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A weekend of college football and uncertainty in hurricane exile

Or How to watch Ole Miss vs. Alabama while running from Hurricane Florence.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Mississippi Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Merriam-Webster defines uncertainty as 1) “the quality or state of being uncertain” or 2) “something that is doubtful or unknown; something that is uncertain,” as in, “The outcome of Alabama at Ole Miss this season is a real uncertainty.”

That latter exemplum held true up until and including the first 81 seconds of the Rebs and Tide’s matchup in Oxford on Saturday. Ole Miss scored a touchdown in the first 11 seconds, then Alabama countered with a TD of its own immediately after. With 13:39 remaining in the first quarter, the game was tied seven apiece. Bama would go on to score the next 55 points on the night; Ole Miss failed to sniff the end zone for the remainder of the proceedings.

Perhaps some followers of Ole Miss football had other, nay, better expectations for Saturday’s outcome. Perhaps others more or less expected another lopsided outcome, but held out a candle of hope that the Rebel offense could (maybe, sort of) hang with Bama’s explosive new machine. Still others perhaps expected a loss but anticipated encouraging results and extrapolations inside that loss. Most, er, all things in life run on a spectrum of pessimism to optimism.

The outer contours of the lessons learned from Saturday’s blowout are easy enough to discern: Ole Miss’ defense remains a liability, while Alabama is as dominant as ever on both sides of the ball. One can chisel further into those takeaways at length, but those takeaways remain facts of college football life.

Uncertainty → Evacuation

I could only watch the game from Kickbacks Gastropub, a decent-sized sports bar in the Riverside-Avondale district of Jacksonville, Fla. What relegated me to that particular post was Hurricane Florence, an absolute unit of a rainstorm that will leave the Carolina coast underwater for probably the next seven days. Florence was no joke, like Irma before her, and Matthew before them both.

I didn’t evacuate Charleston, S.C. for Irma or Matthew; I did for Florence. I was fortunate not to suffer damage beyond a slightly leaking roof after Irma, but a third storm in a row felt too hubristic to stay put. I needed to leave, and the timing of our evacuation order was early enough for me to monitor, fret, monitor more, plan, and then drive the hell out of the Carolina low country.

Donate to the Red Cross’ Hurricane Florence relief efforts

Four of us decided to go to JAX, which is a fine city, and if anyone ever pisses on it in casual conversation, please immediately shut them down. It’s spread out, sure, but virtually every international cuisine can be had readily, and with excellent preparation. Riverside-Avondale is the trendiest, cheapest and drunkest neighborhood inside the I-295 loop, and that’s where my graduate school friend and host resides.


Hurricanes are hugely disruptive events. They displace millions of people for days at a time, forcing mandatory work stoppages, endurance test-levels of stress management, and shoot-from-the-hip planning. I don’t own a home, but I’m sure that responsibility for a mortgage adds a financial wrinkle that’s utterly depressing. Evacuation orders undermine not just one’s plans for the next seven days; they can ruin the best laid schedules for months and even years to come. Just ask those evicted by Katrina.

And that’s why I left this time. Turns out the storm only grazed Charleston, but the uncertainty in the days leading up to landfall was too manifold to gain any sense of purchase in just where Chuck sat in “the cone of uncertainty” — it’s literally called that. It wagged NNW, then wiggled straight NW, then wagged west, then wiggled NW again, then we were on the road and had no idea what was happening above us latitudinally for about 12 hours.

We watched, uncertain, and hoped that our friends who stayed would be safe. That was Wednesday.

Safe they were, in Chuck, with an appreciable wind storm that lasted 36 hours and brought nothing near the destruction that Matthew or Irma poured down — at least in the S.C. midlands and low country. Florence charged straight into the North Carolina coast and stomped on Wilmington’s throat for the better part of two days. She shat her backend detritus into Myrtle Beach and Georgetown in South Carolina, but she really wanted N.C. And N.C. she had.

There’s a constant anxiety and uncertainty about co-editing a website, especially when you’re not particularly or consistently good at editing a website in the first place. There’s a further anxiety when the biggest game of the season to date for Red Cup Rebellion’s devotive football team is occurring in the smack-middle of a hurricane evacuation. The Rebs playing the No. 1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide in Week 3 in Oxford initially promised some real possibility for craziness — especially given these team’s recent back-and-forth history.

We sat in Lyfts. We sat in restaurants. We sat at my friends’ houses and could only watch as Twitter and Facebook and Google News flashed by apace with game previews and there was nothing I could write. Exiled to the fringe of the college football landscape on the singular biggest weekend of Ole Miss football’s 2018 schedule, treading water while CFB internet lapped me over and over in an Olympic-sized pool.

I didn’t watch the Thursday game, nor the Friday game(s?). I caught LSU’s field goal to upend Auburn, and that was satisfying in a real keyhole sort of way. Finally, I’m back in this whacky saddle, and HOLY SHIT OLE MISS SCORED JUST ELEVEN SECONDS INTO THE BAMA GAME.

Exile → Make do

Our coverage all week was built around the uncertainty axis, but Alabama squashed out any doubts barely 10 minutes in. They slammed Ole Miss into the floor, and then down another floor, and then down into the earth’s core. The numerical score wasn’t worse than last year’s drubbing, yes, but it felt somehow more definitive, more go-fuck-yourselves. Frankly, it was disgusting and annoying, and I switched over to Ohio State-TCU at halftime.

The Kickbacks bar patrons in Jacksonville didn’t object to the channel change, and I had to walk around with a bright powder-blue cursive Ole Miss shirt for the rest of the night. Alabama fans are everywhere — deep in JAX, I’ll say — and they like to remind their opponents of bad losses.

Thing is, the first quarter ended and that was the game. Halftime adjustments weren’t going to overcome Bama’s lead. The uncertainty surrounding Alabama-Ole Miss in 2018 lasted exactly one week and 81 seconds.

The uncertainty about the storm lasted far longer. Truth be told, it started two weeks ago, then intensified day by day as the storm approached until the evacuation order came on Monday. Then it only got worse. Where was it going to hit? How long would it dump millions of Olympic-sized pools’ worth of rain on the Carolina low country? Could we even drive back? Power? These are real concerns in an Atlantic weather system situation.

Alabama imposed its will on Ole Miss. Florence unloaded a historic amount of precipitation on the Carolinas. Outside looking in at a catastrophic football event. At a catastrophic weather event. It’s unnerving. It’s stressful. And it’s disorienting to be displaced while Ole Miss loses horribly. Perhaps it was for the best.