As we head into the off season, now that the recruiting season is over (mostly), there might be no better time to pick up and read Clay Travis's Dixieland Delight: A Football Season on the Road in the Southeastern Conference.
The premise of the book is fairly simple. In 2006, Travis wrote for CBS Sportsline, and he decided to chronicle a "Dixieland Delight Tour" (or DDT) of each SEC stadium on game day. There was a reason for our delay, but it turned out to be flawed.
As a life long Tennessee Vol fan, Travis brings the requisite level of understanding to the proceedings in this book. Soon into the book, his love for Tennessee football is clear, and the fact that he still lives in Nashville helps to keep him close to the SEC football culture.
Attending Vanderbilt Law School allowed him to become friends with people that have other SEC alliances than the Vols. Most of the time, he brought one of these friends with him so that he could get a taste of the SEC outside of Big Orange.
Travis also ended up picking a great season to chronicle - 2006. That year, Urban Meyer won his first BCS Championship. This also started the current run of three straight SEC titles for the SEC that Meyer bookended this past season. Since this book, half of of the SEC (Tennessee, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Auburn, and Alabama) have changed head coaches.
In many ways 2006 marked the beginning of what have been calling the SEC's upgrade to College Football 2.0. The old guard like Fulmer (gone), Spurrier (struggling) have been replaced by coaches that are CEOs, best represented by Meyer and Nick Saban.
(Travis's own beloved Volunteers have changed horses to a young, dynamic, but largely unproven Lane Kiffin. It's a new day in the SEC as we sit only a couple of years removed from this book's publishing date. He's written about his feelings about this change on Deadspin and at his own site.)
Besides the great and humorous writing thoughout, every SEC fan can remember some of the key games that Travis got to see on his tour:
A Civil War buff, Travis's love of southern history comes out during many parts of the book. Like we did recently, Travis gives some important early history of the SEC including how it was formed and why it formation has helped it to become one of our region's dominant cultural touch points.
By traveling to every stadium, Travis soaks much of the Footprint including points in between. For example, his UT running buddy lives in Memphis which he describes as "a hotbed of conflicting SEC fan bases." There are more than a few of those. In fact, most of our urban areas are filled with different SEC fans. This makes for interesting atmostpheres at the sports bars on football Saturdays.
His journey is one of great humor aimed at the red-blooded American male. (In fact, Travis feels so strongly about the nature of his gender that he has written Man: The Book, which further features his humorous sensibility.) This means that Dixieland Delight has plenty of references to good-looking SEC girls mixed in with other tales of drinking and debauchery alongside its football subject.
However, Dixieland Delight works best as Travis's personal story. Travis's grandfather played for Tennessee starting in 1933, the very first year of the SEC's existence. The bond between grandfather and grandson upon which Tennessee football became a foundation thoroughly explains the importance of college football to many in the Footprint.
All SEC fans have stories like this - sharing memories with fathers and grandfather or sons and grandsons. It's what makes people feel a part of it all in the deepest sense.
Dixieland Delight was published in 2007 so we're admittedly a little late to the party here at Swampland Sports, but it's the perfect dose of pigskin for those missing SEC football as much as I. As I watched signing day come and go knowing that it will be months before the 2009 season begins, Dixieland Delight allowed me the thrill of an SEC season during the heart of winter.
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