Shand compares it to “being at a game, where people are so passionate about their teams.”
Part of that has to do with Mason Inn’s relatively close confines; Georgia flags hang a few feet from clusters of jersey-wearing Florida fans. The bar’s 130 seats are usually filled on a first-come, first-taken basis, so on big game days, groups show up before the bar opens to stake out tables hours before kickoff.
“There’s of course some playful trash talk,” Shand says. “I’ve exchanged words with Georgia fans, but they don’t have much to say to me, since I’ve never seen them beat us since I’ve been going to Mason Inn.”
He recalls the 2011 South Carolina-Georgia game, when the two groups of fans sat “right next to each other” in the crowded bar. “There was a lot of real trash talk going back and forth. Then we got a sack — Jadeveon Clowney threw down Aaron Murray — and we all jumped up and celebrated, and all the Georgia fans had their heads in their hands. I think a couple of them were crying.”
Shand emphasizes that it wasn’t mean-spirited: “We made sure they knew we were having a good time.”
Of course, fans can be gracious in defeat as well as victory. During last season’s game between Ole Miss and Texas A&M, “there were a few A&M fans sprinkled in the crowd” at Mason Inn, says Ole Miss’s Milloy. “We thought we were going to win, but they came back to beat us at the last minute.
“In the tradition of Mississippi hospitality, we bought some of the A&M fans a drink. There wasn’t much else we could do. It was their first game against Ole Miss [since joining the SEC], so it was nice to welcome them into the family.”
That kind of SEC sportsmanship and solidarity is a key thing at Mason Inn, says Georgia’s Matties: “When other SEC schools are playing, you want them to win, especially when it’s out-of-conference games. It comes back to conference pride. Last year, when Alabama won the national championship, the players were not saying the name of the school, they’re saying the name of the conference. It makes your school look better.”
So, does that mean he ever finds himself rooting for archrival Florida?
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Matties says. “It’s more rooting against the team they’re playing.”
At Mason Inn, there are plenty of chances to do just that.