Ole Miss was absolutely maddening on Saturday night. They enjoyed success in pockets in the first half, then completely imploded in the second half. At least for the stretches I remember, because, well, the game kicked off at 10:30 p.m. ET. Lord this was bad.
Let’s step out for a moment.
The lowest, highest, most poignant, sad, beautiful moment of the Odyssey occurs at the end of Book 6. Odysseus has been zapped by a giant sea storm sent by Poseidon and washed up on the shore of the island of Scheria. He’s naked, alone, at the absolute lowest point in his existence. The poem then compares him to the final ember of a campfire that’s hanging on, fizzling but fighting, just barely orange enough to make out in the darkness. We’re not told whether it eventually dies.
Odysseus certainly doesn’t.
It’s a startling moment in a poem that treats those grand ideas of homecoming, happiness, family, nostalgia, and revenge. It’s one that critics and readers continually return to as perhaps the most human scene in the most human of Greek sagas. That of homecoming. Odysseus went out there, out to Troy, out to the Cyclops and Lotus Eaters, and made it all the way back. After 20 years.
That this wonderful and sad simile of the ember in the fire should persist through thousands of years of oral poetic tradition is telling. “Homer” was not a person. “Homer” was thousands of people. Thousands of traveling bards telling the same stories every night in different but similar ways. At some point, the Iliad and Odyssey, as we know them, crystallized and then were written down. But for thousands of years they were unstable tales, told and retold — orally — across the Mediterranean, with always a view toward the bard’s immediate audience. Never forget that Odysseus himself recounts for the Phaiakes his famous travels and travails across four full books of the Odyssey.
That the lowest point in a man’s life screaming out of the Odyssey as the epic’s most touching point is telling as well. Odysseus is the man of suffering. He’s also the man of hate, as his name implies. He hates you, and you hate him. But as a dying ember, you can’t help but feel for the guy.
There was a moment in the third quarter of Saturday’s Ole Miss-Cal game that Shea Patterson appeared utterly frustrated. Whether it was the play-calling, or the offensive line, or his receivers’ inability to haul in throws, or the combination of all three, it’s hard to say. But Patterson was angry. The offense couldn’t move. His center Sean Rawlings and favorite passing target A.J. Brown weren’t present. Phil Longo doesn’t carry around a play-sheet because apparently the offense works off all of 28 basic plays or something. Either way, Shea was pissed.
And he should have been. The offense was doing nothing. The defense looked better, albeit against a Cal running game lacking its best weapon. But the Ole Miss offense was just listless, lying there on the shore, dying with only Shea to try and stoke the flame. It didn’t happen, and the Rebels lost, 27-16.
This then sets Rebel fans up for something of a nightmare season. Ole Miss has a bye week, then, oh dear, it’s Alabama. Maybe it isn’t a nightmare season. We’ve hyped this team as one of the country’s CHAOS TEAMs this year, but maybe they’re just outright bad? As we’ve already said, don’t invest too much in this season. Maybe do so in the moment, as I did by screaming “FUCK” before collapsing into bed on Saturday night. But don’t attach yourself too much to these guys. It’s just not worth it.