It was inevitable, but it still hurts.

Not having SEC Media Days in person is a tough blow for those of us who love the opportunity to unofficially start the season with an over-the-top 4-day event. I’ve always thought that nothing better epitomizes “It Just Means More” than turning something that could be done in a day into a week-long event.

So yes, despite what some of the longtime SEC media members who seem miserable to be there will tell you, I actually enjoy SEC Media Days. I’m bummed that it’ll be virtual.

That means our SDS crew won’t get to have our annual Top Golf outing. It means I won’t get to replace over-the-phone communication for in-person visits with friends like Peter Burns, Chris Doering, Jacob Hester, Tom Hart and others. I won’t have the opportunity to get sidetracked by walking around the College Football Hall of Fame or eating way too much Chick-fil-A, which I always seem to do when in Atlanta (I live 1 mile from Chick-fil-A).

But I’ll miss a few other things about not having the event in person:

1. This was supposed to be the best SEC Media Days ever

Because we were adding Mike Leach and Lane Kiffin. I repeat, we were adding Mike Leach and Lane Kiffin. Say what you want about what SEC Media Days has become, but you add either guy to anything, and it’s instantly more entertaining.

There’s no way they are going to be as captivating over Zoom. They just won’t. Sure, we might be treated to the occasional poke at Nick Saban from Kiffin, and nobody will be surprised if Leach gives us a rant about Revolutionary War heroes, but there’s a reason why comedians would rather perform on a stage instead of a conference call. It just doesn’t hit the same way.

At least we’ll have 2021 SEC Media Days. And if Kiffin is 1-and-done with another SEC program, well, I quit.

2. The players who aren’t there to just spew boring quotes

My 3 favorite player sessions in recent memory were Texas A&M punter Braden Mann, Kentucky linebacker Kash Daniel and LSU linebacker Devin White. They were excellent. Those were 3 guys who you could just sit down and have a conversation with. Their tables weren’t absurdly crowded, and you didn’t feel bad asking White 5 consecutive questions about his horse, Daisy Mae (RIP).

I love getting those interactions because, for those of us who aren’t on the beat, we don’t get to see that. Sure, we might interview them over the phone or talk to them after a game, but sometimes you can really get to know someone after sitting down with them for 20 minutes.

There might be some good moments on Zoom calls, but those conversations are always a little more awkward. Nobody is their best self on Zoom calls, and I can’t imagine we’ll have as many of those relaxed interviews.

3. The other characters, obviously

Between Ring Guy, Tiger Jake and the dude who looks so much like Bear Bryant that it makes me rethink my stance on ghosts, we’re going to miss not having these people.

I mean, where else can you set your watch to run into people like this:

Oh, and Tiger Jake:

In case you were wondering, no, he’s not a painted dog. He gets a dye treatment done once every 8 weeks. Now, my favorite SEC dog (not including mascots) won’t have a reason to get a fresh dye job.

I know that sounds like sarcasm, but I’m legitimately upset about this.

4. The “oh, my” moment upon seeing a player for the first time

The “oh, my” moment at SEC Media Days relates to the player who you’ve only seen on TV. Maybe you’ve never covered one of their games, or if you did, you didn’t have some sort of up-close view of them. It happens every year. It doesn’t matter that my brain is programmed to be like “that 300-pound defensive lineman you’re about to see is nearly double your size.”

Last year, it was Derrick Brown. Like, obviously I knew he was a large individual. One can watch on TV and get that sense. But it’s not until you see him in person when you can really appreciate just what type of rare physical specimen he is.

The crazy thing about Brown is that I had the “oh, my” moment seeing him at Media Days, and then a few months later when we were 20 rows up from the Auburn sideline at the Auburn-LSU game in Baton Rouge, I had the “oh, my” moment with Brown again.

I’m not sure it’ll ever get old seeing how big some of these guys are in person. I suppose this sounds weird to say, but yes, I’ll miss that.

5. A possible Saban-Paul Finebaum beef

I know it only happened once, but I wasn’t at that SEC Media Days in 2016. This moment, which was followed by a heated exchange off camera, was classic:

I’m not sure that Saban, in the comfort of his own home or facility, will get that heated. Perhaps the only way that would happen is if a reporter on Zoom looks Saban on the eye (virtually) and asks a dumb question. And even then, I’m not sure that Saban’s “aights” will pack the same punch.

6. I can’t accomplish my life goal of being Finebaum’s “last media member”

There’s an annual tradition of Finebaum handing out the award for “last media member” to the person who closes down the main media room. Sometimes, he’ll bring them on air. For one reason or another, we’ve always had other obligations to attend to, but make no mistake, I want to win this award. Nothing will show the viewers that I work hard quite like having an empty room to crank out my 25th story of the day.

Kidding. But it is at least great television.

7. Gaining new respect for a player

Again, when you’re not around a team every day, there’s only so much you can pick up from watching them. In recent memory, I remember being super impressed with guys like Alabama running back Damien Harris, Vanderbilt receiver Kalija Lipscomb and Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham. I remember coming away from hearing all of those guys speak and understanding why their teammates legitimately enjoyed heaping praise on them.

There were other guys like Drew Lock and Benny Snell who I thought seemed super comfortable being themselves, and they weren’t afraid to be a little confident. Good. I’ll take that over players giving boring, nondescript answers all day. It’s way more fun to talk to Snell about his rap career than it is to hear Jake Fromm give the same canned answer for the 86th time.

I don’t know how many players I’ll watch in a Zoom call and think to myself, “there’s a guy who just gets it.” Then again, did y’all see Florida State captain Marvin Wilson last week? All it took was a few minutes and that guy had me hooked:

8. Bob Holt, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

The real ones know.

(And for those who don’t know, he’s the SEC’s all-time leader in questions asked.)

9. The SEC Preseason Media Poll that never fails

I suppose we’ll vote online, but for whatever reason, we always get countless reminders to complete our preseason ballots at Media Days. The problem is that the poll always turns out to be horribly, horribly wrong. Well, at least it’s wrong when it comes to picking a preseason conference champ.

Since the SEC started conducting a preseason poll in 1992, the SEC only got the winner right 7 times. That’s out of 28 times. In other words, that’s a 25% success rate on just simply picking the winner of the conference. How we mess this up every year is mind-boggling.

What I love, though, is the conversation that develops every year like “nah, this year, we totally got it right.” Last year, LSU got 3 of the 261 first-place votes. Alabama got 4 times as many preseason votes as anyone. And yet still, we messed it up.

Maybe virtual media days is what we need to finally make an accurate prediction? Probably not.

10. Not getting to watch the autograph people fill up their books

I know. If that’s not a sign that 2020 is the worst, I don’t know what is.