Dixieland Delight is the story of CBS Sports columnist, Tennessee fan and rainmaker Clay Travis, who visited all 12 SEC stadiums last fall to truly experience, understand and appreciate college football in the South. The resulting work is pure entertainment, even for a guy like me who lists college football fifth among sports and has no rooting interest in the SEC.
It’s a page-turner, and you’ll learn something about the South and football and history along the way. For example: Mississippi State fans heart cowbells, Auburn tailgaters offer moonshine and Georgia co-eds have fake boobs.
Clay’s travels wind across nine southern states, and he makes for an excellent storyteller; smart and funny without being overly so on either count. In the end, you’re jealous of the times he had and thankful he relays them so well. I’m also thankful he took the time — on the eve of flying to Berkeley for Vols-Cal and the start of yet another season — to provide answers to my 10 questions along with a few photos of his own.
1. If LSU boasts the top gameday experience in the SEC, does that mean its the best in the country?
I’m sure there are probably college seniors studying for the LSAT who could tear apart the logical premise of the question as well as the logic embedded in my response, but I’m not one of them. So, yes, LSU is the best in the country. My rationale: the SEC football experience is the best in the country and LSU is the best in the SEC.
2. You’re married to an ex-NFL cheerleader who’s cool enough to let you go on the Dixieland Delight Tour (DDT). Why risk that by formulating SEC Girls Power Rankings? And do you have the photographic basis for said rankings?
I didn’t know I’d signed up for a Mike Wallace Sixty Minutes interview.
Well, two reasons in response to the first question: 1. As a former Titans cheerleader my wife is pretty comfortable that no women who are better looking than her are going to be interested in me. (This is accurate). In southern terms I outkicked my coverage. 2. I explained the rankings to her by pointing out that all SEC men participate in this debate. I told her it was my duty as an impartial observer who had visited all 12 campuses to help out the debate. She said, “That’s so ridiculous, Big 10 men don’t debate which schools have the best looking women.” I said, “That’s because Big 10 women are all ugly.” That made her laugh and when I make my wife laugh I can pretty much get away with murder. A lesson here, you don’t have to be funny but your wife has to think you’re funny. If anyone is engaged right now and they can’t make their fiancee laugh go ahead and give her your car and call off the wedding. Trust me, you’re getting off easy.
As for the second part, I do have some photographs but not as many as www.secpoon.com which has just gone live (seriously), is safe for work, and will feature SEC women at tailgates. I’m confident they’ll back up the rankings.
An LSU Golden Girl, Clay Travis and Clay’s Neckbeard
3. You ranked gameday experiences and co-eds (Ole Miss sounds lovely), but which SEC fanbase is the most stereotypically redneck?
My editor just jumped off a building. You have to quantify this in terms of percentages. The top three redneck fan bases by numbers are going to be Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee because these are by far the most populous states in the SEC. So there’s going to be more of them. Also keep in mind that it’s hard to identify these fanbases at the games themselves because the most stereotypically redneck fans can’t afford the tickets to the game. Having said that, I’d have to say Miss. State. They carry cowbells after all. But I actually like stereotypical rednecks. Lots of my family members are stereotypical rednecks. Give me a group of stereotypical rednecks to hang out with over a group of Long Island or New Jersey schmucks any day of the week. The former are funny and drinkers the latter are overcompensating male poodles.
4. Gators wear jean shorts, Crimson Tide guys sport ‘Bama Bangs and LSU fans smell like corn dogs. But what’s with Florida co-eds having an “extra six to eight pounds on the back of the arms?”
They love their Little Debbie snack cakes. I wish I had a more refined hypothesis. Being a champion can go to an athlete’s head, evidently being a champion has gone to the back of Florida girls arms. It’s a mystery of science. Like Urban Meyer having really hot daughters.
5. Why has Florida, as you wrote, “succumbed to Tim Tebow fever?” Can he be to Gainesville what Herschel Walker is to Athens?
Because, as I said in the book, Tebow’s the most difficult white man to tackle since Bill Clinton pulled into a parking lot featuring a rib joint alongside a strip club.
As to the second question, I’m not sure. He’s certainly going to be an icon (he is already) but to be a Herschel Walker level icon you have to leave school and the university has to enter a long championship drought. After Herschel Georgia’s football program sort of died until Mark Richt arrived. So there was about twenty years there where Georgia fans could pine over what they had with Herschel. He won the Heisman, won them a championship, every Georgia fan secretly fantasized that Herschel wanted to screw their wife while they got to watch, and life has never been the same again. At least for twenty years. So if Tebow wins the Heisman, wins a National Championship for the Gators, and then nothing happens in Gainesville for twenty years the answer is yes. Otherwise, and most likely, no.
