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    In The SEC, The Family Is Always First

    By: Eric SanInocencio
    Twitter: @EricSan
    SEC Digital Network

    Birmingham, Ala. – Fans in the Southeastern Conference have a favorite chant.  I’m sure you’ve heard it before.

    In the waning moments of any big victory involving a team from the SEC, the phrase is sure to pop up. It is often uncoordinated at first, a few sparse yells from a section in the stadium. Then it gains traction.

    Fans start looking at each other, making sure to choreograph the yelling of each letter. At that point the volume rises, just loud enough that people at home can make out the noise through their TV speakers.

    A few seconds later, the entire world hears it.

    “S-E-C, S-E-C, S-E-C!”

    The timing of the chant can vary. Sometimes, you’ll hear it in the first quarter (Alabama vs. Michigan). Every now and then it will start at the end of the half (Alabama vs. Notre Dame). The third quarter has had its fair share (Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma) of chants, and once the clock ticks down at the end of the game…forget about it.

    Heck, sometimes you hear it when both teams are from the SEC (LSU vs. Alabama in 2012). The chant is more than a rallying cry, it is the heart and soul of what the SEC is all about.

    The chant means everything.

    To understand that phrase, you have understand the SEC. You have to understand this region of the country; the conference’s storied history and most importantly the pride of its fan base. The bond that SEC fans share with not only their teams, but their league, is unique to all of college football. Nowhere in the nation is the camaraderie any stronger. The SEC is a brotherhood.

    I’m not saying every fan of an SEC team is in turn a fan of the SEC as a whole. But, as illustrated throughout Monday’s build up to the BCS Championship Game, more often than not that is the case. The stream of public support for Alabama reached across the entire league footprint, with fans from College Station, Texas, to Columbia, South Carolina screaming “Roll Tide”!

    Even as they acknowledged the emotional connection to their teams, it was also important that they represent their conference.  Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel said it best on Twitter.

    “I have all the respect in the world for Notre Dame and Manti Teo but I've got to say it. ROLL TIDE!”

    The genuine fan excitement in the entire SEC’s success can be puzzling to an outside observer. What makes Auburn fans cheer for Alabama? What would cause bitter rivals to root for a team they loathe so much?

    It is because SEC football is more than football. It is a way of life.

    Saturdays in the SEC are generational.  Fall football games are a coming together of not just two teams, but of families. Families with decades of history tied to their favorite schools, people who mark their life through the time line of their football team. Ask any SEC fan what they remember most about a random year, and chances are their first answer will revolve around SEC football.  Schedules are cleared around it, and life is not allowed to interfere.

    That’s just the way it is.

    The fact that so many schools share these memories together is why the bond is so strong. For every great moment in Alabama history, there is a gut wrenching feeling for the SEC schools left in their wake.

    Like Georgia fans will tell you this morning, seeing the Crimson Tide defeat Notre Dame made the Bulldogs loss in the SEC Championship sting a little more. They know their team was just five yards away from that spot in Miami. The interweaving emotions that come with life as an SEC football fan can only be understood by those that live it, which is why when it comes to competing against someone else, the SEC always comes first.

    It may seem silly, taking credit for another’s team victory, but SEC pride continues to grow, only getting stronger as the borders widen. One of the first banners produced by Texas A&M after joining the SEC was declaring the Lone Star State “SEC Country”. Missouri fans created a special hash tag, #MIZSEC, to commemorate the Tigers’ new home.

    In the past week, the #SEC hash tag has been tweeted out over 463,000 times. 203,000 of those were in the past 24 hours, as fans across the conference celebrated Alabama’s 42-14 win over Notre Dame. #SEC7, the league’s official hash tag for the event, was tweeted out over 1100 times in the aftermath of the Crimson Tide victory.  Not only is “the chant” being heard in stadiums, but online is well.

    Football, family and tradition. That’s definitely worth chanting about.

    S-E-C indeed.