Reviews

Think College Sports Fans are Crazy? Watch 'SEC Storied: The Stars Are Aligned'

The stars' descriptions of game day rituals suggest that what looks crazy to a non-fan is utterly acceptable, non-news, to fans. And they know who they are.


SEC Storied: The Stars Are Aligned

Director: Andy Billman
Cast: James Carville, Ashley Judd, Melissa Joan Hart, Darius Rucker, Rick Perry
Rated: NR
Studio: ESPN Films
Year: 2014
US date: 2014-08-14 (SEC Network)
Trailer

"When I walk into the arena, I cry. It's ridiculous," says Ashley Judd. "If I don't cry when I walk into the arena, I cry when the lights go down, when the pregame show starts. It's very touching. It's sacred ground." Judd is a Kentucky Wildcats fan. Game day, she explains, "starts with getting out of bed and putting on my Kentucky slippers, a gift from my dad." During the hours leading to game time, "I am not friendly," Judd continues. Game time, she says, "is not a social gathering. This is about basketball. I only have people over who are as serious about basketball as I am."

Judd's ritual is one of several revealed in SEC Storied: The Stars Are Aligned, premiering 14 August on the SEC Network. It's not surprising, exactly, as she's never been shy about her Kentucky loyalties. Neither is it especially revealing, in the sense that Judd again demonstrates that she is a canny and charming self-performer. What her story does do, however, is fit in with most all of the other stories in Andy Billman's documentary, in the sense that it describes and celebrates the very idea of fandom, and in [articular, fandom within the Southeastern Conference.

It's likely that other fans, devoted to other teams in other organizations, would make a similar case, that their devotion is singularly fierce or uniquely colorful. Still, the SEC is a fundamentally self-promotional entity, and so, it's produced a kind of monument to exactly that, a film that doesn't question or challenge or even go into detail about that self-promotion, but instead, just presents it, incessantly. As SEC Storied: The Stars Are Aligned aligns stars to testify to the glories of fandom, it manages multiple promotions at once, from the SEC to the teams within it to the fans who whoop on sidelines, tailgate, display team colors, or cook pigs. They all have a stake in this game.

"It truly is a religion," asserts Willie Geist, a kid from New Jersey who became a Vandy convert back in the '90s. "There's something about how invested people are, thousands of people going through the interstate highways of the South, traveling to these games." His version of fandom, like Judd's, is simultaneously sincere and self-aware. He appreciates that Vanderbilt fans, for all their enthusiasm, also know they rep "a little school just trying put a team on the field." As Geist has it, his fandom includes a moral high ground that Tennessee acolytes' version does not, a point that makes its own case against the rival, whom he remembers "stomping on us" during one game. "Do you kick puppies in your free time? Do you steal ice cream from little girls in sundresses? Is that what you do, Tennessee fans?"

Yes, all fans assert that their fandom is the best kind of fandom. The Stars Are Aligned isn’t about to argue with that, or to dig into how such self-delusions take hold or what sorts of emotional purposes they serve. Instead, it offers personal memories, a little bit of game footage and lots of shots of people with chests and faces painted. Most of the stories begin with paeans to longstanding traditions, to familial histories or to transitions at pivotal moments (see Willie Geist). Some speak to irrational behaviors (James Carville defines a "real college football fan" like so: "Someone who can read the Sunday paper after they lose, you're not a college football fan.

If you look at the Sunday paper with abject terror, you're a college football fan"), others describe patterns of behavior (pointing over his head, Auburn alum and professional golfer Jason Dufner explains, ""This whole area, trees and telephone poles, will be covered in toilet paper. These are not just football games"). Such descriptions of rituals suggest that what looks crazy to a non-fan is utterly acceptable, non-news, to fans. And they know who they are.

This sense of belonging to a club is key to being a fan. Even if one group of fans hates another group of fans (Ole Miss alum Shepard Smith: "The only real hate I have, and I don't like to use that word, it's a strong word, is for LSU. I hate that tiger, I hate when that band does that horrible sound up there"), they share and understand their peculiar passion. Being indoctrinated can take a minute, as Amy Robach recalls. She first attended her first Georgia football game, which she decided to attend without the accessories she was advised to bring, including a date. "I felt humiliated, like an outcast, I was an island, I was a miserable, alone person," she remembers. And then, she says, she decided, "I'm going to submit."

Robach's story is not unlike that of another woman, Melissa Joan Hart. The film doesn't draw conclusions about how boys and girls might be absorbed into fandom differently, but Hart's initiation suggests that girls take a special route. Arriving at her new boyfriend's hometown, she says, she donned all the gear she thought was expected, from an Alabama t-shirt and a scrunchie to "Roll Tide" written on her cheeks. When she entered a sorority house for a "lovely sit down dinner," she was surrounded by other fans who had a very different sense of presentation. These girls wore the team colors, but "without the branding".

Hart smiles now, like it still hurts. "People kept coming up to me and saying, 'Now, can I get my picture made with you?' And I realized it wasn't because I was Clarissa or Sabrina. It was because I looked like a fool!" Poor girl: it's good to see that she's now aligned.

6

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image