Clay’s Buddy, Tim Tebow, Clay and Clay’s Neckbeard
6. What’s a good story that was either edited out of the book or simply forgotten while you were writing it?
While I was at LSU I somehow got involved in a conversation with a group of women about how if you danced to Michael Jackson songs at LSU tailgates women would have sex with you in port-o-potties. I spent like two pages writing about this, the types of women who would do it, the men, the bastard spawn they would produce and then my wife said, “You can’t write all this about port-o-potty sex, it’s gross.” So I acquiesced. Then the book came out and my friend Keven was reading it and he called me and said, “Dude, where’s that stuff you wrote about port-o-potty sex, I kept waiting for it in the LSU section and it wasn’t there.” Lesson: you can’t please everyone.
Also, I’m committed to a new internet porn theory, namely, if it’s clear you’ve been paid to pose for pictures, I don’t want to spend any time with you. And by time, I mean, time alone in my room in the dark while the person in the photograph has no idea I exist. But, anyway, I had a long riff about how you want amateurs because of the “love of the game” factor and how that should come to rule internet porn. I thought I was writing an internet porn manifesto. Then my editor came back to me and said, “This has to be cut if you want to get into Wal-Mart.” But I held my ground and we ended up with like a distilled three sentences on it. Already it’s sweeping the net. Sort of the Ron Paul of amateur internet porn theories. And the book got into Wal-Mart, thank god. See, everybody wins.
7. Without SEC football, would you still choose to live in the South?
Yes, although it would make the summers even hotter if I didn’t know that fall and football was just around the corner. I’ve lived in Europe, the Caribbean, and on the east coast. I’m here for a reason. It’s my favorite part of the country. Nothing even comes close.
Clay’s Grandpa (Back Row, Third From Right) and the 1933 Vols
8. As a Redskins fan, my happiness is dependent upon youngsters Jason Campbell (Auburn) and LaRon Landry (LSU). Will the kids be alright?
LaRon Landry is a beast. I got to tour the LSU locker room and posed before his locker. At any moment I expected to be struck dead for raising my eyes too high. You’re set with him. As for Jason Campbell, he torched my Vols twice in 2004 and I’m still recovering from the beatings. I think he’s solid but he’s no Peyton. Or even Eli for that matter. I’d be a bit nervous about entrusting my hopes and dreams to him.
I read EDSBS.com, deadpsin, and Matt Ufford’s withleather.com pretty much every day. Also, I get most of my news for the teams I follow on their message boards so I’m there every day as well. I don’t really read much mainstream media or print stuff I prefer the blogs like you guys have at fanhouse and elsewhere. Although I neglected to say that one of the best things about going to DC was getting to read Tony Kornheiser in the Post’s Style and Sports page. I loved him. Went out and bought his books (there were only a few of them then on the shelves and TK hadn’t gone national) and just marveled at what he could do with his column. He’s the only columnist I’ve ever consistently read (I read Wilbon but not nearly as consistently) and when PTI debuted I was ecstatic. Still love the show. Kornheiser’s a rock star. The only sports writer on earth I’d be nervous to meet.
Back to the question, other sports sites I hop around to on a semi-regular basis: kissingsuzykolber, Dan Shanoff, Dan Steinberg when college basketball is rolling and wherever my friends or readers send me via links. I’m everywhere but not very often on the mainstream sites.
Oh, and of course, www.voyeurweb.com (ed. note: NSFW) which is the Comstock Lode of amateur women doing it for the love of the game.
10. What’s next for Clay Travis?
You mean after leading the Free Mike Vick rally for the NAACP?
Continuing the column which is three days a week, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for CBS. As soon as you crank one column out you get like ten minutes to reflect on a job well done, poorly done, or to contemplate who is going to be sending you hate emails hoping you die and then you have to immediately start working on the next one.
The next book is going to deal with the NFL Draft. We’re working on the proposal now and I’ll be writing it starting in the spring. It’s funny, several people in the New York City publishing world said, “We like the book proposal (for Dixieland Delight) but we don’t think SEC fans read.” Seriously, they said that. The book is selling really well and now they’re like, “We want to do your next book, what do you want to do?” So I tell them my title idea, “New York City publishers are all fat chicks from the Big 10.” They’re like, “I just tripped over my cheese fries, that’s brilliant. We want it.” Such is life.
Thanks for asking the questions. I’ll be looking forward to your book.