Let us be your Heat Sommelier for the SEC. A partial list, sure, but deeply felt.
14. MISSOURI. Unverified. Don’t wait on us to go there, either.
13. KENTUCKY. Basic levels of heat in September. Not bad otherwise.
12. ARKANSAS. Never been. HOWEVER: Arkansas is basically West Tennessee, and in a stadium environment with no relief from the sun? That’s Memphis without a breeze, and that’s a situation that can’t possibly be any lower on this ranking than right here. Arkansas fans please tell us how infernal your home stadia are below, and also if you’ve ever had an evening on the town with Jerry Jones. (Because you have, every Arkansas fan has been shithammered at least once with Jerry Jones.)
11. TENNESSEE. Surprisingly miserable heat and humidity in September thanks to the river stank sitting right there over the lip of the stadium. Most likely place to see some quality NASCAR-grade sunburns on people who believe they are only living to fifty, and might also think Bondo can fix holes in their flesh, too.
10. VANDERBILT. September is really the only miserable month there. But! The artificial turf and Nashville’s seeping river-heat can make it unexpectedly bad for a minute, and for much longer when you remember you are watching Vanderbilt football.
9. MISSISSIPPI STATE. Not bad, actually, thanks to the stadium still being unenclosed and open to the occasional breeze blowing across the stands. Blasting sun is a given, but with all the horrors of a semi-subtropical climate at its disposal Starkville is still just a medium-grade sample of Deep South heat-life. Be clear on this, though: You will still sweat a hole through a suit of armor there.
8. AUBURN. Catches a breeze better than a lot of stadiums, for some reason. Still a swine’s bath in the sun, though, and with long, hateful walks on the way in across campus. Later, you might come back and go oh, Auburn can’t just be eighth here, because I was SUPER hot there once! That is because everything from #9 on here is sheer brutality, making Auburn the least infernal of a series of increasingly Satanic football furnaces. This is all very bad. It will only get worse from here, albeit by tiny, horrifying degrees of miserable separation.
7. MISSISSIPPI. Stanky, rotten heat. Literal Faulknerian blast-furnace shit. A noon game in September there feels like the kind of elementary school field day they should have cancelled. Good shade throughout the campus, though, and a merciful breeze every now and then. Some people actually try to wear their suits and ties through it, and some people would remind you that Mississippi is not known for being smart.
6. ALABAMA. Concrete is mostly water, something people forget when they think about it as a building material. It shimmies in earthquakes like jello, it traps and loses heat at different rates than other materials, all because in the end all that slabby stuff is mostly made up of water. (This is why it floats well enough to sit skyscrapers on, you’re welcome, Shanghai.)
Given all that, Bryant-Denny Stadium’s concrete is one of the most amazing pieces of architecture in the world because — even more than other concrete on the planet — it soaks up heat and then does not release it for years. Tuscaloosa has an industry-standard mid-South dirt floor sauna heat all by itself, but combined with Bryant-Denny’s weird heat-trapping capabilities it can be an experience as draining and brutal as Nick Saban football itself.
There are heat waves from 1983 still trapped in that concrete, and if someone figured out how to use Bryant-Denny as a battery it could power and heat Tuscaloosa in the winter for sixteen years straight.
5. GEORGIA. Athens is secretly at least 45% South Carolina, and has the same mean heat capable of popping up at games well into October. The stadium is semi-open, you say! Somehow that doesn’t matter at all, probably because Sanford Stadium’s architects positioned it in the one place and at the precise angle where the prevailing wind wouldn’t move a single molecule of air, ever.
This doesn’t make sense, sure — until you remember that everything in UGA’s patron universe is built around creating ideal golf conditions wherever you are, even if it makes zero sense in every other way. People might smother from the heat in the stands, but you can hit a wedge clean from the thirty yard line into the middle of the “U” in the endzone “BULLDOGS” without having to worry about the wind.
The hedges make it hotter there. Don’t ask how, they just do.
4. LSU. There is no reason to attend a noon game in Baton Rouge unless you hate yourself and want to die. That’s true even before considering any human factors involved, because they’re a potential hazard, too.
