They arrive en masse, some 20,000 strong, and many without tickets, all there to breathe in the exalted air of the Blue Mist. They name their children (and often their dogs) Peyton, Peyton Jr. and Peyton the III. Their headgear rivals Halloween on steroids as pig snouts, gator jaws and boxes of Tide detergent flanked by rolls of toilet paper are the order of the day. Their deafening C-A-T-S and calling the hog chants have been known to reach rock concert decibels. They are the FANatics of the SEC.
The SEC basketball tournament has invaded my hometown of Nashville this weekend with arguably some of the most colorful, eccentric and dedicated bordering-on-cult-like enthusiasts in the country. What makes a fan base check flight schedules and camp out overnight to see if a certain coach is flying in for an interview? What makes a grown man dress in checkerboard and televised on the jumbo-tron or on national TV? And what makes a diehard fan purchase a case of booze with his coach's name on the logo? Or take a mental health day when his team misses a three pointer to lose at the buzzer?
If still alive today, Sigmund Freud would have had the proverbial field day dissecting the mind of a sports fan. While every culture in life seeks a place to belong -- be it church, a political party or an organization -- the SEC takes it to an entirely new level. Couple this with a compelling backstory (which coach is cheating, who is on the hot seat, did that player really attend six hours of class or get a car, who is going to the draft early, etc.) and you have all the makings of a great sports opera.
Whether you are a face painter, ardent bracketologist, or you simply enjoy the theatrics both on and off the court, the bottom line is nothing tops the fun of pre-March Madness. And the fact that my team is better than yours.