Any Given Saturday

So Thursday morning I had no plans for the weekend at all.

By that evening, there was at least the prospect that I was going to the Chili Festival in Tupelo, Miss., the next day though I didn’t know that for sure until Friday morning.

The Chili Festival was, in fact, fun, even if the Unitarian chili I sampled was very possibily the nastiest thing I have ever eaten. I mean, wow.

Saturday morning arrived still without plans for the day. Driving to Oxford seemed like a good way to take advantage of the day — it was cold, but, after weeks of rain and general drabness, the sky was blue and the sun made an appearance. Being in the car allowed us to stay warm, while cranking up the music and enjoying the day.

Ah, Oxford. It was only the second time I’ve been back in over two years, which is quite the rarity for me over the past 18 years since I first went there. It was good being back. It was the first time in quite a while that I really walked around town and campus, and it was … right. We also got to visit another old college friend and his family, which was cool. And I had a pumpkin truffle at a shop off the square — The Chocolate Bar — run by an old friend of Shannon’s that was possibly the single best truffle I’ve ever had. I mean, seriously, this was good stuff.

The plan was to go, see the Thompsons, hang out in Oxford, wander through The Grove, and then be back in Tupelo in time for dinner. The plan was not to go to the game. (The fact that none of this was planned is further evidenced by the fact that I was not only wearing red or blue, but the other team’s green.) But then we passed by a guy who asked if we needed tickets. And, you know what? After walking through The Grove, after seeing the team head over to the stadium, after hearing the band play Dixie, after taking in the whole ambience, yeah, we really kinda did.

It’d been too long since I’d been to a football game, and it was great. Especially when Ole Miss scored with only 13 seconds gone from the clock.

The entire evening was a paean to spontaniety. First, we kicked their butt. Yeah, we were playing UAB, and without question should have won. And, yeah, we probably struggled more than we should have before the offense finally showed up. (Our first touchdown of the game was courtesy of special teams, the first first down was courtesy of the defense. We spent quite a bit of the first quarter hoping the offense could just move the ball enough that either special teams or defense could score for us.) But, you know, in my opinion, that’s part of the experience of being a true Ole Miss fan. It’s like watching preschoolers play soccer — you don’t expect too much out of them, but get really excited when they actually do something right.

It was cool sharing the experience with a friend who enjoyed it properly. As best as I could recall, Shannon and I hadn’t been to an Ole Miss game together in 16 years, when we watched Gene Stallings, who had just won the national championship the year before, beat the Rebels. As a couple of native Alabamians, Shannon and I were less disappointed than the rest of the group we went with. Saturday, though, it was all about our Rebels. We yelled Hotty Toddy until I was a bit hoarse. Sure, we’ve been out of the student section for a couple of years now, but you wouldn’t have known it watching us.

And, then, there was the moment where I was eating Corky’s barbecue nachos while they announced the Alumni Hall of Fame inductees, which included former shuttle program manager and current Kennedy Space Center director Bill Parsons. The combination of tasty barbecue, Ole Miss and NASA made Dave a happy man.

All in all, not a bad weekend, really.

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