ED: Yes. It's long. I've never been one to express myself tersely. Deal with it.
We're behind the curve here, per the usual, but we couldn't let this one get by. I'm sure that by now you've all seen this, umm, editorial(?) on BulldogBlitz.com written by Mississippi State University Political Science Professor Whit Waide entitled "Grindin' For My State." It is, considering the context, well thought out and done so with good intention. Hell, it's even fairly well written at some points. But it, in a painfully predictable fashion, cannot help but succumb to the attitudes and norms of the Mississippi State fanbase, the same of which the author is rather critical.
It is, mostly, laughable. Of course we're biased - we've never claimed otherwise - but we at the Cup could not help but find this well mannered attempt to guide the excitement of the Mississippi State fan base to be more damning and demeaning of the Bulldogs than favorable. Therefore, we find it worthy of a good fisking - that is, a line-by-line (ish) criticism of the column's statements, arguments, suggestions, methods and intentions.
But we will be fair. We'll concede to good points, agree with arguments and observations which we also hold, and commend the author's intentions. We're not going to abuse anybody here. Just know that, as with everything we do, our real goal is to entertain. We're here for the lulz, and this easily provides it.
Go ahead and read the entire column if you could. Digest it. Try to make sense of what just happened. Clean up whatever blood just shot out of your nose. Once you can do that, you can join in on the fun.
I'm going to do this in the most easily comprehensible and comprehensive manner as I see it, as a sort of lecture/conversation hybrid. My mind will wander (that mostly has to do with the varying states of sleepiness and hyperactivity between which I bounced while typing this), and the intended audience whill change, and I'll undoubtedly miss the mark here and there. Be patient with me, but don't be afraid to let me know where I go wrong.
Alright, let's get to fiskin'. Professor Waide, care to begin?
I have been a professor at State for five years. I grew up about twenty miles from campus. At age five, I put Bully on my birthday cake.
The image of a five-year-old decorating his own birthday cake is a depressing one. It's like something out of a Mitch Albom novel or a Lifetime movie. "If only his mother weren't doin' all that damned smack he could have a proper birthday! /sobs /grabstissues"
I say this not to impress you with my State credentials.
Actually, that's exactly what you're doing.
I say this to put in proper perspective the point of this column.
In my 37 years as a Mississippian and as a Bulldawg, I have always been frustrated by a sense of insecurity on the part of Mississippians and Bulldawgs. We have an inferiority complex and always have.
BullDOG. DOG. Not "dawg." To pronounce and write "dog" as "dawg" requires more effort than it's worth. And you're dead right on Mississippi's security issues. In Willie Morris' The Courting of Marcus Dupree, he writes very well on the defensive feelings of inferiority many Mississippians have, himself included. It's something that he wasn't able to really notice until he left Mississippi for quite some time. I even notice myself behaving in such a manner regarding my home state. In that sense, it's actually fairly tough to be a Mississippian because it's rather mentally taxing to so aggressively wrestle with and attempt to reconcile the past as it relates to today.
This, of course, could be expanded to hundreds of pages by some doctoral candidate looking to pen some magnus opus on the crisis of the Southern identity, but I think you get my point.
I think this is at the very root of why Mississippi is last on all the good lists and why Mississippi State has lost a lot of football games. I think it is why Starkville is not the SEC town that it needs to be.
I think issues of history, economics, geography, culture, and politics are the reason Mississippi's in a terribly unflattering condition relative to the rest of the United States. I also think shitty coaching and players is why Mississippi State has lost a lot of football games. I think that, well, I don't really know what I think regarding Starkville; you got me there.
But all of those things is what breeds the Mississippian insecurity. I suppose one could argue some sort of self-defeating cycle here, and reasonably so, but it's not as if this land was settled by mopey bastards looking to be miserable. Shit got bad, and it's stayed bad.
Though we don't like to admit it, somewhere deep down we just don't believe in ourselves - State of Mississippi or Mississippi State. I want to devote my life to changing this.
Good. I do too.
I have been "grindin' for my state" since I could walk.
Here's where it gets a bit stranger.
