SEC Media Days returns to the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover on Tuesday, now with 14 conference members crammed into three days of creeptastic family fun!
I'm asked, and often, what the experience is like. Did I enjoy it? No. The first trip to SEC Media Days is fun for anyone. It's a thing. It's kind of a big deal. At least, on the surface it's a big deal because it is a room theorhetically packed with celebrity. And as a 22-year-old kid trying to break his way into the field of sports media, it's easy to get caught up in a lot of flash bulbs and crowds of bearded gentlemen wearing fedoras with an index card reading "PRESS" distinctively displayed in the band.
But it gets old very quickly. I realize that sounds "spoiled" or maybe even like some kind of "humble brag," but it's true. It's a zoo. When asked which event I have most enjoyed covering, I will typically answer with the SEC Baseball Tournament at Regions Park or SEC Media Days: Basketball Edition (at the Sheraton on Highway 280).
People think they are really missing something at the Wynfrey, but think about how amazing it was when you first heard the Santana/Rob Thomas smash hit "Smooth." It was awesome, right? "Oh man, now THIS is a song I can really get behind," you said aloud as you cruised the square in your 1996 Monte Carlo. "It's about hot days, hot licks and good times!" you continued, though you were riding alone and no one could respond.
But then, something happened. Two hundred people crammed into one room playing "Smooth." They all showed up with backpacks full of mini helmets and white-paneled footballs hoping for the five minutes Rob Thomas would come down the escalator and throw around his John Hancock. Meanwhile, 700 radio stations from East Bum Whistle, Alabama, showed up, also in the same room, and started blasting "Smooth" like they were introducing you to hot new hits.
"KEEP IT OR COAST IT? You tell us what what what to play! I'm Magic Ken on the Mic ALL DAY!"
So now, the room is crowded with overweight people wearing Rob Thomas tour t-shirts and hats, carrying backpacks filled with balls and there are 700 Magic Kens who are wildly popular at the local Chevy Dealership when they give out free barbecue from Rita's Smoke Pit every Tuesday in East Bum Whistle because Sue Ellen heard Magic Ken spinning "Smooth" and thinks he is Ryan Seacrest. There may or may not be a beach ball being batted around.
Meanwhile, Holly Rowe and The Daves Three are trying to do a job. Spin "Smooth." And spin that bad boy like it's the first time you've heard it. But now, Magic Kens, Sue Ellen and all of her friends are standing elbow to elbow in the same room playing "Smooth." And playing "Smooth." And playing "Smooth." And playing "Smooth."
So, now you're tired of "Smooth."
Aside from just hearing "Smooth" too many times and the natural exhaustion, you've reached a point where you know every sigh Rob Thomas makes on the record. You know exactly when Santana hits that minor chord. That first drum beat that once got you all jacked now feels like it is beating you mercilessly in the face while you hopelessly shout "UNCLE."
I'm going to save you the time of having to listen to "Smooth." Because there's nothing new about "Smooth" anymore, as there is nothing new that is going to happen when SEC Media Days kicks off. In fact, things became so saturated when SEC Media Days was at its peak, measures have been taken to offer an even more sanitized version of it, by both broadcast professionals and the conference itself.
Notice that you've gotten interviews with Steve Spurrier and James Franklin on Paul Finebaum's show in the last two weeks? Sure, Franklin was on because he was in Alabama (and apparently calling everyone who would listen, as he made an impromptu appearance on Eyes on Auburn later that evening), but it still saved Paul from doing the interview next week. And Spurrier? He and Paul are friends, so Spurrier feels the obligation to join his program at SEC Media Days. The thing is, The Ol' Ball Coach doesn't want to walk through that lobby. So he did the token appearance, and now he can slip out the back entrance of the Wynfrey and get to his four man scramble.
The back entrance is funny. Guys like Spurrier are pulling the ol' "okie doke" on these crimson-clad autograph hounds far more than they realize. Up that escalator, there are rooms. Some are huge halls for the print media to gather, and others are the size of your home office. In these rooms, coaches can be pulled aside and a select few can get a recorded interview with them for later air. This has become common practice, allowing coaches to not have to go to "Radio Row" which extends to the Galleria entrance. The practice has made "Radio Row" virtually pointless, except to show other stations that you are in attendance so they don't instantly cut :30 second space-filling promos boasting of how much better their coverage was than yours. "WE HAD IT FIRST BECAUSE WE CARE." No you didn't. Every outlet had the exact same story, filled with the exact same coach speak and quotes. At this point, you are the 75th band to cover "Smooth." I was over it after the second cover.
This is what you are going to get.
- Mark Richt will be asked about Isaiah Crowell. He'll say something about how that isn't how his players are supposed to represent themselves and that he wishes him the best.
