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TLV #131 - With Baseball, "We Are Ole Miss" is a Selling Point

We Are Ole Miss

Itself a manufactured stadium cheer shamelessly "borrowed" from Penn State, the phrase "We are Ole Miss" has become a self-deprecating calling card of sorts over the past several seasons. Having never caught on - at a school where traditions, like matter and energy, are impossible to create or destroy - as the rallying cry we can presume it was intended to be, the four words are a sardonic proclamation of Rebel "pride". We know that, to truly be a part of the experience that is Ole Miss Rebel sports fandom, you're going to have to suffer through a lot of head-scratching, gut-wrenching, odds-defying circumstances.

An otherwise perfect SEC record is blemished by a star quarterback's clumsiness against none other than the LSU Tigers? We are Ole Miss.

An early ranked, successful basketball program can't make its way through the SEC schedule with enough wins to earn an NCAA Tournament bid? We are Ole Miss.

Our athletics programs cannot win championships in seemingly anything other than tennis? We are Ole Miss.

One of our teams (pick a team, any team) loses to a middling, underachieving Mississippi State team in an embarrassing fashion? We are Ole Miss.

It's gotten kind of fun, actually, in that it is a way to remind ourselves that there are things more important to we Rebels than sports, and that we don't necessarily need victories won on the gridiron, hardwood, or diamond to vindicate ourselves as Ole Miss students, alumni, or fans. "Hey, we just got embarrassed on national television by the Gamecocks - again, and from a different school - but it's no big deal because ‘we are Ole Miss,' right?"

It works, in part, because it is a realistic approach. In this Southeastern Conference, with well established powerhouses in every college sport of import (keep your water polo out of here) all vying for players, personnel, and profit, a smaller public university nestled in the gently rolling forests of northern Mississippi ain't about to take a handful of sports by storm. Not only are we a small school in a small state populated by people with small bank accounts, but we've got to share our already difficult state of affairs with a bunch of poorly-dressed slackjaws who find great enjoyment out of shaking pieces of antiquated farm equipment welded to bicycle handles.

Keep in mind; I am no advocate of a defeatist fan mindset. We can and should want to see great things from our athletics programs. To expect as much, though, especially immediately, is hardly realistic. We can win games and do so with authority over much more, let's say "blessed" programs. But such success, especially if you're hoping for it to come with any sort of regularity, is something which lies just over our horizon. And with no other programs is this the case than with our football and basketball programs. Resources, facilities, history, and geography are all working against us when it comes to establishing powerhouses in the two most watched college sports.

But the same is not the case with our baseball program, the final component to the "big three" of SEC athletics.

When I look at our baseball program and its potential, I proudly say "We are Ole Miss, dammit!" We have one of the grandest, newest, and most lavish college ballparks in the nation. We have a big budget for baseball relative to most NCAA programs. We have one of the largest and most fervent baseball fan bases. We are blessed to have been situated in a region and state which really appreciates baseball and, as a result, cranks out highly sought after talent year after year. And, because of all of this, we are able to recruit fairly well on a national level.

As difficult as this may be to reconcile with the traditional outlook of Rebel sports, our baseball program truly is elite in every element outside of postseason play. Now I'm not about to fire up the torches and hone the pitchforks over head coach Mike Bianco's four failed super regional appearances, but I do feel that, as fans of this program, we should expect, and not merely desire, great things.

This season has been a rough one, but I don't think that, in a vacuum, it's anything of real significance. Keep in mind, LSU is performing on an even lower level than our Rebels, and they won the College World Series two years ago. Slumps happen, especially in baseball, and we're currently stuck right in the middle of one.

This program isn't a sinking ship, yet, but if the SS Bianco begins to take on water and signs begin to point towards a return to the perpetual baseball ineptitude of the 1980's and 90's, we fans cannot and should not remain complacent.

When it comes to baseball, we are Ole Miss, and we should expect success.