Top 5 SEC pregame rituals
On the field the ritual is winning. But before kickoff, SEC fans go through a plethora of pregame machinations.
Beyond the tailgating and cheering the bus as it rolls by, universities and their fans have created tedious pastimes to keep everyone engaged before the first whistle blows.
Many of these rituals have been enthusiastically embraced for generations, so much so that they almost constitute a religious experience.
Here are our top-five SEC pregame rituals:
5: The Cowbells, Mississippi State
One of the more unusual props in college football, the Starkville cowbells sound like the world's largest swarm of invading locusts. Sometimes the ringing drowns out the jet noise of the Air Force fly-by.
The large end zone scoreboard instructs the fans on when to ring and when to remain quiet. But prior to kickoff, the screen fills with nine seconds from a classic ‘Saturday Night Live' clip where Christopher Walken says, "Guess what, I got a fever, and the only prescription, is more cowbell."
State fans dutifully oblige, making this one of the strangest yet most beloved traditions anywhere.
4: Cadet March, Texas A&M
Anyone who has attended an Army-Navy game knows the chill you get when the cadets and midshipmen march into the stadium. That same feeling, on a slightly smaller scare, occurs at Kyle Field when the cadets of Texas A&M parade in formation by company prior to the Aggies taking the field.
It isn't the entire student body, but cadets make up a large enough contingent of the Aggie nation that the casual observer is left saying "wow" as they march past.
3: Bear Bryant's Indecipherable Mumble, Alabama
No matter how many times you hear it, you can never fully make it out. There's something about "being a winner" and "how you conduct yourself," but even Alabama fans who have heard the Bear's words over the PA system for decades have no idea what the man is saying.
No matter. The fact that his gravel-strewn bass voice still fills Bryant Denny Stadium every home-game Saturday is enough to bring the Crimson wearing fans to their feet. The ritual always concludes with another famous Alabama voice, that of Eli Gold, saying, "This is Alabama football," to which the crowd responds, "Roll Tide."
It doesn't get much better in college football.
2: Trumpeter Playing "Glory, Glory," Georgia
He stands in the corner near the Sanford Drive Bridge and never misses a note. The song is familiar and it doesn't take long. It's the opening two measures of The Battle Hymn of the Republic. The solo serenade is followed by the voice of the late Larry Munson saying, "Glory glory to old Georgia."
And the crowd goes wild.
This one wouldn't be that exceptional were it not for the disquieting stillness that falls over Sanford Stadium in the seconds beforehand. That many people falling simultaneously quiet is weird and a little spooky. It also makes this tradition special no matter how the Bulldogs play.
1: Eagle flight, Auburn
Despite a bumpy ride into a skybox last year, the best pregame ritual in the SEC – and perhaps the nation – is the flight of Spirit, the American bald eagle that swoops around Jordan Hare Stadium before every Auburn home game as the fans chant "War Eagle."
PETA called for the bird to be retired and sent to a sanctuary after last September's mishap, but Auburn fans are having none of that. The bird still flies and one of the great pregame traditions in all of sports continues unabated.