The Ole Miss Rebels are heading to the College World Series, something which is wholly unfamiliar to most Rebels fans. Coming from behind to win a Super Regional is also something that we're largely unaccustomed to. This week, I reached out to our Twitter followers to see if anyone would like to share their fan experiences from this past weekend with us. So many of you agreed to help, and I've taken some of the best quotes and stories for this piece, but a lot of them did end up on the cutting room floor. If you have anything you'd like to share in the comments section below, then please do so.
This past weekend, the Ole Miss Rebels took the Super Regional series from the No. 1 Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns in Cajun country. Fans who made the trip had a myriad of experiences, ranging from the violent to the victorious. Overall, however, the trip was a success both for the baseball program and its most diehard supporters.
Trey Spillman, an Ole Miss alum and diehard baseball fan, did encounter a few bad (see: drunk) Cajuns fans, but handled himself with aplomb.
After a run-in with a fan who accosted them for their parking job, Trey and his friends "made a few laps around the area to check out the scene and perhaps try and exchange pleasantries with other Ole Miss fans. While doing so we walked past a huge tailgate full of what appeared to be ULL students. Man, they gave us hell. Cussing, throwing beer cans as we walked by...Clearly we were not welcome."
But not everyone in the ULL tailgating area treated them poorly. "An older gentleman of a neighboring tailgate noticed how much shit we were catching and approached us to offer cream cheese stuffed/bacon wrapped peppers. This was a nice gesture." They then spent time in the area outside of the park where the game was broadcast on large screens (if you watched on ESPN, you saw this area between almost every inning as a cutaway scene), and really enjoyed themselves there. "We posted up next to a few middle aged Cajuns fans, had beers, tugged some Bulleit from the bottle and had a nice exchange with them."
Inside the stadium, he wasn't impressed with the amenities, but really enjoyed the crowd. "It was a pretty hostile environment - very small but loud as hell. Not a terrible experience here."
After the game, though, they had yet another run in with some rowdy Cajuns fans. A friend of his, after getting into an argument with his girlfriend, a ULL student, was attacked by another, wholly unrelated Cajuns fan.
Our tent cleared out and approached the scene to diffuse the situation. Four or so of the face-punching fan's friends approach as well and instantly begin apologizing and attempting to diffuse everything as well. The gentleman who threw the punch was so drunk that he approached and apologized to the wrong people - he couldn't even remember who he punched.
After the weekend, though, he reflected on Ragin' Cajuns fans as being generally enjoyable. "There was probably a ratio of three friendly people to every drunk asshole. Every time someone gave us hell, there were two or three people following behind apologizing."
But not everybody ran into ULL's bad apples. Martha Thomas, who emphatically describes herself as an "Ole Miss alumna and fan," enjoyed her Lafayette run-ins with everyone from the fans outside of the stadium to the woman taking her order at the Lafayette Whataburger.
The fans who were tailgating along the walk to the stadium could not have been nicer. They are a very proud fan base, and rightly so. There was really no negativity at all. I found that the Lafayette fans who ran from one end of the grandstands to the other in front of the Ole Miss fans were a little over the top. But, the children with the faux beards were cute. As were the adults, I guess!
They exchanged Hotty Toddy's with Geaux Cajuns, and at one point even ran off a few Lafayette supporters with their rowdiness.
Her experiences in Lafayette itself were also enjoyable, particularly with the local fare.
Sunday we went to the Blue Dog Restaurant for brunch. Everyone had bragged about the food there, and the brunch was not disappointing. My particular favorites were the crab and corn soup, the crunchy sweet potato casserole, the oyster dressing, the spinach casserole and the unlimited mimosas - poured whenever your glass started being emptied.
Uh... wow. I'll take one of each.
And while they were out about the town, they couldn't help but continue to run into proud Lafayette supporters. "Since we had enjoyed the Agave Grill and Cantina so much the day before, we went back there for another margarita and a salad. Again, the Ole Miss and Ragin' Cajun fans had fun with each other. Again, no animosity."
Brett Basham, an Ole Miss alumnus and a former catcher for the Rebel baseball team (surely y'all haven't forgotten about him), compared the atmosphere in The Tigue as "an SEC type atmosphere with not as many fans. [Cajuns fans] are extremely passionate about their team, which is why I think it was such a great atmosphere." He added that "there were thousands tailgating outside of the stadium before the game...almost like a football game."
