By Frank Frangie
The walk. The grin. The following.
It is unmistakable. After attending almost every SEC Media Days ever held, you get a feel for a team’s expectations simply by watching the coach. Watching how he acts, his level of confidence, his swagger. And you get an idea by watching those around him. And, frankly, how many are around him.
The SEC Media Days began in 1985. I attended my first session in 1988 and have missed only one since — that was 2002 when I was waiting out a short hiatus while changing radio stations. Next week will be my 30th, meaning I’ve seen my share of swaggers and smiles and followings.
For that reason, I’m more intrigued than ever about this year’s meetings. Particularly as it relates to Florida and Georgia, the teams we cover the closest. Will head Bulldog Kirby Smart, a truly, genuine good dude, have that confident gait the elite coaches show up with after last year’s special season? A little swagger maybe? Or just same, relaxed, laid-back Kirby?
Dan Mullen, always upbeat at the Media Days, will be as full of enthusiasm as he has seemed since he got the Florida job. I have no doubt. But will he look confident? Will there be a swagger? He was always proud to be at Media Days as the Mississippi State coach. But my gut says he will seem prouder than ever.
Then there is the following. Nick Saban always had the biggest following, in part, because he is Nick Saban. But also because it was always held in Alabama — about an hour from the school’s Tuscaloosa campus — and Crimson Tide faithful always found their way to the Wynfrey Hotel
So this year, with the meetings an hour or so from the Georgia campus in Athens, and on the heels of Georgia almost winning it all, will Smart have the biggest following? Will Georgia day feel like Bama day felt like in Birmingham?
And just how big of a following will Mullen have? The Florida coach — regardless of who it is — always is a big deal, yet was biggest when grinning, joke-cracking Steve Spurrier arrived. Truth is, the elite status of the program has faded badly over the past decade. The Gators will be picked either second or third in a watered-down SEC East by default. But will the media give Mullen more than a perfunctory amount of attention?
Media Days are always a blast. Everyone is optimistic. Everyone is undefeated. But only a few have that look, that swagger, that following. I’m interested to see how that plays out this year.
THIS AND THAT — I now can admit it officially, I’m a rube. I know much of the sports-watching world is locked into the World Cup. I tried. I had that Croatia-Russia match/game on. It was close, exciting, came down to penalty kicks, etc. Yet I was bored to tears. Sorry. I’m a rube. I admit it.
Bryce Harper is batting .218 and starting the All-Star game. One more reason fans should NEVER be in charge of picking the all-stars. Never. An all-star game should be for the best players who are playing the best, not the most popular. … Speaking of baseball, I think it’s going to be Red Sox-Dodgers in October. Which would make a for an unbelievable series.
It seems like I’m in a minority, but I love the idea of a Tiger-Phil match for $10 million. I love the PGA Tour, I love everything about it, and I love it when people are talking golf. And EVERYONE would be talking golf that week. I think people would really lock in and watch, particularly if it was on in prime time on the East Coast, meaning a 5 p.m. Starting time at a West Coast Venue (Pebble, anyone?) As for those of you who say you have no interest, well, don’t watch. The rest of us will.
It was cool to see Jumbo Shrimp play-by-play man Roger Hoover get all the national attention for the shattered laptop on the foul ball. Roger is an all-world good guy, darn good broadcaster, too. Good for him. … JU baseball is replacing all the seats at Session Stadium this summer and also adding a grandstand to allow fans to watch while in the shade. When that happens, that stadium, already beautifully set along the St. John’s river and among historic oak trees on the JU campus, will be one of the most scenic in college baseball. You will love it.
Jags camp is in 16 days. Yes, I’m chomping at the bit.
On vacation this week and two days away from finally seeing “Springsteen on Broadway.” I’m like a little kid about this. I’ll be sure to report in. Play your cards right and you might get a full set list.