The best thing about the Southeastern Conference is also the worst: It’s all about winning.
Sorry. Check that. Winning football.
Do that — at all costs, any cost, the details don’t matter much — you get the podium, the love, the ducats, the scepter.
And so King Gary Pinkel stepped to the microphone Wednesday morning and addressed his subjects, almost all of whom were suggesting a year ago at this time that he abdicate.
"Someone apologized to me a little while ago (about) the way they voted after this thing (in 2013)," Missouri’s football coach told reporters at SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala. "I said, ‘I don’t know how you voted for us, I don’t really care.’"
Two years ago — and almost certainly last summer — the Tigers were lumped in the corner with Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Sidney, Clayton, Mohammet and Jugdish. But after a 12-2 season, a 7-1 league mark, an SEC East crown and a berth in the 2013 title game, Mizzou football walks around Waffle House country with serious street cred.
Also, very, very large division championship rings.
Lookin’ good! CLICK HERE to check out our gallery of cheerleaders from around the SEC.
In SEC Land, rings are what all the popular kids wear. Rings are the coin of the realm. Which means reality (a reigning division champion that has averaged almost nine wins per season since 2004) might just have finally trumped perception (a "basketball" school with occasional football pep, sort of a cross between Kentucky and Ole Miss on the social pecking order).
"When I became the head football coach at Missouri, I wanted to be respected in the Big 12 — and now it’s the SEC — and nationally," Pinkel continued. "Not only do you have responsibility to the league and to your school — but to this league, we have responsibility. I just want to be respected."
When Pinkel talks to a pack of SEC scribes, the SEC scribes listen.
— For a team trying to build for the future, Mizzou’s party spent a good chunk of Wednesday morning talking about players who aren’t with the program anymore. Namely, wideout Dorial Green-Beckham, who was kicked off the team and transferred to Oklahoma, and Michael Sam, now with the St. Louis Rams.
"I want things to work well for Dorial. That’s important to me. Hopefully, they will," Pinkel told reporters in Alabama. "He’s in a good place. Hopefully, he’ll learn some lessons. He’s overall a good kid. He’s got a chance to really turn this whole thing into a positive."
More intrigue: Pinkel revealed that he spoke with Sooners coach Bob Stoops about his disgraced former receiver a month ago. Interesting.
As for Sam, the first openly gay player ever drafted into the NFL:
#Mizzou's Gary Pinkel on Michael Sam's announcement that he is gay: "It was much bigger than football. It was much bigger than Mizzou."
— Mauk told reporters he lost nine pounds last week because of a viral infection. He also showed up wearing a gold bow tie (one the Columbia [Mo.] Tribune reported he did not tie himself), while rocking a mullet and beard. Oh, and one of these, as flashed by teammate Markus Golden:
The Tigers’ top cheese also got in the best dig of the morning when asked about the proposed rule change — one favored by SEC peers such as Arkansas’ Bret Bielema and Alabama’s Nick Saban — to try to slow down the game and limit no-huddle offenses.
"I don’t know where all this started with," the Mizzou coach replied. "I just know this, OK? Never once in all those years in the fastest league I think that plays football — in the Big 12 — did I have my team doctor, my trainer, any of my coordinators walk into my office and say, ‘I’m concerned about the health of our football team.’
"It didn’t happen. Ever. Didn’t happen last year or the year before. It’s another form of football. I think it’s great that that’s another component to football and being creative. But I don’t buy the health issue in any way. It’s never happened. No one has ever come into me all those years and said, ‘Gosh, I’m really concerned about the health of our teams playing these fast-paced offenses.’ I think it’s fiction."
Today Gary Pinkel called player safety/pace of play argument "fiction". Bielema: "as for Coach Pinkel, he loves fiction, I enjoy reality."