But I never put those words to this passion and obsession until I met a young man named Anthony Dixon. I had the pleasure of being one of Dixon's professors.
Considering how little work one must do to profess to SEC football players, I can see a pleasurable aspect in that task.
With four simple words he branded forever this my cause. I believe that with four simple words, and even though he probably doesn't realize it, Dixon began what I like to call the Cowbell Revolution.
American. French. Bolshevik. Industrial. Technological. Cowbell.
Mississippi State stands at a place unique to its history. State is in better shape now than it ever has been in every aspect and despite budget cuts.
I agree that this is a great time for higher education in, not only Mississippi, but the deep South at large. There are definitely some exciting things on the horizon for a lot of schools, Mississippi State included.
We are in a good place not just because of Coach Mullen and the fact that we are winning football games, though that plays a huge part. We are in such a place because of Mark Keenum and Scott Stricklin and dozens of other leaders like them, be they faculty, student, or alumni.
We have changed the culture.
We were changing the culture like three or four years ago. State's lagging yet again.
We have started to believe in ourselves. We cannot lose this momentum. Even if we start losing football games. I am confident we have turned a major corner in Starkville. Thanks in significant part to the efforts of the triumvirate of Keenum, Stricklin, and Mullen. But also because we are grindin' harder than ever before.
I know I'm a wordy guy who might fall victim to the occasional run-on sentence, but what's with all of the damned periods separating dependant and loosely relevant clauses? Did you write this as you spoke it, with emphatic pauses or breaths of air in between collections of words?
In 2009 we played Kentucky at Lexington. Anthony Dixon had a monster game and broke a record or two. When he walked off the field as time ran out - a smile ear to ear - a Fox Sports reporter shoved a microphone in his face. I cannot recall word for word the exchange, but it went something like this:
There's a reason you cannot recall said exchange word-for-word, and that's because no human mind has yet cracked the Dixon code. Here's a YouTube video of the aforementioned sideline interview. Watch it.
Teams of academia's top linguists could work tirelessly for decades and hardly decipher a damned word that excapes from the confines of Anthony Dixons marble-filled maw.
REPORTER: Anthony Dixon, what a game! You broke a few records tonight! Were you just feeling it out there?
DIXON: Yeah, I was pushin' it. I'm a senior. I want to go out with a bang. I promise I do. The records are what they are. I am not concerned with that. I enjoy having fun with these guys. I love my team. This was a team effort. I just want to do my part. To the best of my ability. I'm just out here grindin' for my team. I'm grindin' for my State. I'm just trying to do what I can.
Well, now that I see your valliant attempt at a transcript of Dixon's interview, I see where you choppy style comes from.
After I saw that, I got a bit teary. I thought that this was a gorgeous and profound moment.
Gorgeous and profound? Hyperbole much?
I began to think more and more about it. Anthony Dixon, I decided, represented all that was good about this University. He represented all that was good about this state.
Anthony Dixon? All that's good about Mississippi? An unintelligible oaf who just so happens to be adept at and enjoy playing the sport of football? A ruffian who was caught swerving about the fair ville of Stark with a few incriminating empty bottles of champagne about his motorcarriage? A footballer who, as a 2nd team all-SEC senior, was suspended for his first game? He's all that's good about Mississippi?
Here is a guy who at one point in his life was homeless, living in a car with his mother and brothers. Despite that, he ran all over Terry High School and Mississippi State University and loved that he had the opportunity to do so. He never once got bitter about his upbringing. He never once got mad at the state whose history played a role in leaving him homeless at one point in his life. While he certainly watched the more fortunate around him thrive and excel.
How do you know he "never once got bitter" or "mad" about his circumstances? I would highly doubt that to be the case, considering Dixon's humanity. And why would it somehow be more virtuous for one to not be even upset over a horrible state of personal affairs, than it would for them to react normally? I'm not going to pretend that Michael Oher and Patrick Willis didn't, at times, hate their childhood situations, and I don't need to make such a presumption to appreciate their rises from obscurity to stardom.
