Twenty-eleven began much in the way that 2010 ended - quickly and with little or no Rebel fanfare to be had. But, as we Rebels very well know, renewed optimism will creep into our Rebel hearts and we will once again fervently don the red and the blue. Go beyond the jump and hear our State of the Program Address and just try to picture us, I dunno, being serious or something like that. It shouldn't be that hard.
The State of the Program Address: The Ole Miss Condition, or "Why Do We Keep Doing This?"
Fellow Rebels, with this, the new year, comes a hard look at the state of our beloved Ole Miss Rebel athletics programs. And while we remain ever optimistic as we continue to look towards the future, struggling to remember while not dwelling on our past, we cannot lie; a difficult stretch has been laid out before us. Certainly, we lie not in dire straits, but uphill battles must be fought - and won - for us to restore our heightened, arrogant, and passionate fandom to its proper luster. In this address, we cannot and will not be athletic actuaries, addressing the hopes of our football team for the upcoming year, but we can look at where we stand and offer to you, dear reader, a charge to continue to make the Ole Miss fan experience truly one of the most unique and underappreciated in all of sports.
The bell cow of any SEC program located south of Kentucky is its football team. Drinking bourbon, wearing blazers, and football are three of the few things Southerners can do with greater consistency and success than our fellow Americans to the north or west so, naturally, a lot of investments, both monetary and emotional, are made towards the aforementioned. Positive returns on these investments must be made for the local economies and collective sanity of the South to remain vibrant or, at least, intact.
Unfortunately, such returns were not achieved this past year.
On the gridiron, the Rebels performed as poorly as most of us can recall in 2010. Even after painstaking work and defense against a maelstrom of negative public relations resulting from the recruitment of Jeremiah Masoli - a damn fine Rebel in his own right - and the establishment of a largely revamped offensive attack, our coaches and players fell short of even the most modest of expectations of the Ole Miss fan base.
An opening day loss to a school whose existence most of you were likely unaware quickly deflated anything we could have hoped for from this season. The eleven following games saw an inconsistent offense, mediocre special teams play, and outrageously horrid defense muster a mere four wins just one season removed from the second of two back-to-back nine-win seasons.
Worst of all, amid all of this turmoil, we allowed ourselves to become distracted by the trivial matter of our on-field mascot. We fought amongst ourselves, entrenched ourselves into warring camps, and resorted to more foolish behavior than is typical amongst Rebel fans. Truly, our internal strife was the most difficult struggle of 2010.
This was not supposed to happen. This should not have happened. And it cannot be something we allow to happen for this coming season. Hearts broken and souls weakened, we trudge on and we rebuild. We Rebels will be back, hopefully as unified as ever, and we will continue to bring the fight to any and all takers. We will resume our unchecked August optimism, likely to see that dashed by early September's losses. We will fill the Grove and partially fill the Vaught. And we will do so with a bitter, inexplicable dedication; and we will enjoy it.
That, unlike any other, demonstrates the beautifully simultaneous joy and self-loathing that is Rebel fandom.
We recently read a recount of one Ole Miss fan convincing an unaffiliated family member to actually not to cheer for the Rebels, arguing that doing such would be a volunteering for a life of torment and struggle. At first, we agreed with this sentiment and saw the logic therein. Certainly, there are times when we wish we had been led to different sets of circumstances, that we would be able to cheer for a team as successful as perhaps Texas or Alabama, but that would be too easy. Fans of such, especially those who are only fans for the sake of fandom and not for any other sort of deep connection with a team or university, are weak. They do what they do because it is a convenient, easy, and cheap thrill. They are not tried and proven. They have not endured that which makes us hearty, loyal, and a tad bit insane. A fan of Ole Miss experiences heartbreak and grief which, while difficult to endure, makes our small share of exhilaration that much more precious.
Prognosticate on 2011 we cannot. Even were we to try, the outlook is hazy at best. Just know that, whatever happens to our Rebels, good or bad, we will be there, clad in the red and blue with full red cups in our hands. We hope you do the same.
Hotty Toddy, God Bless You, and God Bless the United States of America.