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The ritual that might induce the most anxiety belongs to Auburn. At Jordan-Hare Stadium, says Ellis, "when that War Eagle flies in [and goes for a piece of meat at midfield]—if that doesn't put a chill down your spine, then you're not living."
• Ghosts. Said Ole Miss's own William Faulkner, "the past is not dead; it's not even past." True, he wasn't referring to SEC football, but he might as well have been. At Tuscaloosa, notes Ellis, "you've got to go by Bear Bryant Museum. Then, Bear comes on the scoreboard and begins the voice-over, and you see his image. It takes you back 50 years, and you realize, How am I supposed to overcome these national championships?"
• Show biz. "Overall pageantry is what I call it," says Ellis. No program is complete without a standout musical aggregation. Get ready, SEC fans, to hear the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band blare The Aggie War Hymn. Tooting his alma mater's horn, Ellis says, "At Williams-Brice Stadium, when our band finishes the pregame show and runs over to line up [to play] 2001 for our guys to run out, that's impressive."
• Good eats. The aroma of the tailgate (be it hot dogs, barbecued ribs, deep-fried turkey or filet mignon) must constantly waft through the environs.
Add it all up, and you have places that not only keep fans coming back each season, but also keep them dreaming wistfully about autumn Saturdays the rest of the year.
DONALD W. REYNOLDS RAZORBACK STADIUM
FIRST GAME Sept. 24, 1938 Arkansas 27, Oklahoma A&M 7