And at the height of his collegiate fame, what does he do? He takes the attention off of himself.
Per your transcript, he said "I" a dozen times in only a handful of sentences. He talked about his performance (an excellent one against Kentucky), his team, his love of football, his desire to go bowling, etc. How exactly is that him taking attention off of himself? He had a camera and microphione shoved in his face, so how exactly would he go about doing that anyway? Someone was asking him a question about a game he had just finished, and he (sorta) answered it. That's it.
Beyond that, he says "I'm grindin' for the state of Mississippi". I get a little teary just thinking about it.
.......... you do?
The year Coach Croom beat Alabama in Starkville, he gave a press conference. He said something to this effect:
"Anthony Dixon could have played football wherever he wanted. But he came here. I am determined to honor that. I want to give him and these boys something to be proud of. All they got in these towns is a stop sign and a funeral home.
But they love Mississippi. Mississippi is their home. I'm tired of them not having anything to be proud of. This football team, this university, can do more for the state of Mississippi in three hours than a politician could do in thirty years."
And to that I said AMEN.
To that I say amen as well. In the deep South, football is a very, very powerful thing. Croom's right in that Mississippi State football, as well as Ole Miss and Southern Miss ball, can really serve as galvanizing forces if harnessed properly. Croom may not have known dick about coaching, but he was assuredly an observant man during his time in Starkville.
I am determined to carve into the stone of Mississippi State history and folklore the phrase GRINDIN FOR YOUR STATE to represent us as much as a cowbell or a bulldog or Jack Cristil.
What does it mean "to grind"? Grindin' simply means to work hard and to have pride, respect, and honor in the thing you are working for.
No it doesn't. To "grind" or to "be on one's grind" means to work hard - that much you got correct - but it doesn't mean anything about pride, respect or honor. It means to work hard because it's what you're supposed to do. When I was working in the warehouse of an interior designer (yes, I did that for a summer and, no, I didn't particularly enjoy it) I was on as much of a grind as anyone there, but intangible notions of "honor" and "respect" eluded me during my work.
And, once again, that's fine. You don't need to find some sort of virtue in something ordinary to make it worthwhile.
It of course has meaning that pre-dates today...
Did it have this meaning yesterday? Then you're correct; the meaning predates today.
..but its Bulldawg connotation was born amongst guys like Dixon. Young black fellows who like rap music and sports. The young black community adopted the word and gave it its own meaning. And in so doing, I believe, created a perfect branding and personification of what being a Mississippi State Bulldawgis all about. We grind for our State.
I'm not even touching that.
We also grind for our lowercase-"s" state: the great state of Mississippi. We are grindin' for the state of Mississippi AND Mississippi State.
Good. People should work hard towards the betterment of their homes, wherever that may be. And I do think it shows humility and appreciation to give back to ones alma mater.
Why? Because we are a land grant school.
And here's where it gets really squirrely.
The foundational mission of the land grant college is service to the community.
Universities, in their simplest forms, do two things: educate and research. In that sense, all schools in every manner "service the community."
To take all that we learn in this university and not be content to bundle ourselves up in the Ivory Tower...
DID YOU HEAR THAT, IVORY TOWER?! HE'S CALLING YOU OUT BROTHER! YOU BETTER COME OUT OF BLOGGIN' RETIREMENT TO DROP SOME HATE!
...but to help folks and be real and honest and true.
This is perhaps the most off-putting part of the entire piece. By suggesting that land grand colleges in general and Mississippi State University in particular "help folks" to become "real and honest and true," you're suggesting that other schools either don't aim to meet that end or are incapable of such. By placing the works of Mississippi State University in the realm of "good," you implicitly leave others out, suggesting at best a lack of integrity and at worst a moral void amongst your opponents.
This tactic is used fairly often by simpletons trapped in a debate they've got no business in. It's also a product of the very defensiveness against which this piece is directed.
To put people out in the world who grow, build, make, invent, create things, and help bring honor to Mississippi. To give folks some sense that this dirt we walk on is what really sustains us. We must honor that and be proud of it.
