Yankees don’t understand the Southern obsession with college football, and if they don’t understand it, then they naturally believe there’s something wrong with it.

As for me, I don’t hate hockey. I’ve just never been exposed to it enough to like it. I know enough about it to know that it was a horrible mistake once to attempt staying awake during a late-night drive between Meridian and Starkville, Mississippi by listening to a hockey game on the radio. That is something I’ll certainly never try to duplicate.

For the most part, the popularity of hockey is centered in the more frozen and frigid areas of America, due to its obvious reliance on a solid surface of ice. Places like Massachusetts, Michigan, and Wisconsin are naturally perfect for hockey. Therefore, you’d think that the stars of hockey would be the athletes who grew up there amid the ice and snow – and you’d be right. You just wouldn’t expect hockey prodigies to come from South Carolina or Georgia, because there are not a whole lot of opportunities to play. In Minnesota, every city, town, and community has a pond somewhere nearby that freezes over for the duration of winter, and the kids are offered the opportunity to grasp the techniques, intricacies, nuances, strategies, tactics, and sheer artistry of hockey through lots of repetitive experiences and good ol’ peer pressure. The more you play, the better you get. That part is obvious. Of course, any kid from anywhere in America can become a hockey star given the right opportunity, but the opportunities are simply more plentiful in Yankee-land.

But my game is football. I grew up in Alabama, and every kid was playing football just like all the kids in Iowa were playing hockey (or maybe soccer). Football is like a second language to me (maybe even a co-first language, if that’s possible). The adults I knew were football experts. The kids my age were football experts, and their children would grow up to be football experts, too. It might not be accurate to say that football is in our blood in the South, but it’s definitely in the air. You eat it, breathe it, learn it, play it, and watch it. And we’re good at it. Oh mama, we’re good at it.

During the BCS Era of college football, 13 of 16 national champions were southern teams, including the last nine in a row. Is anybody really surprised by that? I mean, it’s kind of cute how the Yankees keep trying so hard to win at football, but face it – it’s just not their game. They beat each other really well at it, but for the most part, it’s a slaughter when they face Southern teams. Who doesn’t get excited when loud-mouthed Ohio State keeps getting eviscerated by team after team from the SEC? Steve Spurrier once said it’s harder to win an SEC Championship than a National Championship.

I had a professor in college suggest that the Southern frenzy over college football goes back to the defeats at places like Gettysburg and Vicksburg, which represent battles that we feel we should have won, but didn’t. College football is a way to partially make up for that – almost a proxy battle for our way of life against theirs. I can live with that. We may have lost our manhood at Gettysburg 150 years ago, but we keep getting an annual shot to regain it on the bloody fields of the Orange Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, and the Rose Bowl. Especially the Rose Bowl – that bastion of Yankee football that went out of its way to exclude Southern teams from coming in and beating them every year.

Yankees are good at hockey, and I don’t deny them that. But football is ours, and I raise my glass to the Southern boys that will likely dominate this week’s NFL Draft.

Tom Daniel

Tom Daniel holds a Ph.D in Music Education from Auburn University. He is a husband, father of four cats and a dog, and a college band director who lives back in the woods of Alabama with a cotton field right outside his bedroom window. His grandfather once told him he was "Scotch-Irish," and Tom has been trying to live up to those lofty Southern standards ever since.

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