DESTIN, Fla. — And it came to pass, on the last day of May in the year 2019, that the Southeastern Conference’s puritanical past ran head long into its more liberal, populist present and future.
The result: bottoms up.
The SEC’s most hypocritical rule is now cast into history’s ash heap. SEC schools are now free to allow their fans to belly up to the bar without having to pay the proverbial arm and leg for a suite or club seats.
The arm and leg pricing will come when they go to buy a cup of beer or wine.
Cup of wine? Yes, I know. But glass, like beer cans, will not be allowed. For alcohol-related reasons that should be obvious to all.
The SEC has had a clash of conscience versus free will for a long time now. It is a league of stark contrasts. Its roots are firmly dug in the soil of the Bible Belt, but the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (the Florida-Georgia game), The Grove at Ole Miss and a spot under the stately oaks at LSU are venerated as high, holy places.
DESTIN, Fla. — The Southeastern Conference’s version of the 18th Amendment has been repealed.
The SEC purists held out as long as they could. The conference was the last of the Power Five leagues to bend to the elbow bending crowd.
But, as is usually the case, the realities of commerce won out over whatever temperance principles some SEC member schools might have been clinging to.
Even in the sports-mad SEC, attendance at games has slowly been chipped away in recent years. And what fans come often empty the stands by the thousands at halftime, eager to get back to their tailgates to party and make you wonder why they bothered to come to the game in the first place.
The hopes for the alcohol proponents is that allowing stadium-wide sales will cut down on pregame binge drinking, alcohol-related incidents (involving binge drinkers, no doubt the thought) and keep people in the stands longer. Or, at least, give them one less reason to stay home and watch the game in high-definition splendor with a chilled six-pack in the fridge.
Ultimately, though, it’s another revenue stream. Based on the sales figures at other schools, a school like LSU should figure on turning a profit of $1-3 million. And that doesn’t even take into account a marketing deal like the one the University of Texas reportedly has with Corona for $5 million.
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Somewhere out there, probably not too far from Tiger Stadium, there is a beer executive dreaming of his product becoming the official brew of LSU athletics.
There are those sure to decry the decision, among them the makers and vendors of flasks and the tape fans use to fasten them to their calves and thighs. But they’re not the only ones.
The vote clearly pained SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, who went out of his way (correctly) to point out that this was a serious decision. Sankey, who said he has never had a drink at a sporting event, encouraged us media folks, and you at home, to remain mindful that alcohol is a demon with which people wrestle every day. And one that now will more likely to be sitting just down the aisle or one row below or behind them at a basketball game or a volleyball match.
Detractors will no doubt point to the SEC’s move as further example of moral decay in America. But reality speaks a different truth. LSU, for example, is surrounded by schools and teams that allow alcohol sales in their venues, from the Saints to Tulane to Louisiana. And it hasn’t been the end of Western civilization so far.
In the end, it simply levels the playing field. The SEC didn’t ban alcohol in its stadiums really, just kept it out of the fans who weren’t sitting in the premium seats. Now fans throughout Tiger Stadium and Alex Box Stadium and the Pete Maravich Assembly Center and, yes, Tiger Park will get to make the same choice the highfalutin folks get to make in their gold-plated perches.
I’m at the game to work, not to have a beer. But I’ll drink to that.