Today is the day that life begins again. Meaning, for all of us Rebels, today is the beginning of football season. Ole Miss plays Vandy tonight, and I plan to be planted squarely in front of the TV with appropriate game day food within reach. I am even sporting the red and blue at work today. Hotty Toddy, y’all!
In honor of football season and Throwback Thursday, here’s an old football column of mine.
This was written for the October 1, 2009 edition of the paper, so the game I was referring to in the first paragraph that inspired such heartbreak must have been the September 26, 2009 game between Mississippi State and LSU. If you’re wondering why a Rebel like me would be pulling so hard for State, see the analysis below. Before I remembered who State played (and lost to) that Saturday, I was wondering that myself.
It’s a mad, mad…conference: SEC football from a multi-allegiance perspective
I am an Auburn fan and an Ole Miss fan, but this past Saturday, I found myself way too emotionally invested in a game in which neither of those teams were playing. And I found myself heartbroken at the end of the game when Mississippi State failed to get the ball into the end zone.
I’m not that surprised, though.
I come from a pretty mixed up family, football-wise. I grew up in Auburn, Alabama, going to Auburn football games from a very young age. My dad, an Auburn professor, was both a Mississippi State alum and an Auburn alum.
Sometimes, we went to State games, too. I had a Mississippi State jacket that I wore when I was in fifth grade, purchased at the campus bookstore when we went for a game.
We had family in Oxford, though, so I have memories of Oxford from childhood as well. Once when we stopped in at Johnson’s Furniture, back when it was still located right off the square, my mother’s first cousin, who owns the store, sent me home with an Ole Miss bean bag chair, which sat in our den for years.
So then came college. I went to Ole Miss, but returned home to Auburn at Christmas and finished out the year there. My scholarship still intact, however, I returned to Ole Miss the next year.
So did my parents. Used to a college town and ready to be closer to family, they found themselves a house in Oxford. A house built by former Ole Miss coach Billy Kinard and later owned by coach Billy Brewer. An Auburn flag hangs on the porch. Bulldog stickers adorn the vehicles in the carport.
During my college years, we continued to make trips to games at both Auburn and Starkville.
The end result of all this seems to be a tad of schizophrenia when it comes to who to cheer for. I have a system for when I cheer for which team, which I have expanded to include the entire conference:
• Alabama: Only when playing someone other than Ole Miss, Auburn or maybe Mississippi State. This may surprise some people since Auburn and Alabama are such rivals, but I really want Alabama to do well so it looks that much better when Auburn beats them. Especially back in the Gene Stallings era, I’ve never really minded if Alabama won as long as they weren’t playing one of my teams. Unlike some of the coaches who would follow him at Alabama, Stallings had character. I was particularly touched by his relationship with his son, John Mark, who was born with Down Syndrome, and his activism on behalf of all special needs children.
• Arkansas: I don’t really have anything for or against Arkansas. Except that I will never yell, “Suey, pig!” For any reason. I am, after all, an Ole Miss girl. Please.
• Auburn: Always, always and always. My husband does not love this, but I can’t help it. I don’t remember a time when I did not know both the words AND the tune to the Auburn fight song. And I was probably about ten years old before I knew that the original words to the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” weren’t “Glory, glory to Old Auburn!” (Only possible exception: see Ole Miss below.)
• Florida: Florida used to be my most-hated team. They’re still up there, but the last few years, the top spot has been occupied by LSU. I think Spurrier’s leaving Florida took a little fire out of my ire. I do not cheer for Florida against any other SEC team, for sure. In a championship situation, against a non-conference team? Maybe. Or maybe not.
• Georgia: Like Arkansas, I don’t really have anything for or against Georgia. Their coach is kinda cute, though, so that does work in their favor.
• Kentucky: Bless their hearts. Ever the underdog, I just can’t root against them if I don’t have a dog in the fight.
• LSU: Everyone has their nemesis team. LSU is it for me, much like many Ole Miss fans. Honestly, I don’t think I really disliked LSU very much until I got to Ole Miss and underwent the brainwashing process. Apparently, it was successful. I have several friends who are LSU fans who I love dearly and if they want to wear those colors, so be it. But when I see them putting PURPLE and GOLD on their unsuspecting little children who have no say in the matter, I feel pity. I mean, at least my kids’ Ole Miss apparel comes in classic colors.
So, cheering for LSU? Obviously not. Regular non-conference game? Nope. But what about rooting for the conference in a championship? It won’t be easy. May require medication.
• Ole Miss: Against everyone but Auburn. Although, if Ole Miss were having a great season and Auburn has already tanked for the year, I’d probably cheer for Ole Miss in that scenario. Probably.
• Mississippi State: Never against Auburn or Ole Miss. Always against Florida and LSU. Sometimes against Alabama. Otherwise, I want them to do well, just not as well as Auburn or Ole Miss.
• South Carolina: SC shot themselves in the foot with me when they hired Steve Spurrier. I just can not tolerate that know-it-all smirk on his face, especially when his team is winning. I think it goes back to some big Auburn-Florida matchups back in the day. I don’t dislike the team or the school, but I just can’t pull for any team headed up by Spurrier. Period.
• Tennessee: I only cheer for them in certain non-conference matchups. Like the song, like the dog, but gosh, what an obnoxious orange (as opposed to Auburn’s, a beautiful burnt orange, a color that actually appears in the natural world.) Plus, they’re even worse than Alabama about thinking they’re better than everyone else just by virtue of who they are, even when they’re losing.
• Vanderbilt: They appear to be an underdog, but this is the team that always surprises the other teams. They’ve been a thorn in Ole Miss’ side a few times. I’ll root for Vandy (when they aren’t playing one of “my” teams, of course) just because upsets are fun.
I’m becoming rather fond of USM, too. Fortunately, they aren’t in the conference so they don’t force me to make yet another choice.
There have inevitably been some coaching and other personnel changes since this was written, but in general this column is still pretty much true. With one exception. My distate for Bama since Satan (I mean Saban) arrived there, has increased a great deal.
Everyone in the conference (and everyone else) has my permission to pound on Bama like a cheap steak every chance you get.
It has been further complicated by the addition of Texas A&M (yay!) and Missouri (boo!) to the conference. (Hey, Mizzou – how’d SEC play turn out for you last year?)
So, I guess now I have to add my commentary on these two teams:
• Texas A&M: I find this team difficult to dislike. A previous job took me to College Station on a fairly regular basis, and I always enjoyed visiting the town. I noticed, also, as I drove through the campus that, regardless of what day of the week it was or whether not a game was quickly approaching, much of the student body wears the school colors on a daily basis (which isn’t true everywhere). Am I disappointed about the Johnny Manziel situation? Of course, but as usual, I doubt we know the whole story, and I learned long ago not to look to celebrities or athletes (or humans in general, myself included) as beacons of stellar judgment. So, in the end Texas A&M may get some props from me in games in which my Rebels and (Auburn) Tigers aren’t playing. Just depends.
• Missouri: Whoever can beat Missouri (except Bama) will get a gold star in my book. “Old Man Football”. ‘Nuff said.
I guess I also have to add the following after the very last sentence:
What’s that? USM is about to start playing State? Great.
And yes, the kids are just as mixed up as we are. Pretty much from birth…