my humble southern proper fan post
It happens each Saturday in the South from September until December; thousands of football fans embark on a weekly pilgrimage to the various football Stadiums of the SEC. To some, a football game may be a singular event serving as family entertainment for an afternoon, but in the southeast, they take on a far greater meaning. They serve as a reunion of family and friends, a gathering of classmates, a picnic of epic proportions. For anyone who has spent a Saturday at one of the schools that represent the SEC, it’s a euphoric, almost spiritual experience. For these devout followers of a team, the cliché of comparing the Football Stadiums of the SEC to grand cathedrals is no surprise. While the stadium may serve as the focal point of the game itself, there is far more to a Saturday in the SEC, and nowhere is that more evident than Ole Miss.
Every school has its share of pomp and circumstance, from the ever impressive, albeit exclusive, Vol Navy, to elaborate imbibing devices of an LSU tailgate, to even the often underwhelming Junction on the seemingly treeless plain at Starkville. All of these recognized forms of worship within the many sects of the college football religion fail to capture the meaning and feeling that one senses over the course of a fall Saturday in Oxford, MS…
Early morning on the campus of the University of Mississippi, dew still clinging delicately to the blades of grass in the grove; game day has officially dawned at Ole Miss. You quietly stroll across campus; past the chapel, the library and finally the historic Lyceum, at which time you pass into a different world, a world of hospitality and revelry. In the Circle, men are adjusting satellite dishes and icing down beverages while women dressed, as if for church, carefully set tablecloths and centerpieces for the day to come. Each tent appears like a home and those dwelling within are preparing for the guests who are on their way. The scene is the same in the Grove, only on a far grander scale.
You’ve witnessed it more times than you can count, but as you pass between Croft and the Union, you still find yourself staring in amazement at that the 10-acres of tightly packed tents that, only a few hours prior was an empty plot of grass and trees. Even at this early hour, one can detect a faint smell of orange juice from the mixing of mimosas, which is quickly overtaken by the aroma of bourbon in the crisp autumn air.
You pass through a sea of tents each proudly proclaiming its place of origin: Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, Alabama. You look around and see people of all races and creeds failing to see each other in any color besides Red and Blue, any other religion than Ole Miss, and instantly the importance of this event becomes all the more clearer. It transcends culture and goes beyond the buildings and landscape that make the university. It’s a feeling, an attitude, something intangible, yet powerful. You sit at your tent while each stranger who enters is offered food and drink as if the guest of honor whether Rebel or Tiger or Tide. Few places on earth embody such human harmony or evoke such deep emotions as the Grove on an autumn Saturday; even the jabs at opposing fans are fired in good nature and invariably followed by the offering of hospitality.
Eventually, the game draws near and over the din of people greeting friends, family, and opposition, you hear the chant of Hotty Toddy somewhere in the distance. The band begins to play and fans gather ‘round to hear that greatest of adaptations of songs. The drum roll comes in soft, then the horns slowly rise in, and you know that, in the words of Verne Lundquist, “it’s goose bump time in Oxford, MS.”