Who cares that the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Florida State University won the 2013 Bowl Championship Series college football championship? The Southeastern Conference ran away with the previous seven consecutive titles, saw a conference member finish second in the 2013 series and pitted conference members head-to-head for the 2011 title.
Does all of this sound like a foreign language? Then proceed to the next book review. But if your knee-jerk reaction to the SEC’s accolades is to argue that your conference is unquestionably the best, then bump to the top of your reading list My Conference Can Beat Your Conference: Why the SEC Still Rules College Football by Paul Finebaum and Gene Wojciechowski.
The first chapter is enough to get an SEC fan’s adrenaline pumping as Finebaum spouts statistics and cites games and championships that support his claim of the conference’s dominance. It’s also likely to ignite the ire of fans of non-SEC teams, with the possible exception of Florida State. (The reigning national champion, Finebaum notes, isn’t a member of the SEC, but the team is closely modeled on that conference. In fact, he notes several times in the book that FSU would be a better fit in the SEC than in its current home, the Atlantic Coast Conference.)
It’s this ability to control the blood pressure of football fans that earned the then-Birmingham-based Paul Finebaum Radio Network acclaim from Sports Illustrated, garnered Finebaum a 2012 profile in the New Yorker and ultimately landed him at ESPN’s soon-to-debut SEC Network (which launches August 14, days after this book’s release). My Conference Can Beat Your Conference may, at a glance, seem like a piece of network propaganda. Though it’s certainly well timed, the book dives deeply into the details of SEC history. Finebaum doesn’t shy from the SEC’s controversies, but neither does he back down on his assertion that it stands head and shoulders above the rest of college football.
The book’s pacing is sometimes awkward as it regularly switches between the narrative of Finebaum’s career trajectory and his analysis of recent football seasons. There may be more in-depth recollection of the 2013 college football season than anyone but a die-hard fan could care for. But die-hard fans are Finebaum’s audience, and they’ll thrill at every page of My Conference Can Beat Your Conference. It’s the perfect book to tide readers over until kickoff.
Carla Jean Whitley actually cares very much indeed about Florida State’s 2013 national championship; she graduated from the university with a bachelor’s in communication in 2002. But as a University of Alabama alumna (M.A. ’04), she also wholeheartedly agrees with Finebaum’s assertion that the SEC is the best.