- Nick Saban will be asked about expectations and he'll firmly tell media members they are stupid. They will laugh. "He tells it like it is!" they'll say, as they slap their knees.
- Les Miles will say something that doesn't really make sense. You can tell he is trying to get to a point, and what he is saying is endearing, but it's not thought out and it is poorly delivered. Media types will talk about how every year, he keeps growing on them.
- The phrase "This is the first time Houston Nutt hasn't been here since 1997. 1997. Wow. That's been a long time" will be uttered 1,652 times. This phrase will be said more than Hugh Freeze's name.
- Steve Spurrier is going to say something wildly hilarious. It'll probably be a subtle shot at another coach or at a recent rule change, or he may hit the elusive "double eagle." The article written about the story will be headlined, "Some Things Never Change." [PHOTO: Spurrier sitting behind a microphone, smirk, hand placed near jaw, banner with SEC logo in background]
- No one is going to know what they are supposed to ask Kevin Sumlin or Gary Pinkel, so you are going to hear how they feel about joining the SEC and what it means to their program in every language either can speak.
- Derek Dooley will be asked about being on the hot seat. He'll probably deliver one of the more memorable responses of the week when he is asked. This will be the second biggest story to come from SEC Media Days.
- James Franklin will look like Tommy Tuberville at the same event near the end of his tenure. He will invite himself to speak with anyone that wants to talk and everyone will accept because no other coach offers that type of courtesy. He'll be on Radio Row the day before he is actually supposed to speak and before it's over, he will have sold seven vaccuum cleaners no one wanted to buy. It'll be his last appearance at SEC Media Days unless Tennessee hires him. But that would be super weird.
- Paul Finebaum will have Danny Sheridan as a guest host for an entire four hour show. Notice how silent the "Danny Sheridan buys Twitter followers" story got after it was broken? Well, now Danny is going to spend four hours telling you how he has no idea what the Internet is and "Awww..gosh, Paul, I'm just an old man who doesn't know how to do all that foolishness." He'll offer to be hooked up to a lie detector and he'll curse at callers who call in to tell him that he is an ignorant disgrace. This incredibly wasteful, but still entertaining, dog-and-pony show will provide Finebaum two weeks of content and successfully bridge the gap to Fall camps. This will be the biggest story to come from SEC Media Days, and it isn't about anything at SEC Media Days. The content could be created today, in October or in 2016.
- There will also be a Finebaum show in which the host bridges the gap between his callers and the yokels in the lobby of the Wynfrey, a flawless segue because they are the same group. They will "sit in" with Paul and argue behind a microphone instead of over the phone. They will talk about how much different each other looks in person than what they expected.
- There will be a blogger gathering at a local Birmingham bar. But this year, everybody that heard how entertaining the same events were last year will show up. So, much like "Smooth," now it's not going to be the same. These people are going to have wild expectations and they aren't going to be able to interact because there are too many people. So the gathering will be blocked off into smaller cliques and everyone will leave disappointed the event didn't measure to the tall tales they had heard. For a full read on the events of last year, including my interesting meetup with Clay Travis, go here: http://theplaymaker.tumblr.com/post/7914244611/they-see-me-trollin-they-hatin
- Some young buck entering the business will take home a box of media guides. They will never be opened and they will begin collecting dust in his garage until next year's box joins it.
- Bloggers, writers, radio hosts and television hosts will complain about the crowd. There will be a mountain of jokes about how dumb those people are, most hovering in the "redneck" genre.
- Your Twitter timeline is going to read like this:
@YahooForde: "Kevin Sumlin says he is excited to be a part of the SEC. #bus"
@DanWetzel: "Kevin Sumlin: 'I am excited to be a part of the SEC."
@BruceFeldman: "Kevin Sumlin is excited to be a part of the SEC."
@the_ironshiek: "does hulk hogan get it new country way or old country way?"
@ClayTravisBGID: "Kevin Sumlin is the real deal. GREAT hire. Best hire ever by an SEC school. Maybe the best hire in football history? Here's a link to boobs: bit.ly/hBB8aT
@schadjoe: "I'm reporting that Kevin Sumlin is excited to be in the SEC."
@edsbs: "HIVEMIND: If Kevin Sumlin were wearing a funny hat, what would be the funniest hat he could wear?"
@TimBrando: "Kevin Sumlin may never win a game. Please react to me."
@SPORTSbyBROOKS: "I mean, it was KIDS. He was molesting KIDS. Can we all agree that's bad? And the Paternos say nothing happened."
@SPORTSbyBROOKS: "Nothing happened? Bullcrap nothing happened. Here's a story: bit.ly/h777D
@RickMuscles: "Do you think Kevin Sumlin's calves look good? I bet mine look better."
@SPORTSbyBROOKS: "Click on that story."
@MagicKen933: "I JUST MET KEVIN SUMLIN HE WAS WELL SPOKEN."