Friday, May 27, 2016

Rick Cleveland sings Kumbaya

This college baseball season in Mississippi has given us so much to cheer: conference championships, nationally ranked teams, splendid players and so much more.

But did you ever think you would see what we saw Saturday? Mississippi State fans openly cheered an Ole Miss victory.

The SEC Network showed it perfectly on split screen TV: State fans, in Starkville watching their Bulldogs on the field and the Rebels on their cellphones and portable TVs. Of course, State fans were cheering for their Diamond Dogs. But when Ole Miss got the last out to defeat Texas A & M, State fans cheered wildly. I saw them, heard them. I swear I did. They rang their cowbells — for an Ole Miss victory. Yes, and Dudy Noble — the person, not the field — rolled over in his grave.

There were exceedingly extenuating circumstances. State needed a victory over Arkansas and an Ole Miss victory over Texas A & M for the outright regular season SEC Baseball Championship.

But even that didn't make it particularly easy for many Bulldog fans to cheer for their most hated rival.

Says author Neely Tucker, a lifelong Mississippi State fan (who graduated from Ole Miss), “For me it was the definition of a moral quandary.”

It was for many.

And some couldn't pull the trigger.

Take Phillip Bonds, of Iuka, a 46-year-old, maroon-bleeding, Rebel-despising, life-long State fan. He was fine with a shared championship, but he wasn't, under any circumstances, going to pull for Ole Miss.

“I told my brother, I just can't (pull for Ole Miss); I just can't,” Bonds said. “I cannot think of a single scenario in which I would pull for Ole Miss. That's just me.”

One of Bonds' earliest sports memories was the 1981 Egg Bowl when a controversial pass interference call gave Ole Miss a last-ditch chance to win. John Fourcade scored the winning touchdown and waved the ball at angry State fans.

You don't forget things like that if you are Phillip Bonds.

“I guess I love to see Ole Miss lose at least as much as I love to see us win,” Bonds said.

It goes both ways. I know Ole Miss fans who won't so much as step foot in Starkville, even for important games with the Rebels.

“I'd rather watch it on TV than spend money in Starkville,” is the familiar refrain.

Tucker, an accomplished author who writes also for the Washington Post, is steeped in the rivalry, a third generation Bulldog who grew up in Starkville and attended State for two years. And then he met the late, great author Willie Morris (an Ole Miss man) in the Left Field Lounge at Dudy Noble Field and told Willie he wanted to become a writer. Morris told Tucker he should come to Ole Miss. Tucker did. He learned a lot of about writing and journalism. He did not learn to love — or even to like — Ole Miss.

“I love my friends up there,” Tucker wrote me. “I got my degree there. But I am not physically able to utter the words 'Hotty Toddy.' ”

So, was Neely Tucker watching the SEC Network Saturday when Ole Miss and State were playing on the split-screen?

“Yes,” he answers.

And was he pulling for Ole Miss?

“No, I was pulling against Texas A&M,” Tucker said. “Big difference.”

But again, many Bulldogs couldn't even go that far.

Tucker was watching the State fans celebrate the Ole Miss victory, looking for family members, when the camera panned to one section on the first base side of Dudy Noble. Amid all the cheering fans, one guy stood up and showed what he thought Ole Miss winning. Yes, and he used both his middle fingers.

And then there was State fan Charlie Turner (@CharlieSt8Fan on Twitter) who tweeted: “I was pulling for a rainout.”

Where the final SEC standings were concerned a rainout would have been just as good for State as an Aggie defeat — and far preferable for many State fans to an Ole Miss victory.

Rick Cleveland is a syndicated columnist and historian at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. His email address is


Anonymous said...

Happy both teams are doing so well. I do have a favorite of the two, but a little kumbaya is welcomed for those who literally hate the other team.
Did ya see Sam R. Hall, CL Executive Editor, write a whole column to admit and apologize that he doesn't actually edit? Seems the Sunday sports headline on this subject got him in some hot water, and he had to admit that Gannett 'outa-staters' did the writing and he didn't bother to do his end of the job.

Anonymous said...

Rick Cleveland said that Clarion Ledger only has about 40% of employees working. Anything that can be outsourced is done out of state -- called "shared services."

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS