana when his daughter interrupts to say she wants to meet Maui.
FRIENDLINESS SCORE: 9/10 - The guy was a gentleman. The little girl was an interrupting jerk. Let me have my moment, kid!
TEAM: Kentucky Wildcats
FAN: This guy looked like every stereotype of Kentucky personified right down to a ratty old Kentucky football t-shirt and a Make America Great Again hat with a rat tail poking out the back.
WHERE: Walking under Spaceship Earth in Epcot
CHANT: Go Cats!
RESPONSE: “Thanks Bubba” followed by a fist bump.
FRIENDLINESS SCORE: 10/10 - This is literally everything I wanted in an interaction with this man.
TEAM: Arkansas Razorbacks
FAN: Attractive younger mom holding a baby in a Razorback onesie. Sex of the baby was unclear.
WHERE: Walking out of the Starbucks in Epcot
CHANT: “Go hogs!” I decided not to go with “Woo Pig Sooie!” just in case it was taken the wrong way.
RESPONSE: The woman gives me a friendly smile and silently walks away.
FRIENDLINESS SCORE: 4/10 - This is how most of my dating life went before I got married. I admit this might be on me for not committing to a “Woo Pig Sooie!”.
TEAM: LSU Tigers
FAN: Older lady wearing a bedazzled shirt featuring the same eye logo at midfield in Tiger Stadium.
WHERE: On an escalator in Epcot’s The Land pavilion.
CHANT: Geaux Tigers!
RESPONSE: One of the most enthusiastic “geaux tigers!” you’ll ever hear followed by a “where ya from?” “Well, I was born in Slidell” I tell her. “Oh I got family there. We from Alexandria,” she says. “I have family that used to live in Alexandria,” I tell her. “Ain’t it a small world?” she says followed by a hug.
FRIENDLINESS SCORE: 10/10 - Way better than I expected considering the last time I went to a game in Baton Rouge I watched two different men drop their pants and take dumps on two different opposing fans’ tailgate parties.
TEAM: Georgia Bulldogs
FAN: Frat bro wearing one of those stupid white hats made by The Game that say “DAWGS”.
WHERE: Walking through Mexico in Epcot’s World Showcase. Yes, he was holding a margarita.
CHANT: Go Dawgs!
RESPONSE: “Sic ‘em” said in as monotone a way as is possible for someone pounding margaritas in the hot Florida sun before noon.
FRIENDLINESS SCORE: 5/10 - This guy did literally the bare minimum to be called friendly.
TEAM: Texas A&M Aggies
FAN: Old man and his middle aged son. Both are in A&M polos.
WHERE: On the tram that takes us from the parking lot at Disney’s Hollywood Studios to the front of the park.
CHANT: Gig ‘em!
RESPONSE: The son gave me a friendly-enough “Gig ‘em” right back then leaned over to his dad and politely shouted “dad, he said gig ‘em!” The old man gave me the friendliest “alright!” I’ve ever heard. Then he told me he was going to meet Minnie Mouse and get a kiss.
FRIENDLINESS SCORE: 10/10 - Our third perfect score of the day!
TEAM: Mississippi State Bulldogs
FAN: Middle-aged guy there with two kids. Not saying it was a divorced dad weekend, but I did look down and notice no wedding ring. In my head I got a mental image of a security guard giving him the speech Milhouse’s dad got when he was fired from the cracker factory. Anyway, he had on a fairly new looking Mississippi State visor.
WHERE: In line for the Great Movie Ride in Disney’s Hollywood Studios
CHANT: Go Dawgs
RESPONSE: “Go Dawgs. Look guys, another Mississippi State fan!” The kids also give me a friendly “Go Dawgs!” Then everyone turns around like nothing happened.
FRIENDLINESS SCORE: 7/10 - He wasn’t interested in forming a friendship. We acknowledged each other and then everyone went on about their business just as the Lord intends in these situations.
TEAM: Tennessee Volunteers
FAN: Middle-aged woman wearing a “Navy Mom” t-shirt and big orange T earrings that dangled to her shoulders.
WHERE: Coming out of the bathrooms in Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom
CHANT: I didn’t know, so I started singing “Rocky Top”
REACTION: She joined in for “Home sweet home to me!” and then told me “those are the only words I know, but go Vols!’
FRIENDLINESS SCORE: 7/10 - I enjoy a good sing along, but come on lady! How are you gonna have the earrings and not know the words to “Rocky Top”? I don’t even like Tennessee and I know the words to “Rocky Top.”
TEAM: Missouri Tigers
FAN: College-aged girl with what I assume was her mom. The girl was wearing a Mizzou tank top.
WHERE: In the Winnie the Pooh store in the Magic Kingdom.
RESPONSE: Mom jumps in before the girl can say anything and shouts “Z-O-U!”. The girl asks her mom “how did you know to do that? You’re not even from Missouri.” I didn’t hear the answer as the family just kept walking.
FRIENDLINESS SCORE: 3/10 - The mom was friendly enough, but she was not the subject of this study.
TEAM: Ole Miss Rebels
FAN: Two men in their 40s. Both in the same Ole Miss baseball cap.
WHERE: Sitting on the street in Liberty Square waiting for Muppet Moments in History to start.
CHANT: Hoddy Toddy!
RESPONSE: Man 1 - “Alright man. Go Rebs!” Man 2 - “Go Rebs!” A discussion of possible sanctions ensues followed by Man #1 telling me that he has a customer that told him Chip Kelly has already agreed to interview for the head coaching job when the season ends.
FRIENDLINESS SCORE: 6/10 - There’s a big difference between unfriendly and unrealistic. These guys were nice enough and I felt bad for them.
So there you have it. Let’s all be more like Kentucky, LSU and Texas A&M fans. And you know what? The hell with it! I am putting Carolina fans in here too. I’m not going to let that little girl ruin her dad’s perfect score.
You can meet a wide variety of people in Disney World. Everyday the resort hosts people from 6 of the Earth’s 7 continents. You can walk down Main Street USA and hear a dozen different languages spoken before you reach Cinderella Castle. In such a diverse and multi-national environment there is nothing easier than finding SEC football fans.