Humidity so bad it qualifies as a hallucinogen. Heat that seems to spout out at you from every direction: The ground, the buildings, from passing cars, from open flame cooking and even (or especially) other people. The campus has a ton of shade, but you’ll swear even the trees feel hot sometimes. The trees might be mad at you for showing up. This is Baton Rouge, and therefore a real possibility.
The kind of place where having a pool in the stadium would only seem like a good idea until you a.) thought about how much chlorine the pool would need just to be habitable, and b.) how you don’t really want to watch other people be boiled alive.
In summary: Just trippy, stupid, sweltering, crotch-rot heat. That Tennessee Williams allegedly sultry kind of blazing hot where people think they’re going to be extremely horny and making bad decisions with their lives, but in reality spend most of their time getting naked just to get something close to comfortable. (The bad decisions part: Still real.)
3. TEXAS A&M. That Texas convection-oven heat, the kind that likes to throw a breeze in every now and then just to play a mean joke on the observer. Oh surely this wind will help! Nope: Instead of cutting the heat, it just turns it into a sick joke while also giving one a new sympathy for rotisserie chicken.
Beer goes warm here faster than anywhere else in the SEC. It’s science. Also, people like to grill and make bonfires in College Station because the level of discomfort felt at a roaring grill is no different than the normal feeling of just standing there. Go ahead and put your face over open flame. You’re already there just walking around.
The sunlight is the variety that feels less like the thing that makes plants grow, and more like pure cancer spray blasted from a cannon somewhere a hundred miles over the stadium. If you’ve ever wanted to see what the flash looked like exactly three milliseconds after they detonated a nuke in one of those high-altitude atomic tests in the South Pacific? Take a photo with your phone in an unshaded area in College Station.
2. SOUTH CAROLINA. Never attended a game there but who cares: Columbia is so fucking hot they made it part of a city marketing campaign. Columbia feels like a pet store gecko terrarium looks, right down to the sensation of being trapped under a heat lamp. This is actually part of why we’ve never been there for a game. We lived there as a kid, and the prevailing memory was of hitting cockroaches the size of koalas with flip-flops while trying not to touch anything in contact with direct sunlight. The way Columbia smells makes it feel hotter, and no, I’m not going to explain this, either.
1. GAINESVILLE. An ambient, malicious heat that almost feels intelligent in the way it finds new ways to harm you. Not intelligent like a kind but firm mentor, no: More like the kind of intelligence a xenomorph has in the Aliens franchise where, like everything else in the state of Florida, the heat is trying to find a way to lay eggs in your body, nest there, and then kill you and consume you in order to produce more soul-killing heat monsters.
A blunt object taken to the body at every angle by punishing humidity. It’s better with the sun torching down, honestly, than overcast. At least in blasting sunlight, there is the relief that you will either pass out or that, as has happened every day of your life to this point, the sun will eventually disappear. Overcast Gainesville heat is like being trapped under a thin, miserable blanket: Hopeless, asphyxiating, and inescapable.
The alma mater mentions breezes. The alma mater is full of shit. Rain just makes the sun so mad it blasts even harder onto the field, turning the entire Swamp into a sauna stuffed with drunks. I’ve never even smelled someone who smelled bad there because anyone not sweating enough to flush their entire system clean passes out by the first quarter.
The stadium is an enclosed concrete heat sink with a steep grade and little to no designed airflow. The person who designed it, wherever they are in heaven or hell, must be imprisoned. I don’t care if they are dead. They should be in jail, forever, and in jail in hell if possible.
There is a scene in Deadpool where Wade Wilson is bound and placed in a low-oxygen tube where he can just barely breathe, all in the name of making him so stressed he has to reveal his latent mutant abilities. Switch out the oxygen for suffocating humidity that carries heat like a low-voltage electrical current, and this is Gainesville, where the mutant power revealed for you will be “I survived, and somehow went to work and class and the rest of life like this.”
A sous-vide where you are the ingredient, and at its worst complete annihilation of the senses. If you are a Florida fan and a visitor asks you if it’s hot that day, absolutely tell them with the most conviction you can muster: “no.”