For the past two years, Ross "This is how you do it" Bjork has relentlessly preached, cajoled and suggested that we turn around our collective Ole Miss fan penchant for self-loathing and constant state of breathlessly awaiting the other shoe drop, and embrace the original intent of "We Are Ole Miss." It was a term coined amidst shockingly horrific circumstances for our Ole Miss Rebel sports squads [ED: It was 2005 or 2006-ish... So, yeah...] which yielded a swift and painless transition from a feeling of pride and confidence to a term of expected failure and unavoidable tragedy.
The negative change wasn't necessarily our fault, nor was it something that we really liked to say. I used it A LOT. And I hated the taste of that acronym on my tongue. It was disgusting. Like a three-day-old fried egg sandwich served in a dirty ashtray, it was revolting. It made me nauseous. But, it was a perfect, succinct encapsulation of all the things that were wrong with our athletics department and our sports teams. Therefore, it caught on and became part of Ole Miss sports culture. And while I fully appreciate the self-deprecating comedy and snarky wit associated with posts like this, by NAFOOM poster Jughead (by the way, I'm a big fan), I feel like that time has passed.
Times have changed, my friends. Ross Bjork has performed outright miracles on what was a dead and buried Ole Miss athletics department. He cleaned house with RUTHLESS efficiency and brought in talent from all corners of the NCAA. Video people, marketing, recruiting support, trainers, compliance, facilities management and support staff. And perhaps the most important things he brought are energy and dependability. Gone are the days when OM fans have to sit in a room, huddled together with our arms folded over our stomachs, rocking back and forth and muttering "please dear God, don't let Pete Boone fuck this up" during coaching searches, fund raising drives and facilities decisions. We now have leadership that is doing almost everything right and operating like a well oiled machine, yielding results that are on par with or better than the rest of the SEC. Sure, there are a few small hiccups here and there, but by and large, Bjork is clearly and efficiently implementing positive changes throughout our entire athletics department, and he's leading by example. He is ALWAYS in the right place at the right time, he's always in a great, positive mood and he is celebrating our victories as enthusiastically as he bemoans our failures. His message is crystal clear "We are CHANGING the culture of Ole Miss Athletics." And not only is it clear, it's working.
I went into the game this past Saturday worrying, pacing, drinking and hoping that we would not look bad. I thought Texas would come out swinging to defend their honor and their history and I just wanted to compete and not repeat our performance from last season. We got an early lead and then they countered, leaving me wondering whether we would screw it up, or shine. But a strange thing happened during halftime. I realized that a Hugh Freeze coached football team ALWAYS comes out to play in the 2nd half. I knew he would make adjustments. I knew our kids would not blink. I knew that even though our 2nd quarter left MUCH to be desired, our 3rd and 4th quarters would be better. I KNEW these kids would give it their all for the next 30 minutes of football... and they did.
THAT, is the new definition of WAOM. For years, WAOM has been a sarcastic, resentful expression of inevitable heartbreak and failure. No more. Ross Bjork does not and has never accepted that as a reality. Sure, he wasn't here during Boone's decade of shame, but that doesn't matter to him and it should not matter to us. He has always used WAOM as an expression of pride and confidence. I now use it similarly and so should all of you. This is not to say that we won't make some mistakes, maybe lose some games we should win or let wins slip away late with missed opportunities, because those things happen in sports. There's no way around it. But, I can say that those tough losses and mistakes are no longer the product of insufficient effort, lack of confidence or horrific and tragic coaching or play calling. They are NOT the norm and they shall NEVER be the norm again. Confidence, leadership, effort, execution, attitude, speed, endurance, ruthlessness and unshakable commitment to the team and the goals are the NEW norm around here.
Therefore, I'm calling out all Ole Miss fans. Don't languish in the tragedy of the past via a used up, mislabeled acronym. Change your mindset, change your attitude and change it's meaning. WAOM is a symbol of that change. It's a new day and a new dawn for OM athletics. Jason Jones says it best. I AM, AN OLE. MISS. REBEL. Therefore, WE ARE, OLE MISS. Together. United. Confident pregame, supportive post game, no matter the outcome because we know that even in loss, we gave it everything, which is ALWAYS respectable. If you hear someone using WAOM in a negative way, call them out. Explain that this is not the same Ole Miss from whence that term was born. Even in loss, we remain proud because we know that Freeze, his staff and his players gave it everything, just as we the fans gave our all for the team.
The future is brighter than ever at Ole Miss. There are levels of achievement and goals on the horizon that would have been completely untouchable in the recent past. Not only that, but there is nothing stopping us from attaining them, but ourselves. I don't know about you, but the fact that we could conceivably compete for a BCS bowl/playoff birth (maybe for an SEC title, once Saban goes to Texas) within the next couple years gets my shorts tight. Freeze is doing more with less than any coach in our history, imagine if we gave him more resources and support? Bjork has completely refreshed and revitalized our facilities planning, fund raising and long term strategies. Imagine what he could do if we set some record donation levels over the next 4 years? No sir, this isn't even a GLIMMER of the same Ole Miss from our recent, disastrous history. That's why we need to let the past go and focus on the new Ole Miss.
WAOM is passion. WAOM is pride. WAOM is confidence. WAOM is a call to lock that gate, pick a fight and regardless of the score, our opponent will KNOW that they have played... THE OLE. MISS. REBELS!
ETA: For the record. This is not a call to consider us having "arrived" or that we are now elite in the SEC, not even close. This is a call to shake off the cobwebs of doubt, apprehension and uneasiness and replace those feelings with confidence, poise and aplomb. To use WAOM as a rallying cry to success. To believe in our hearts and minds that we are capable of WINNING every football game we play, instead of believing that we are capable of losing every game. We have A LOT of work to do to become competitive week in and week out in the strongest division of the strongest conference in the nation, but I'm calling our fans to begin believing in our team here and now, today. WE ARE OLE MISS.