Bert Montgomery: Prayer, priorities and the Jumbotron

October 6, 2009 1:25:00 PM

Bert Montgomery -


Written on Saturday, Oct. 3, prior to the MSU/Georgia Tech football game. 


"Nice to see the faculty raises being put to good use!" joked a school administrator to an MSU professor, referring to the huge banner of Coach Dan Mullen hanging along the side of one of the stadium ramps. 


Laughing, the professor responded, "Hey, we have no delusions about what''s most important around here!" Then, the conversation turned back to the football game for which both were present. 


Even if you haven''t been to an MSU home game yet but you''ve been on campus, you''ve seen the huge maroon banners all around the outside of the stadium (such as the one with Coach Mullen pictured on it). The banners are announcing that something electrifying is in the air. 


Anybody, however, who has been in the stadium has been "wowed" by the super-gigantic high definition video boards ("high definition video boards" as used here means "the big ol'' Jumbotron"). 


No one can deny that so far this season there is a exhilarating energy surrounding the Bulldogs, the stadium, the campus, and even Starkville. 


With our new Jumbotron broadcasting crystal-clear replays (my students this week swore that with the Jumbotron, it was undeniable that State pushed the ball across the goal-line against LSU) and with the surging music to keep the crowd pumped up, the MSU Jumbotron is now the envy of our Southeastern Conference neighbors (just Google "MSU Jumbotron" sometime).  


As one master bluesman once sang, "it sure feels good feelin'' good again!" 


But, as the conversation between the professor and his friend illustrate, this jubilant energy doesn''t exist in a vacuum. 


In stark contrast to the new decorations and equipment at Mississippi State''s football stadium, the state of Mississippi is struggling economically, and the state''s universities are looking at serious budget cuts. 


"A six-million-dollar television set," says another Starkville resident. "If I wanted to watch the game on TV, I''d just stay home and watch it on TV. Imagine what that money could have provided for the educational purposes of the University. Imagine what that money could have provided for the people of Starkville. Six-million-dollars for a TV set, and I''m out here working my butt off on a Habit (for Humanity) house." 


(Note: The resident and lifelong Bulldog sat in his stadium seat for the entire game against LSU last week).   


As far as I know, the Jumbotron and the banners were paid for with private booster funds, rendering the "faculty raises" exchange moot; yet the latter resident''s comments about funding the university''s educational purposes, and even funding needs for the community, remain valid. 


When academic departments are scrambling to offer enough classes for the students, yet weighing that against "how many adjunct instructors can we afford?," and knowing that hiring more teaching faculty, or just even filling vacant positions, cannot even be considered ... it does shine a light on our priorities quite well. 


 When Habitat houses are being funded and built by volunteers with what little money and time they have to give ... it does indeed shine a very bright light on our priorities as people in a community. 


All that said, with my ministerial connections and sympathies for Habitat for Humanity, I''m at home getting ready to attend tonight''s MSU/Georgia Tech instead of out with my friend working on a house. 


All that said, with my teaching connections to the University, I''m climbing the banner-decorated ramps to the upper level of Davis-Wade stadium with my family for tonight''s game.  


And I will get pumped up by the surging music, and thoroughly enjoy the clear, larger-than-life replays on the Jumbotron. 


College sports is big money and big business. While I don''t adhere to the "if you can''t beat them, join them" philosophy, I do try to take to heart Reinhold Niebuhr''s prayer which has been adapted somewhat and become known as the serenity prayer: 




God, give us grace to accept with serenity 


the things that cannot be changed,  


Courage to change the things which should be changed,  


and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. 




Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time,  


Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,  


Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. ... 




The Jumbotron and the banners are here. That''s the way it is. I pray I can do what I can to help with the real problems that bother me, such as budget cuts and poverty issues. And, in the mean time, I''ll join faculty and ministers and Habitat workers tonight with all the fans as we fill up Davis-Wade stadium and feel good about our football team. Go State!

Bert Montgomery is an author, MSU religion/sociology instructor, and pastor and lives in Starkville. His e-mail address is [email protected]