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Days of Whine and Rose Bowls: S.E.C. Bloggers and the Buckeye Backlash

These are busy times around the blogosphere. While I've been getting geared up for Bloggerpalooza and MaconDawg has been giving you the straight poop on Kenneth Page (who may or may not have been the guest of honor at a highly unsuccessful party in these clips), Sunday Morning Quarterback has had this to allow regarding the beleaguered Buckeyes:

I don't know that anyone else will come closer to saying what is probably true about the Buckeyes right now, which is that, even just five years removed from an undefeated, mythical championship season, they are for all intents and purposes the Buffalo Bills. I don't think this is disputable, and encourage the skeptical reader to introduce the topic on any blog or message board with regular contributions from SEC fans if they wish to test the premises.

I will grant SMQ's thesis at its most basic level; over the course of the last two national championship games, Ohio State has earned a reputation which the Buckeyes will have to live down if they are to make a third straight such appearance. However, I find troubling the notion---especially coming from a fellow Southerner---that extreme (read: unwarranted) skepticism concerning the Ohio State University may be found "on any blog" featuring "regular contributions from SEC fans," particularly in light of the accusation (implicit in such a declaration) that Southeastern Conference bloggers and commenters are most to blame for the current state of affairs.

I know, I know, I know; I agreed not to participate in the conference wars, but I continue to reserve the right to defend the S.E.C. from unreasonable broadsides in legal brief form . . . and, quite frankly, I'm getting a little tired of all the Big Ten whining.

For all the grousing about S.E.C. fans, our weblogs (a category, incidentally, which includes Dawg Sports), and our message boards (a category, incidentally, which includes many Dawg Sports readers), it would appear that much of the name-calling, finger-pointing, and league-bashing, much like holiday traffic on I-75, has been flowing first from the Midwest to the Southeast rather than starting in the opposite direction.

After all, it wasn't S.E.C. bloggers who hated them some Ohio State; it was Big Ten bloggers who hated them some Georgia. It wasn't an S.E.C. blogger who swore never again to support a Big Ten team's claim to a national championship game berth; it was a Big Ten blogger who made that pledge about the S.E.C., as well. It wasn't an S.E.C. fan who expressed his preference for Adolf Hitler over the Big Ten; it was a Big Ten fan who directed that scurrilous and offensive animadversion at the S.E.C. It also wasn't a Florida fan who asked Big Ten fans to perform a degrading sex act upon him.

Sunday Morning Quarterback undoubtedly is correct that some message boards would---do---light up with crude dismissals of Big Ten football, but every fan base in every region has its fair share of yahoos. The comments appended to SMQ's own posting, however, are illustrative of the hypocrisy to be found among some of our Midwestern brethren (including one who grumbled that he couldn't have picked three worse years to live in the South).

Lewis Grizzard had a helpful suggestion for this sensitive soul.

A fellow who proclaims himself "still ill" offered this observation:

The current BCS system also gives people the impression that the key to success in college football is being the most convincing braggart, and the SEC seems to have taken this idea to heart, from the commissioner down to the fans.

Admittedly, this point is not wholly insubstantial. As I freely acknowledged at the time, Urban Meyer's unbecoming electioneering for a spot in the title game against Ohio State at the end of the 2006 season lacked the dignity displayed by Lloyd Carr, who refused to stoop to that level.

Since when is Coach Meyer's pedigree Southern, though? Before becoming the head coach of the Gators in 2005, he had never worked in the S.E.C. Coach Meyer's ties all were to such decidedly non-Southern enclaves as Utah, Bowling Green, Notre Dame, Illinois State, and---yes---Ohio State. In this respect, he is much like L.S.U.'s Les Miles, a Michigan man. (Lest I incur the further wrath of a particular fan of the Louisiana State University, however, let me hasten to add that Les Miles is a better coach than I gave him credit for being.)

While I am on the subject of Big Ten guys who have coached at L.S.U., I should note, as well, that, when Nick Saban (a Kent State alum who coached in Toledo, Cleveland, and East Lansing) said something silly and unfairly critical of the Big Ten, I took him to task for it, despite knowing from firsthand experience that many Alabama fans do not cotton to criticisms of their current head coach.

In short, the presence of a "most convincing braggart" mentality in the Southeastern Conference coaching ranks seems to be concentrated almost exclusively among those coaches with direct ties to Big Ten schools. (Mark Richt, who has no such connections, is too busy supporting the troops to brag.) As for the charge that a boastful nature is the hallmark of the S.E.C. commissioner, let's just say that Big Ten fans whose commissioners live in glass houses might want to think twice before throwing stones.

Along similar lines, the aforementioned commenter who disdained the time frame during which he found himself living in the South discerned "[p]erfect anecdotal evidence of SMQ's exact point, in the comments of the post itself, no less." This evidence came in the form of a prior comment made by the proprietor of Corn Nation, SB Nation's Nebraska weblog. Contrary to what fans of Larry the Cable Guy's faux-Southern shtick may believe, the Cornhuskers are not a Southern team.

Big Ten readers, please note that the University of Nebraska is not located in a city called "Davis."

In short, some Big Ten fans' broadsides against the S.E.C. have become so knee-jerk and ill-considered that even Nebraskans and Ohioans are being swept into the mix, which brings us to Sunday Morning Quarterback's uncharacteristic overgeneralization about "any blog" with a Southeastern pedigree. Here, for the record, is what I have had to say about the Big Ten and the S.E.C.:

The Big Ten and the S.E.C. are comparable conferences competing evenly with one another. This is why the frequent postseason matchups between the two have produced many close contests and an overall .500 record in recent seasons. . . .

As kindred spirits, we and those like us on both sides of the aisle should be able to interact with civility, even when we disagree. The large areas of common ground that we share should be more evident and open to exploration.

To the extent that we have difficulty finding that shared expanse, both sides are at fault. When Coach Fulmer offered his ignorant utterance, he said something foolish and false, for which S.E.C. fans should be the first to call him out because he made us all look bad by conforming to the popular stereotype of Southern football fans as condescending detractors of teams and leagues from New England, the Midwest, and the West.

By the same token, when a retort is warranted, those offering a rejoinder should take care not to paint with too broad a brush.

Here, too, is another representative example of what I have had to offer upon this topic:
The unapologetic S.E.C. homer in me would like to believe that Big Ten teams are just plain scared, but that, too, is a theory unsupported by evidence. Between 2002 and 2006, S.E.C. teams were 1-0 against Big Ten teams in B.C.S. bowl games, but, during that same period, the Big Ten was 2-1 against the S.E.C. in the Music City Bowl, 3-2 against the S.E.C. in the Outback Bowl, and 3-2 against the S.E.C. in the Capital One Bowl.

In other words, read my lips . . . I respect other conferences! What do Big Ten fans need me to do . . . call them the morning after the Outback Bowl?

When I hear this kind of bilious crap from Big Ten country, I try to respond reasonably. When a Big Ten blogger gripes about the Worldwide Leader's "SEC lovefest," I try to offer a measured rejoinder before I turn right around and nominate that blogger for an award.

Accordingly, I take issue with the notion of the S.E.C.'s supposed built-in bias against the Buckeyes. Yes, I offered a principled defense of the proposition that Ohio State did not deserve to be ranked No. 1---an argument about which I was proven correct, offered in response to a fellow Georgia fan's advocacy of the Buckeyes---but even I gave Jim Tressel's squad more credit than it deserved based upon the strength of its schedule. If nothing else, surely every college football fan believes me when I claim that I hate Florida more than I hate Ohio State.

And Auburn. I hate Auburn, too.

I find the whining about a Buckeye backlash so disingenuous and unconvincing because Ohio State so clearly got the benefit of every doubt last year. That supremely impartial Ohio native, Columbus resident, and Ohio State alum Kirk Herbstreit spent the second half of the 2007 Big 12 championship game treating his alma mater's ascension as a given and, without a word of objection from his colleagues in the booth or on the sideline, confined his arguments to the merits of the respective contenders vying for the right to oppose the Buckeyes in the national championship game in which they had been obliterated the year before. If Ohio State is being subjected to an unfair backlash now---and it is very early to assert that this will be the case---it is only because it benefited so handsomely from undeservedly favorable treatment last autumn. You don't get to complain about the hangover if you willingly accepted every free drink offered you.

In 2008, as always, I will eschew favoritism, rank by resumes, and submit honest BlogPoll ballots. Ohio State's stock will rise or fall with me depending upon the Buckeyes' achievement on the field; I will evaluate O.S.U. based upon what the team does and against whom the team does it.

The Buckeyes do not start at a disadvantage with me, however much unseemly whining may accompany the sweeping generalizations to which even the most moderate S.E.C. bloggers routinely are subjected. Even if they did, though, I would thank my fellow denizens of the blogosphere to remove the planks from the eyes of many---not all---Big Ten fans before calling attention to the motes in the eyes of S.E.C. bloggers: Georgia and Ohio State both produce large amounts of N.F.L. talent, have coaches with comparable records, and posted 11-2 seasons in 2007, yet Ohio State fans are not having to fend off ignorant assaults by Stewart Mandel against their team's national stature . . . and Georgia is encountering a backlash of its own.

Once again, I grant Sunday Morning Quarterback's generic point, but I dispute strongly the way that he made it and I vigorously object to the underlying cries that the kettle is black coming from a myriad of Midwestern pots, which wailing and gnashing of teeth gave rise to SMQ's erroneous assignment of a uniquely, or even largely, Southern character to whatever doubts Ohio State engendered by losing badly in games in which the Buckeyes were expected to, but did not, appear deserving as contenders.

I doubt seriously that Ohio State will draw the short straw if push comes to shove. The Big 12 entered the 2005 season with a comparable black eye after the exposure of Oklahoma's unworthiness in championship showdowns at the ends of the 2003 and 2004 campaigns appeared to confirm a nagging suspicion held by many in the wake of Nebraska's outrageous invitation to the Rose Bowl at the end of the 2001 season, but that sentiment did not prevent Texas from earning a Rose Bowl berth that year.

Pre-emptive whining about being kept out of a game no team yet has been barred from attending is unseemly and decidedly premature; assuming that S.E.C. bloggers and fans of every stripe already assume that this anticipated blackballing will be warranted if, in fact, it comes to pass is as prejudicial as the S.E.C.'s detractors presume all Southerners to be, and it is just plain wrong, besides.

Go 'Dawgs!