Football in Dixie

After my futile attempt to secure tickets to the USC-Ohio State game (Ticketless Trojan), a friend passed along a copy of Dixieland Delight: A Football Season on the Road in the Southeastern Conference. It’s not exactly Grisham or Faulkner but provides insightful and humorous observations ranging from the pre-game culture and rituals to comments on “Bama Bangs” (male adolescent hair styles of AL fans). On funny excerpt on the relative confidence-insecurities of Georgia fans in the run-up to the 2006 Tennessee game in Athens :

“… as we cross the campus a Georgia fan approaches me and syas, “I just want to go ahead and congratulate you on kicking our ass.” Then he shakes my hand. The Georgia Bulldogs are the defending SEC Champions, yet, based on their fans, you’d think that they were Vanderbilt about to kick off against the Chicago Bears.”

DD’s author, Clay Travis, relates ticket purchasing experiences on gameday on each campus. In all cases, tickets were available. In seven of the eleven cases with data (AL-AU seemingly not provided), he secured tickets at or below face value (UK-GA, Ole Miss-MSU, VU-SC, AR-AL, MSU-AU, TN-Cal, LSU-UK) and one slightly above (AU-LSU). The games substantially above face value include GA-TN, SC-TN, FL-SC. The ease of tickets at quality games (AR-AL) or rivalry games (Miss-MSU) likely owes itself to the size of the stadiums relative to the fan population base. Highest price (GA-TN at $100/ticket) involves high quality teams with relatively close proximity, relatively close to the South’s largest metro area. Of course, the availability of tickets leads back to my question of the lack of them at the Trojan game. (Additional insights on ticket markets appears in the Boston Magazine, quoting one of the sports econ crowd, Craig Depken.)

DD also draws out socio-economic and cultural contrasts to my USC adventure. Twenty- and thirty-somethings dominate the USC fan base. I would estimate fewer than 10% were older than me (47) with hardly any below college age. In contrast, from both my experiences and Travis’ book, the SEC demographics include a much wider dispersal of ages both on the low and high ends. Why such a difference? The SEC v. USC games reflect differences that others have noted about places such as Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field versus Wrigley Field (affluent 20s and 30s). No doubt, the alumni base from a relatively small private institution differs from that of large, public institutions in terms of affluence, and this may but why the age differences?