This is why I love Ole Miss football, this is why I’m proud to be a Rebel, and this is what it means to me to be an Ole Miss fan.
For those that don’t follow such things, this is not exactly the best year ever for Ole Miss football. In fact, it’s what those in the know might call “bad.”
We’ve lost every game we could possibly lose, including some that took work. People are calling for the firing of the athletic director, the coach, the coordinators and the mascot. And, yes, I’m serious about that last one.
And in this midst of all of that, there’s a great piece by Rick Bragg in Parade magazine this past Sunday, which says things like this:
In the hours before dawn and leading up to kickoff, this small parcel of grass will become the scene of an elaborate banquet, with silver winking in the strong sunlight and fresh flowers perfuming the air. A feast will be served on real china, with mimosas poured into real glass flutes—an enormous buffet dinner, not a quick bite grabbed from aluminum foil and plastic everything. Elegant women in sundresses and even black cocktail dresses will gather with men in honest-to-God neckties, even in the unrelenting late-summer heat, because that’s just the way it’s done in these parts. Polo shirts are about as dressed-down as it gets.
It’s called “tailgating,” but really, that’s like referring to a Mardi Gras ball as a backyard weenie roast. …
Ole Miss won a share of the national title in 1959, 1960, and 1962, but the tailgating tradition was less elaborate in its beginnings, just a card table and a cooler for most people. “But it just kind of grew,” he says.
Comer may want the Rebels to prevail, but off the field, “we love to say to people walking by, ‘Come on over and have a drink, have something to eat.’ ” …
But at Ole Miss, in the football-obsessed South, the tailgating celebration isn’t just about the game; it’s about tradition, in the grandest sense. …
For many of those kids, the words to the Ole Miss cheer are the first words they learn, after “Mommy” and “Daddy.” It is inescapable in the Grove. People walk by, tip a glass, and belt it out: …
At some schools, the whole mood of fall Saturdays swings on the game’s outcome, and it is that way to some extent in the Grove.
“Daddy keeps a bottle of champagne in the cooler for when we win the Alabama game,” says Karen. “We haven’t opened it in a while,” her father admits.
Like the other faithful, he waits for a return to the days when every Saturday was a wild celebration. But in a way, he says, every Saturday at the Grove is a celebration, if not of football, then of family.
Tailgating has become a kind of antidote for when the Rebels lose. “I guess you’ve heard it said,” says Nannette, “that at Ole Miss we might lose the game, but we never lose the party.”
Sure, we’re not the best team in the country, and we haven’t been for more than a decade before I was born.
But for the Rebel faithful, that have been through many, many lean years during their life, it doesn’t matter.
Win or lose, we’re Ole Miss.
And proud of it.