ESPN college football analyst Robert Smith, who played running back for Ohio State and the Minnesota Vikings:
“It's an absolute obsessive level that goes even beyond what you see in the state of Texas. They live, breathe and eat football down there.”
New York Times reporter Warren St. John, who followed Alabama's 1999 football team in an RV and described the experience and crazed fans he met in his 2004 bestseller, “Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer.” From the book's introduction:
“I grew up in Alabama — possibly the worst place on earth to acquire a healthy perspective on the importance of spectator sports.
“A recent poll by the Mobile Register found that 90 percent of the state's citizens describe themselves as college football fans. … To understand what an absolute minority nonfans are in Alabama, consider this: they are outnumbered there by atheists.”
Clay Travis, a Tennessee-based writer and radio host who has authored two books on SEC football:
“I think what Southerners have done is put football in the middle of the culture of the South, which is family, cookouts, drinking — probably to excess oftentimes. Football is a part and parcel of the experience, but it's really just a small part.
“Ole Miss says, ‘We may lose a game, but we've never lost a party.' A lot of these fan bases have not been historically successful, but you still show up because it's almost like a big family reunion. It's a party. There's nothing that compares like it. I've been all over the NFL, and it's laughable to compare NFL tailgating and atmosphere with what goes on in the SEC.”
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