The college football season begins Thursday night. South Carolina vs. Texas A&M.
Jacksonville State vs. Michigan State Friday night.
And once again I ask myself why, every autumn, I waste so much emotional energy over what a bunch of “student-athletes” do in front of a stadium full of rabid fans.
Maybe this year I will write about something else.
Then I saw the headline: “SEC teams get Jell-O molds, but Baptist leader concerned they’ll be used for drinking games.”
Wow, a chance to write about football and Baptists in the same column. Who could ask for anything more?
According to the article, Jell-O is marketing “Jell-O Jigglers University Mold Kits,” with which fans can make Jell-O Jigglers in the shape of their favorite football team’s logo.
Well, not for every fan’s favorite football team.
Only teams that the football-savvy folks at Jell-O put on their Top 20 list — a list, best I can tell, that has nothing to do with football.
Eight Southeastern Conference teams made the cut.
Alabama is one of them.
Auburn is not.
I was all set to complain about this omission when the Baptists beat me to it — sorta.
Actually, the Baptists did not complain about the excluded. They complained about the included.
More to the point, they complained that there was a list at all.
The Rev. Joe Godfrey, former president of the Alabama Baptist Convention and now executive director of the anti-alcohol Alabama Citizens Action Program, reasoned that since liquor-laced Jell-O shots were a feature of tailgate parties and student drinking games, “Jell-O Jigglers University Mold Kits” would encourage behavior of which Baptists did not approve.
I sent the article to my son Will Jackson, a senior at Auburn, who took a break from his studies to call and confirm that the Rev. Godfrey was probably right.
Well, I thought, if having a Jiggler shaped like your team’s logo will encourage you to consume more alcohol, was Jell-O actually encouraging students and fans of excluded schools to consume less by not providing those universities with their own “Jell-O Jigglers University Mold Kit”?
Then I learned of other benefits of being left off the logo list.
A friend, who is also a member of the Auburn faculty, pointed out that red dye No. 2 and artificial sweeteners are not good for you, alcohol or no alcohol. Then, my friend added in good Auburn-fan fashion, that health concerns notwithstanding, “these Jigglers will be very popular with the Bammer/Walmart set.”
Another correspondent, an Alabama fan, wondered if Auburn was unwilling to “lease its good name to the fine folks at Jell-O.” Well, I later learned that Jell-O did obtain licensing rights for the logos they used and probably paid a bundle for them.
So, did Auburn turn them down?
Maybe Auburn wasn’t even asked.
Meanwhile, Kraft Foods, which owns Jell-O, heard of the preacher’s objections and began backtracking. In a press release, the company assured those concerned that “Jell-O brand does not advocate such behavior and does not promote recipes using alcohol.”
“College football fans will score a touchdown at their tailgates with these delicious Jell-O treats,” the press release said. As far as Kraft was concerned, team-themed Jigglers were nothing more than a dandy “tailgating treat.”
To which the Rev. Godfrey and Will Jackson would say, “yeah, right.”
This leads me to wonder how it could be that the public-relations folks at the major universities that surrendered their logos did not know or care to what purpose these Jigglers would be put?
How could it be that university attorneys who go over licensing with a fine-tooth comb did not know to what purpose these Jigglers would be put?
How could it be that Kraft and Jell-O did not know to what purpose these Jigglers would be put?
And how could it be that my son and a Baptist preacher did know — right away?
That, I figure, is a swamp that just doesn’t need draining.
Here is something else to think about. Thus far, I have not heard of preachers from conferences outside the SEC objecting to what Jell-O has done. Maybe they have and I missed it.
Neither have I heard complaints from Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Catholics in SEC states.
Maybe they are just content to let the Baptists lead the charge, alone. Wouldn’t be the first time.
Realizing he was up against corporate America (not to mention colleges starved for revenue), the Rev. Godfrey accepted the fact that “you can’t stop Jell-O” and instead called for “tighter control of college students’ access to alcohol.”
Well, good luck with that.
But until that happens, let me simply say to students and fans alike, be courteous, be responsible and keep it off the road and out of the stadium.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist for The Star. Email: email@example.com.