June 13, 2014 10:46:29 AM
Lynn Spruill -
Some aspects of the rivalry between Ole Miss and State leaves me baffled. Don't misunderstand; as long as MSU is playing Ole Miss, there is no contest. MSU is the choice over Ole Miss hands down. I will venture to say that as long as Ole Miss plays any in-state team then I will root for the other guys, but across state lines?
Apparently there are many fans on either side of the rivalry who believe it is a zero sum game. If one wins no matter they are playing an opponent well outside Mississippi then the other loses. Huh? I don't think that falls under the heading of a friendly rivalry, or, for that matter, logical.
I have had untold discussions with staunch "Our State" fans who believe it doesn't matter who Ole Miss plays be they near or far, they cheer for the other team not on their own merits, but for Ole Miss to lose. The converse is true for Ole Miss fans as well. Our rivalry is acknowledged as one of the great intense rivalries by ESPN sportswriters though admittedly not as high a profile as say Michigan and Michigan State or Texas and Texas A&M. Money matters in the eyes of the media, but the degree of passion in collegiate athletic rivalries is not diminished by a lack of funding.
We know that the "Egg Bowl" for football has been around since 1927. According to history, it came about as a result of some really ugly behavior by the fans. The trophy was created to focus the intense rivalry on sportsmanship and fostering good relations between the schools. It seems to have kept us from brawling after the games but it hasn't produced a friendly rivalry.
Ole Miss is headed to Omaha, Neb., and the college world series. No getting around it, while there they will be representing Mississippi, all of Mississippi. Our MSU Bulldogs were there last year and we acquitted ourselves well. We represented the state in a positive manner and got good press doing it. Mississippi does not often have bragging rights for many things. Two years in a row we find ourselves in Omaha among the elite of college baseball teams. That is something about which all of us can and should be proud.
But we aren't. We Bulldogs can't seem to wish our fellow Mississippians bon voyage and good luck if they happen to be from Ole Miss. I dare say that last year the Rebels didn't hold back on hoping we failed in our endeavor either. Where is the greater loyalty to the state that says we reside within the confines of the boundaries together and success reflects well on us all?
I have every intention of watching the series and enjoying the inevitable mention that last year the MSU Bulldogs were in a similar situation and almost pulled it off. I may be incredibly jealous if Ole Miss can take it all the way and win it when we didn't, but I will absolutely be very proud that Mississippi is churning out some quality baseball programs.
I hope our state becomes the paragon for excellence in college baseball.
Each of our schools house different and remarkable programs that deserve to be admired. Each of our cities has character and qualities that make them desirable destinations within the state. What does it take to make our rivalry truly friendly? I'll bet if Venus Williams can't win, she is glad when her sister Serena does. You may be in competition with them but like your family member if you can't compete then you want them to bring it on home.
These rivalries aren't Superman vs. Lex Luther or Batman against the Riddler. This isn't a case of good versus evil. Let's consider the message a unified stand behind a fellow Mississippi team would send. Loyalty to our state has merit. In the hierarchy of things athletic, we can be loyal to our team, our state, our conference and our country. When we pull for our in-state rival to be beaten by some team from Virginia, something is sadly amiss.
I may be holding my nose, but on Sunday I'll be pulling for Ole Miss to beat Virginia and all comers thereafter. I'll also be waiting on next year when the Dawgs will be back in the running. It might be fun to have a baseball "Egg Bowl" series as well.