Loran Smith’s Sports Column: Music City

Published 4:30 pm Tuesday, October 10, 2023

NASHVILLE—With all the conference realignment, which has taken

place, you hear about all the travel costs and headaches which will come

with expansion which will have, in the Big Ten, UCLA and Southern Cal

playing in New Brunswick, N. J., and State College Pennsylvania.

 

What about all the class time that is going to be missed just to travel

with your respective team? You fly across three time zones, and you need

at least 24 hours for your body to acclimate.

What about the fans? There must be many fans who drive to games

in the Big Ten. I’m guessing there are some die-hard fans who drive to all

road games, but it is a lot different driving from State College, Penn., to

Ann Arbor, Michigan (390 miles) than to the West Coast.

It was bad enough for Big Ten fans to drive say from State College to

Lincoln, Neb., a distance of 1,073 miles.

It would take you 46 hours and 25 minutes to drive from LA to New

Brunswick and 38 hours and 47 minutes to get to State College by car.

This means that not many fans will be driving to the eastern campuses of

 

the Big Ten or from those on the East side of the country motoring to the

West Coast.

With Oklahoma and Texas coming into the Southeastern Conference,

a Bulldog fan, for example, can drive to Austin (976 miles) and Norman

(925 miles) in a day if he chooses to.

While the college game, even with all the problems that are

constantly forecast, remains the greatest of games, it is easy to see that

greed is rearing its ugly head. Next thing we know, a kid will score three

touchdowns in kindergarten competition and then sign with an agent.

Since the last of the fifties, I have been coming to Nashville often.

Competition with Vanderbilt sports teams has been the main reason for my

visits here but there have been other motivations to hang out in Music City

over the years.

I have watched Nashville grow from about 171,000 in 1960 to

690,000 today. It has always been a favorite city to visit, but every SEC

venue has something redeeming about its environs and attractions.

Nashville has always been a “feel good” city dating back to the Grand Ole

Opry at the Ryman Auditorium.

 

There are fishing and hunting options for most SEC venues and

abundant golf courses. History such as the Hermitage, the home of

Andrew Jackson, in Nashville and then there is all the excitement you find

in New Orleans.

Georgia played Auburn in Columbus for years and you might not

think of great attractions connected with this city, but you can discover

some of the most uplifting scenery in our state on the Pine Mountain Ridge.

Florida in Jacksonville became my favorite trip, dating back to my

undergraduate days. Fishing for a couple of days in advance of the big

cocktail party in Jacksonville with former Georgia player and coach John

Donaldson brought about the greatest of times in our state’s coastal

waters. Lately, we have been hosted by Vernon and Patricia Brinson at

Ponte Vedra. Nothing like a bottle of Bordeaux overlooking the ocean on a

moonlight night.

Baton Rouge and bayou living, Oxford and William Faulkner and the

other personalities who have passed that way, driving over the mountain to

get to Knoxville all make for wonderful travel experiences. And to see the

horses run at Keeneland when you play Kentucky, is sensational, stirring,

and unforgettable.

 

For years, the leaves turning during the weekend of Vandy and

Kentucky games were a bonus which sadly, with the schedule changes,

have gone away. Regrettable.

Nashville remains a favorite destination in SEC football travel

opportunity. Now that it is bursting at the seams, I am wondering what it will

be like when it becomes a big city and big city problems become part of its

fabric. Perhaps you remember when you could enjoy Atlanta and not being

fearful of being robbed at gunpoint in a restaurant parking lot.

I can remember Printer’s Alley where Boots Randolph used to hang

out at a place called “The Carousel.” There might be a lull at some point

and Boots would suddenly grab his saxophone and play “Yakety Sax.”

 

In those days, schools wanted to win the conference title and play in

a big bowl game. Now it is year-round focus on winning the national

championship while pocketing millions of dollars, which begs the question.

Are we any better off than in those provincial days?