Phillip Thompson

Crime Fiction writer

I make no secret of, nor do I apologize for, the fact that I’m an Ole Miss grad. And today starts of the annual week of public hate toward the Starkville school, which is returned in kind. So be it. Bring it on. Get some. Mission accomplished.

I grew up 60 miles from the University of Alabama, 30 miles from Starkville, and went to Ole Miss, some 105 miles away. Grew up an Ole Miss fan around cowbells and “Yeah, wait’ll next year!” and cousins who “love my bulldogs” on one side and “Roll Tide Roll” on the other.

And every year about this time, the pre-Egg Bowl feud kicks into high gear. I remember laughing all the way to school the Monday after Ole Miss won, 48-0 — and this was after Archie had graduated. And the Archie years were years of bowl games and thrillers, anyway. Then there were the too-many years of Ole Miss going into the game 5-5 and needing a win just to have a winning season and getting that win. Back then Ole Miss always won, because, frankly, Starkville’s football program was about as powerful as a 10-watt bulb.

My kids know this, even if they don’t fully understand it. But they know a few things about their future educational plans: they can go to college anywhere they want, as long as it’s not the school in Starkville. “But, Dad, what if I get a scholarship?” See you in four years.

My son and I were once watching a game on TV — Alabama and Starkville, and he was surprised to see me pulling for Alabama. “But, Dad, they’re from Mississippi, I thought you’d at least support them against Alabama.” Nope. If they were playing against the devil, I’d pull for Satan. Hell, they could be playing Notre Dame, and I’d be wearing green.

True, lately (the last 10-15 years), Starkville has gained some ground, gone to some bowl games and generally paraded about like a real football team. Well, except in that Peach Bowl they thought they had won. And the 45-0 ass-whipping they got in the Egg Bowl a few years back. And true, they’ve won the game the last two years. I acknowledge all that (but that don’t mean I have to like it).

This year is particularly bitter, though, and yes I’m doing what my Uncle Tom calls “taking a long driveway to a small house.” Ole Miss’ football program the last two years has been a 5-watt bulb. Three weeks ago, Houston Nutt was semi-fired: told he would not be retained following the end of the season, he was allowed to coach the remaining three games (which he’s lost by a combined score of 10-79). The Rebels lost to Louisiana Tech. At homecoming. La. Tech hadn’t beaten Ole Miss in 65 years, and hadn’t beaten an SEC opponent in eight. No SEC team has ever lost more consecutive conference games (13 and counting) than the current Ole Miss squad.

So, this morning, when I came across this piece of outstanding writing, I had to shake my head — and agree. I don’t know who this writer is, but he’s good. If you watch ESPN, you’ve probably seen the obtuse, ambiguous commercials for “Grantland.” I’ve been wondering for weeks, “What the hell is Grantland?” Now I know.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ll be pulling for the Rebels this weekend as hard as if they were in the SEC championship. Maybe more. It’s dark times for Ole Miss football, and the faithful only ask for one thing every year: “Just beat State.”

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