We are the people who grow the food and build the buildings. We are the farmers, the scientists, the engineers, the schoolteachers, and inventors.
No farmer, scientist, engineer, teacher, nor inventor ever graduated for any school outside of Mississippi State, let it be known.
The stewards of the land.
I've been pretty lenient regarding the use of various dependent clauses as sentences because, considering the medium and topic, it's acceptable enough and gives the work, in spots, a decent pace. But this is too much.
We are also the stewards of mankind, of all our fellow Mississippians.
Once again, think about what this suggests, intentionally or not, about Mississippians who aren't associated with Mississippi State University.
Mississippi State has the highest percentage of black student enrollment in the Southeastern Conference. That is something to be proud of.
You're right it is. Do you know which school has the second highest percentage of black enrollment in the SEC? That'd be Ole Miss. It is something we both should be proud of, but we also need to recognize that such does come with the territory of being a public school in Mississippi, the blackest state in America. It's pretty intuitive that Ole Miss and State would have significant black enrollments in the same sense that it's pretty intuitive that Montana and South Dakota State wouldn't.
Still, to think that fifty years ago, neither Ole Miss nor State allowed non-white enrolees and then to look at where those schools are today is uplifting and should truly excite us for the future of Mississippi.
State folks are a big family like no other collegiate family I've known.
So says Ole Miss, Auburn, Alabama, LSU, etc...
A family who loves each and every one of us, just like Jesus said to do.
Envoking Jesus Christ, as if you weren't trying hard enough to elevate yourselves to a morally higher plane... Sheesh.
The next time you go to the Egg Bowl in Oxford and some drunk frat boy hollers "Moooooooooo" at you like a cow, here's what you should say: Hell Yeah. Damn Right.
Some drunk frat boy... yeah, he did that. You know, had I written some haughty rah rah piece about Ole Miss being the institution of doctors, writers, governors, educators, et cetera, and tossed in some thinly veiled and overwhelmingly false proclamations of Mississippi State's ammorality right before making some sort of comment about a "stupid, overall-wearing, hick" in Starkville, you'd all label me an asshole.
True, one doesn't need me to write such to know that I am an asshole, but I think the use of canned intra-SEC stereotypes is very TigerDroppings-esque and hardly becoming of a professor at a large university. No, we're not all "drunk frat boys" at Ole Miss, no matter how convenient a thought that is around which to wrap your simple minds.
We grind because we are Mississippi's university.
Not this shit again. There are EIGHT state-sponsored universities in Mississippi. Personally, I feel that's about five too many for a state as small as ours, but to claim yourself as being Mississippi's university is pretty slimy. And to, for some reason, feel the need to make such a proclamation only further exemplifies the very insecurities you're attempting to combat (which is a bit of a running theme with this column).
Eighty percent of our student body is from Mississippi.
So what about the 20 percent of the Mississippi State student body from outside of the Magnolia State? What do you say to them? Fuck 'em, they're not Mississippian enough for you? The provincialism of this part of the piece is quite bothersome.
Up the road they can't say that, and that's fine.
And it begins. Mississippi State cannot conceivably define itself on its own terms. Everything they do is somehow in reaction to Ole Miss. I know that this is something that we at the Cup enjoy to say a lot, but it's a proclamation which time and time again proves itself true.
I understand the business model they are going after. They want to be Virginia. Which is good, I think, for our state.
And you want to be Texas A&M which is good, I think, for our state. UVA is an excellent school, so suggesting that we're striving for such excellence is quite complimentary. Thanks.
But while TSUN is off in the stratosphere chasing their dream, we must be aware that what we are is a land grant school in Mississippi and our dream is based in this great big beanfield we call Starkville, Mississippi, and in this cow college we call Mississippi State University.
Okay, I can get behind this I suppose. "Let's be humble, down to earth folks and work towards the common goal of improving our community." That's admirable.
We are the People's University and we are honorable, good, and true.
The Cold War imagery one evokes when proclaiming something as "the People's [NOUN]" is about as respectable and amusing as a Yakov Smirnoff act. One doesn't need me to explain the intentions of Mississippi State's self-proclaimed status as "the People's University," nor does one need me to elaborate further on the squirrelly, bullshitty "honorable, good, and true" nonsense.
