After weeks of buildup, the BCS championship game turned out to be a total dud, with Alabama stomping Notre Dame 42-14 in a game that somehow was even less close than the final score would indicate. Despite the blowout, an unlikely star emerged. No, not Eddie Lacey—Katherine Webb.
Yes, thanks to Brent Musburger's flattery, A.J. McCarron's girlfriend Katherine Webb and her modeling career came out of the night with a solid win. Is it just because Webb is so darn pretty? Or would this have never happened if the game had been more exciting?
Let's turn to Twitter to investigate. Here's a map of the 5,789 geo-coded tweets that used the word "Tide" from 8 p.m. to midnight, originating from the South (I had to constrain to a region). A sampling of tweets showed that "Tide" was almost always used positively.
And here's the same time frame, but looking at the geo-coded 485 tweets that used the words "Katherine," "Webb," "girlfriend," "Brent," or "Musburger." A reminder: Only about 1 percent of tweets actually include geo-coded information, and there were likely even more Webb mentions outside of the Deep South where people really didn't care about the game at this point.
"Tide" tweets came on very strong early but dropped around 9, after Alabama had scored its second touchdown (around 8:53) and the rout had begun. A bored camera crew began to trawl the crowd for reactions, leading to Musburger working his magic at 9:06. The next half-hour—during which Alabama scored again to go up 21-0—was as strong for Webb as it was slack for football talk. "Tide" surged again when Alabama actually won, but the stage was set for Webb to become a big story the next day.
If Notre Dame had put up more of a fight, the camera crew may have never cut to Webb. And in any case, there would've been a lot more to tweet about besides the QB's girlfriend.
What else can we glean from the tweets? Going into the the game, people assumed the biggest battle of the night would be Tide vs. Irish. Clearly that was not the case; instead, the biggest battle was found in the hearts of fans from other SEC schools, who ran into the following problem:
- On one hand, an Alabama victory would be the seventh title for the SEC in as many years and would continue to cement the conference as the place where men competed for the chance to win national championships against boys.
- One the other hand, every other school in the SEC fucking hates Alabama.
The elegant solution to this? Being very clear about your specific rooting interest. Below is a map showing the concentration of "Tide" tweets by state, measured in the percentage of geocoded tweets that went out from 8 p.m. to midnight that contained that keyword.
And here's the same thing for "SEC," which was also almost always used in a positive sense, except during an brief period early in the game when people were accusing the SEC of buying refs:
First of all, that "Tide" number for Alabama is absolutely nuts. One in three tweets from the state used that exact word over the course of four hours. Not "Alabama," or "'Bama," or any other way of referring to the team. I'm not sure there's another sports game that could match that sort of lockstep performance. You need to have an insanely fanatic fanbase ('Bama), with a hugely prevelant slogan ("Roll Tide!") playing for a championship (BCS). Maybe Auburn could touch them ("War Eagle!") but I'm not so sure.
When it comes to "SEC," though, Alabama was having nothing to do with it. Only 4 percent of Alabama tweets used the name of the conference that about to win a national championship, beating out only North Carolina, which has no SEC school. Mississippi and Arkansas were particulary bullish on the conference, which makes sense: The SEC schools in those states haven't brought home a national championship of their own since 1964.