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COMMENTARY: Down South, football isn't just a game, it's a cultural identity

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(Source: SEC) (Source: SEC)

(RNN) - The world should probably be put on notice - we here down south like to play football.

Especially in Alabama.

With its fourth BCS National Championship in a row, there's a good chance the state is on the verge of seceding from the NCAA altogether and forming its own in-state super league.

Which, admittedly, for now, would be dominated by the University of Alabama.

But how is that any different from the rest of college football?

Alabama has dominated three of the last four seasons, with an Auburn national championship sandwiched in between the first and second run by the Crimson Tide.

No matter what conference to which football fans claim allegiance, everyone is quite aware the SEC just took home its seventh national championship in a row. And by the looks of it, Alabama, Texas A&M and Georgia could all make title runs next year. Maybe LSU and Florida, as well.

Getting through the SEC unscathed is a challenging proposition. With teams that individually could be the top team in any conference in the country if only they weren't in the same conference playing each other, getting through the season without a loss is near impossible.

Before anyone calls me an SEC homer, you should know I graduated from - and cheer for - a C-USA school. What do we know about football? By the time C-USA teams figure the game out, we pay our exit fee and find another league in which to play. Ask Texas Christian, who jumped from C-USA to the Mountain West to the Big 12 faster than you can say "Horned frogs."

But I do know excellence when I see it.

And I do know that football here isn't just a game. It's an identity.

A proper weekend down here in the South starts with the game on Saturday and church on Sunday. Church outranks football, if only by the smallest of margins. There's plenty of food - and prayer - at both. 

Football is as much a part of the South as fried pickles, sweet tea, boiled peanuts, Baptist churches, a long, drawn-out 'y'all,' granddaddy's heirloom Bible, summer weekends in Panama City, winter retreats to Gatlinburg, and Lynyrd Skynyrd anthems (which Bama fans have modified to say "Roll Tide Roll" in the pause between the lyric "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Where the skies are so blue," much to the amusement or confusion of visiting bands playing the song).

Football runs through our veins like salt water from the Gulf of Mexico and gumbo from the Alabama and Louisiana Bayous.

And there's no better way to spend an Autumn Saturday than listing to Rammer Jammer or War Eagle or Glory blast from the stands.

I won't mention Rocky Top. No one outside of Knoxville really likes to hear it.

We wear houndstooth as a fashion statement and yell strange things like "Hotty Toddy!" and throw giant cocktail parties in the parking lots of our favorite stadiums. 

And when schools out west brag that they filled 60,000 seats, we say "bless their hearts" and don't bring up that SEC spring scrimmages bring that many people.

We don't have many presidents from the deep south. But we have a lot of kings. Bryant, Dooley (Vince), Vaught, Dye, Neyland, Jordan, Saban, forever immortalized in the folklore of Southern culture, if not in big, bronzed statues on their respective campuses (or kingdoms, as it were).

Someone, someday will snap the SEC national championship streak. It's inevitable. Maybe Chip Kelly's Oregon Ducks and their high powered offense. Maybe Florida State will put all the pieces together and be the team they're capable of being, giving Jimbo Fisher his first championship in Tallahassee.

But it's no coincidence that the SEC has won nine BCS Championships and the nearest competitor, the Big 12, has won two.

To you, it's a game.

To us, it's a way of life.

That's why the SEC has been and will continue to be dominant at football.

Roll Tide, War Eagle, Geaux Tigers, Go Dawgs (of the Georgia or Mississippi State variety, whichever you choose).

Let's all raise a glass of sweet tea to seven straight, y'all. Praise the Lord.

Copyright 2013 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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