There’s something in the air right now—something that makes each breath taste a little sweeter. Maybe it’s just because fall in Mississippi is better than fall anywhere else. Maybe it’s the cool, damp mornings and perfect afternoons or the beautiful oak leaves turning orange and red. It probably has something to do with the fact that every southerner loves fall because it’s when we watch college football and break out all things pumpkin and whiskey.
I think that sweeter Mississippi air has something to do with the national attention our state is getting. Mississippi gets a lot of national attention, but this may be the first time in a long the state has been talked about on every U.S. television for three weeks straight without any hint of shame or hate.
Football is superficial, and these days controversial, but it’s something this state is rallying behind. This state is holding up 170 college athletes from Ole Miss and Mississippi State, cheering across rivalry lines and praying for continued success as the season rolls on. As Mississippians, we finally have something at which we can be best—something we can rally around.
The Mississippi State Bulldogs have defeated three top-10 football teams in a row. The Ole Miss Rebels knocked off the number one team last week and then beat another ranked team this week in front of the largest crowd to ever watch a college football game in Texas. These two football teams have never gone 6-0 at the same time. These two teams are, usually, considered mid-to-lower tier SEC teams. National sports reporters, tired of the hype and then letdown surroundings these teams each year, challenged Mississippi to put up or shut up. Mississippi has put up.
Does this mean we can stop trying to fix our education, teen pregnancy or health issues? Absolutely not. Should this distract us from those goals? Not at all. It is nice, however, to get a pat on the back from time to time. It’s difficult to work so hard to improve the place you live only to have the loudest person in the room ruin its image for everyone. It’s difficult to try and solve social, political and health problems while fighting against the tides or tradition. A small, if insignificant, reward, makes all the hard work that much better.
Here’s to Saturdays in the fall in Mississippi. Here’s to breaking bread in the Grove or the Junction (both of which I will have the pleasure of doing this year). Here’s to watching ESPN re-runs of this weekend’s games while I write blog posts. Here’s to Dr. Bo and Dak Attack, to Dan Mullen and Hugh Freeze. Here’s to crossing rivalry lines for the sake of state pride.