Such a proclamation would be fine, sorta, in a vacuum. It'd still be annoying and delusional, but it'd be rather innocuous. By writing such in a column which specifically makes a comparison between Ole Miss and Mississippi State, however, one weakly implies some rather heinous things. To expect any reasonable person to take this seriously or even casually is a bold expectation indeed.
We don't just clang a cowbell for the sake of clanging it.
Yes you do.
We clang it because it is the very heart of who we are. The reason State and Ole Miss don't like each other- the very root of the rivalry- is not in any football game. The root of it is in the people and the land. And in that Bell.
The bell does, admittedly, have a lot to do with it. That shit's annoying.
Over a century ago in Oxford, they didn't want to teach things like science, engineering, and agriculture.
This is so blatantly false. For starters, Ole Miss TODAY teaches science and engineering, so I don't know where one could conceive the notion that Oxford is some sort of anti-scientific community. The Latin word "scientia" is actually a part of the Ole Miss motto. What does this guy think we do all day? Lazily read literary criticism while smoking fine tobacco out of meerschaum pipes during our talks with the various other nefarious and nebulous entites which comprise "the Man?" And, per Ivory Tower and all of his book readin',
Actually, Ole Miss set up an agriculture program before State was founded in the hopes of winning the federal land grant (a la University of Georgia), but at the time the state legislature was controlled by rednecks and not patricians, so State was founded with the land grant and our agriculture program soon folded.
It's one thing to suggest unadmirable qualities about your opponent. It's another thing to lie about them.
Ole Miss was run by Yale and Harvard folks, intent on preserving it as a classic liberal arts haven for the elite.
True, Ole Miss was in its infancy conceived as such. The Civil War changed all of that.
This is not to say that there is not great value in that type of education. Absolutely there is. But in a land grant we believe we must complement that education with a more applied, pragmatic education of thinking as well as DOING.
Yeah, because medicine isn't at all applicable, active, or pragmatic...
They didn't want us in Oxford,
False. You didn't want us in Starkville.
so we came to Starkville and built our good name by serving the People as agrarian stewards and military defenders of the land.
And they began to make fun of us.
Yeah, we did, but not because you grow food. We make fun of you because you write infantile nonsense like this column.
They called us Bookfarmers. Meaning that we were poor folks for the most part, not real farmers like the planters in the Delta with their sharecroppers doing all the work.
Aaaaaaand there it is. Wow, we went a whole thousand words or so without a subtle racist jab. That type of restraint and patience is to be commended.
We were Bookfarmers, just learning how to farm in books. I love that name. I have it written in big block letters right above my office door so that every one who enters my office will see it and ask about it. And a lot of them do. I am proud to be a Bookfarmer.
I've never heard this Bookfarmer bit before, but if you want to take it then have at it.
Scott Stricklin andI have discussed for a while this "grind" concept and its relevance to our mission at State. I would love it if we could have a video on the Jumbotron next season that will get "Grindin' for My State" out for public consumption. The mantra has reached cult status on campus to such an extent that it simply demands to be taken from campus to the alumni population at large. I am absolutely convinced it is the tie that binds all State people--sure as any cowbell.
In this video, I imagine a portion of it like this: a scene of an old hillbilly at an ancient grist mill in a time long past, grinding corn and wheat to feed the People, with some great piece of music and a deep voice building anticipation.
This description of what the pre-game video should look like reminds me of the Tracy Morgan Saturday Night Live sketch for Uncle Jemima's Pure Mash Liquor (it'll get you drunk for less money).
Then cut to a scene of Anthony Dixon running over four defensive backs straight into the end zone.
No, he's not kidding. He actually wants this video to happen.
And then the deep voice saying at the end, God-like:
You mentioned Jesus earlier. Wanna get the entire Holy Trinity in here? Yaweh? Allah? Thor? Just wanna make sure that you, as the People's University get it all covered.
"Mississippi State University: Grindin' for our State since 1878."