They were very hospitable. Everyone I met offered me food and something to drink. A lot of them were talking about the Grove and how they would be in Oxford for the football game in September. After the game, we got nothing but congratulations and well wishes in Omaha. Obviously, they were very disappointed but extremely gracious in defeat. The feeling they experienced is one that I have felt many times, so I know how they felt.
Even though "you could feel the air being sucked out of the stadium after the triple by Perdzock" the diehard ULL fans stuck around to support their program. "What I was the most impressed with was the standing ovation they gave the Cajuns squad as they finished their team huddle in left field and were walking back to the dugout. Those guys had a heck of a year and they deserved it." Basham added "I am forever grateful to the Ole Miss fans that stayed and acknowledged us with a standing ovation, even in defeat."
Regarding the facilities themselves, "the stadium is obviously smaller than what we as SEC fans are accustomed to, but they make it work for them. [It] reminded me a little of the old Alex Box Stadium where the fans are right on top of you." Even though it allows for just about 4,000 fans, it can seem like a lot more. That, the turf playing surface, and the weather can make Lafayette such a difficult place to play. "It may be the hottest playing surface in America. We played a fall game there when I was at LSU Eunice and it was like 110 on the field."
In addition to that, "the lights were a lot lower than stadiums in the SEC, that is why you saw a lot of guys on our team having trouble getting adjusted in that first game. They actually had to bring in 3 portable light standards to accommodate the ESPN broadcast." That said, they make it work and take good enough care of the stadium to provide an exciting atmosphere for players and fans. "Overall, I think the ULL administration and athletic department did about as good of a job as they could with what they had."
Jack Koban, a member of the Ole Miss Class of 2003 who lives in Baton Rouge, made the short drive over the Lafayette to watch the Rebels even up the series on Sunday.
I've spent a good bit of time in Lafayette and the surrounding areas due to friends and family who live there. My wife and I almost moved there in 2008. To be honest, I was pushing her to take a job there when she was interviewing in Lafayette. It's a cool big town/small city with a ton of things to do, outstanding food, and professionally, it would be my ideal place besides maybe Houston.
To Koban, the food and the people make Lafayette, Louisiana a great place for visiting fans. "It's loaded with great food. Pamplona is a tremendous tapas restaurant downtown that makes their own red and white sangrias. That stuff will keep your lady happy and the bacon wrapped dates are worth the trip." And, as far as drinks go, "it's Louisiana so it goes without saying that there are plenty of places to get your fill of adult beverages, frozen or in a liquid state."
Comparing it to Baton Rouge, Koban adds that the city has areas which are quite nice if you know where to look. "The parts near downtown and ULL are basically what you'd expect from a south louisiana town. Big houses, lots of charming, french architecture, live oaks, and spanish moss. There are also a few 'all inclusive' housing developments such as River Ranch." Another added benefit to Lafayette is being right in Acadiana "My wife's uncle is and architect living in Youngsville and we've gone there for a few Cochon De Laits. You'd think you were in the middle of the country, but it's just a few minutes from everything."
From his perspective, the best part was the people. "The ULL fans were a confident bunch, as they should be. They won almost 60 games, had a 5-1 record against the vaunted SEC West, and were the national seed. They certainly weren't cocky or rude though." As with most fans, he too was offered his fair share of food and drink while tailgating, and had plenty of good-natured conversations with the home team's fans. "I had a very pleasant experience sitting right next to an older Cajun fan despite the loss on Saturday. He was about as good a baseball fan as you could hope for. When they did well he cheered, when we had a good play he tipped his hat to us and that was about it."
Matthew Hall, the Ole Miss alum behind the @Swayze_CrazyBSB twitter account, agreed. They were "fantastic people who have great environment down there. They're knowledgeable fans that know their baseball and love their team." He added that he's watched a lot of Ole Miss baseball, and that environment at the Tigue was "as intense as I've ever seen it."
Ole Miss fans, despite the intensity, even found something that they and the Cajuns' supporters could find mutual ground on. Per Koban, "The loudest booing and taunting all night was directed toward two LSU fans who walked through the first base line grandstand clearly trying to rile everyone up. I actually got a decent video of the 'go to hell LSU chant' that was expertly applied by both fan bases in perfect harmony. That makes them alright in my book."
"In all, it was a great time," added Koban. "Great town, great food, fun fans. Of course, winning helps make anything enjoyable, but the outcome aside, I still I wish I could do it all over again."