Football and booze

College football and booze are attempting a trial separation. But don't look for a divorce anytime soon.

You've probably read that Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive has asked the television networks to stop referring to the annual Georgia-Florida football game in Jacksonville as "The world's largest outdoor cocktail party." Some observers see this action as a legitimate response to a growing problem (intoxicated fans). Others see it as another example of political correctness taken to an extreme.

The "cocktail party" phrase was coined in the 1950s by a Florida Times-Union sports editor while smugly relating how a drunken fan had staggered up to a uniformed policeman and offered him a drink.

The game has been known as "The world's largest outdoor cocktail party" ever since. But the possible alcohol-related deaths of two students in the past two years – one from a beating, one from falling off a parking garage – has had a sobering effect on administrators at the two schools. Georgia president Michael Adams recently contacted Slive's office about asking the TV people to refrain from making "cocktail party" references.

"We don't like the phrase. We don't use the phrase. We would prefer that nobody use the phrase," said Chuck Toney, a spokesman for Georgia.

This is not the first attempt to distance college football from alcohol. Tennessee fans may recall that the annual Vol-Kentucky game used to be known as "The Battle for the Beer Barrel," with the winner earning possession of an orange and blue and white beer barrel until the next meeting. At UK's request the barrel was retired in the late 1990s, when a Big Blue athlete was involved in an alcohol-related automobile fatality.

Severing the link between football and booze will be difficult; the bond is a strong one. LSU fans are known for showing up inebriated at Saturday night home games. And Florida students are notorious for drunken revelry such as tossing urine on Vicky Fulmer, wife of Tennessee's head coach.

The obvious question: Will eliminating references to the world's largest outdoor cocktail party really reduce the number of drunks attending the football game? School administrators think so. At least, they HOPE so.

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