Todd Kirkland/Icon SMI
I was fortunate enough to cover the SEC championship Saturday between Florida and Alabama.
Here are six leftover observations picked up at the Georgia Dome:
• How big was this game? Walking toward the stadium, a scalper asked me if I needed any tickets ... to FanFare. The SEC puts on a fan-friendly event at the Georgia World Congress Center next to the Georgia Dome the day before and the day of the SEC championship game that allows fans to kick field goals, play flag-football, shop, eat, play video games and even record their voices broadcasting games. Apparently, there is even a scalper's market for this event.
• My non-scientific observation was there was more Alabama fans both inside and outside the dome, by a slim margin. And I'll second colleague Stewart Mandel's observation about the attire of the female Tide followers. Houndstooth was most definitely in, whether as a skirt, scarf, jacket or hat. Somewhere, the Bear was smiling.
• When Nick Saban ran the 30 yards to the locker room at halftime after his quick radio interview, he had SIX state troopers surrounding him. Who said Alabama football is over the top?
• Speaking of the Tide, the two gentlemen decked out in Alabama gear sitting to my right in the 'working' media auxillary section didn't exactly check their emotions at the door. When the team captains came out for the opening coin toss, both guys stood and cheered with the rest of the Alabama faithful. An SEC media relations official quickly told them to sit down. "No cheering," they were told. They did their best in the first half, then apparently found somewhere else to "work" in the second half.
• So which Gator had the most fun in the aftermath of the victory? Tim Tebow is an easy choice, with his flag waving and hand-slapping along almost the entire first row of the Georgia Dome. But I'm going with Ahmad Black, a sophomore safety who could not stop smiling. He wrote "SEC Champs" on a whiteboard on the sideline during the final minutes, then made sure he was involved in every celebratory scrum after the confetti fell. He culminatated his celebration with a Lambeau Leap, hanging with some Gator fans in the first row of the end zone before finally heading back to the locker room. On the way, he told me, "I'm having the time of my life."
• The league honored its "Legends of the SEC" during the interminable 26-minute halftime. The South is known for its hospitality, but that gets tabled when it comes to college football. Georgia's Eric Zeier heard plenty of boos from the Florida fans, Auburn's Al Del Greco had a big smile at the Alabama boos and former Tennessee coach Doug Dickey was roundly booed from both sides.