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Rick Bragg wants to make Saturdays in the South a little friendlier

Things have kind of gotten out of hand down here.

I love college football the way that some people love their dogs and children, but I have tried and tried to be civil about it, to be—no matter how old-fashioned and quaint this might sound—a gentleman.

But this is almost impossible to do in the football climate of today here in the South. Try to be a gentleman, and some guy with "Geaux Tigers" tattooed on his neck will slap the monocle off your face and attempt to strangle you with your own cravat.

When did it get to be this way? Don't we know that the dwindling football pretenders to the north—up in the icy wastelands of Ann Arbor and South Bend and wherever the heck Ohio State is—are staring hungrily to the south, lusting, envious, waiting for us to cannibalize ourselves?

Then, they will come roaring down on their snowmobiles and dogsleds and (because of our weakened state from playing genuine football teams week after week after week) strike while we are recovering from a night game in Death Valley.

We, as fans, have to do our part. We must build bridges and mend fences and—for you not-so-neighborly fans— stop throwing rocks at cars from out of state. We have to save up our behind-kicking frenzy for those teams from outside the South.

Of course, in a perfect world, the National Championship would not have to include anyone north of the Ohio River. Last year, it worked out beautifully as Alabama (Roll Tide) and Georgia battled in a truly epic game in Atlanta. It seemed like, for one gleaming moment, the outside world didn't exist. I did not even miss them. Well, maybe Wisconsin. Go Badgers.

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But just in case someone outside the Southeastern Conference or the Atlantic Coast Conference should stagger, frostbitten, into the playoffs this year, let's cool it a bit when we play each other.

Even our rhetoric needs to be toned down. At Alabama, at the end of games, the stadium roars:

"Rammer Jammer, Yellow Hammer
Give "em hell, Alabama!"

What if we just tweaked it a little and replaced the word "hell" with "smooches"? Say it out loud. Go ahead. See how nice that sounds? There is no need for cussing, anyway.

War Darn Eagle? See, it sounds almost as good.

At Mississippi State, do away with the abrasive cowbell. A harp would be nice. The Gator Chomp is unsettling. Just clap, like they do at the opera. Politely. The Arkansas Razorback is far too aggressive. Maybe it could be redrawn to look more like Porky Pig. I always liked Porky.

It's just a thought. I don't believe much will actually change. Some philistine of low breeding will likely hurl an empty bottle of Southern Comfort at the visiting team. Grown men will fight, though too drunkenly to do much harm. All I am suggesting is that we try.

Not long ago, at a Chevron station in Tuscaloosa, I watched a grown woman dog-cuss a cardboard cutout of Nick Saban in the window of the convenience store and then roar off in a big pickup truck. The tag read "Sportsman's Paradise."