At least it rhymes.
This column is pure Mississippi State, and confirms everything we love to proclaim about said university and the fans, students, and alumni thereof. There is, as the author so astutely recognizes, an inferiority complex rampant amongst the Bulldog faithful which, apparently even in criticimsof said complex, revolves around a constant self-analysis and comparison to that which has been defined as "the enemy" - Ole Miss in this case.
It works rather simply. In order for a group to validate or placate themselves when staring in the face of their own collective shortcomings, they must define and defeat what can generall be recognized as a common enemy - in this case, the Ole Miss Rebels. This is first accomplished by the assertion that Ole Miss isn't as "Mississippian", thus making our alma mater something foreign or strange, and then by the implication of a lack of virtue or goodness on our part by the inheirent wholesome state of theirs.
Or, in short, they drive tractors while we sue people.
"Look how folksy and home-spun we are! Not like sellout those PC liberals up north right?!"
Perhaps some might find this systematic (yeah, there's a system here, and no, I don't know what it is) dismantling of the well-intentioned arguments put forth by some guy I don't even know to be crass or uncouth. I resent that implication, and I restent it as much as the hardly subtle attacks made by Mr. Waide on our Ole Miss. The suggestions that we, unlike them, aren't worthy Mississippians, that the purpose of our university is ill-intentioned and our educations lacking in real world applicability, and that we do not share with Mississippi State the mission to further the cause of higher education in the Deep South is, frankly, downright insulting.
And to so boldly claim that the great men and women who compose the student body and alumni of Ole Miss aren't "grindin' for Mississippi," in the many ways that ridiculous phrase manifests itself, is rooted in such a foolish form of arrogance that it damn near elevates the proposition from absurdity to comedy. For better and for worse, are William Faulkner, Robert Khayat, Archie Manning, Deuce McAllister, Haley Barbour, and Leonard McCoy not Mississippian enough?
And of course I took such an implication personally. The implications one makes of my alma mater reflect, by proxy, on me. Am I not Mississippian enough? Am I not good, honest, true, honorable, respectful, or any of the other adjectives to which you could hardly succumb yourself to labelling Ole Miss? Am I not capable of "grinding"
on for my state? Am I wrong to be proud of Ole Miss, the school in Mississippi which can boast a Nobel Prize winning author and a Super Bowl MVP winning quarterback? Am I wrong to be proud of Ole Miss, the school in Mississippi which has hosted a Presidential debate? Am I wrong to be proud of Ole Miss, the only school in Mississippi which possesses a medical school and a Phi Beta Kappa chapter?
I Googled the guy who wrote this, Professor Whit Waide. He's reviewed very favorably by students who enjoy his teaching for a variety of reasons which range from "he cusses in class" to "he lets us out 15 minutes early." But he's also admired for his ability to keep his students interested and his insistence on learning who they are as people. He is, per his own definition of the term, grinding for his state. He is teaching people who love to learn form him, which is a great thing for both Mississippi State and the state of Mississippi.
But then Google gave me this, his Twitter feed wherin he reveals that he earned a JD from the Ole Miss school of law. Therefore, the very credentials which allow him to grind in the manner by which he has chosen to do so were bestowed upon him by Ole Miss. Simply put: HE WOULD NOT HAVE THE JOB HE HAS RIGHT NOW IF IT WEREN'T FOR THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSISSIPPI.
I don't know if that's hypocricy or some self-loathing on the scale of Michael Moore, but by golly is it ever so ironic. He is an Ole Miss educated lawyer who revels in the fact that he's not a highfalutin Ole Miss lawyer type.
And he calls himself a Mississippian... tsk tsk.
Whit, look, I don't hate you. After reading about how much your students enjoy your courses, I can't but help to think that you're an awesome guy, and I can't fault you for loving Mississippi and your Bulldogs. Your students like you, you're a passionate Bulldog fan, you seem to be well read, and you want what's best for your school and community. I can't help but respect that. Go about your business and keep working hard to improve the lot of you and yours. But please don't do so with the assumption that there's only one right way to grind for Mississippi.