Advertise in Print | Subscriptions
Published September 23, 2011, 12:00 AM

Val Farmer: Ole Miss football fans have proper perspective

I traveled to the Ole Miss-BYU football game at Oxford, Miss., with my two sons and two sons-in-law. The best part of the trip was how well we got along and the camaraderie of the weekend together. Good BBQ. Beale Street in Memphis. Tailgating. A thrilling game. It was a great time.

By: By Val Farmer, INFORUM

I traveled to the Ole Miss-BYU football game at Oxford, Miss., with my two sons and two sons-in-law. The best part of the trip was how well we got along and the camaraderie of the weekend together. Good BBQ. Beale Street in Memphis. Tailgating. A thrilling game. It was a great time.

Graciousness in victory and defeat. I learned a few things about Ole Miss and the atmosphere around college football. From the moment we arrived in our BYU colors, we were greeted with respect, courtesy and hospitality.

We heard an expression about the importance of victory and winning at Ole Miss. “You can lose a game, but you can’t lose a party.”

The people we met went out of their way to express their appreciation for having come to Oxford. They were proud of their community and university and hoped we were getting a positive impression. They wished us a good game. There wasn’t a rude or unkind word mentioned before or after the game. The hospitality was consistently genuine.

BYU experienced a slim one-point victory and the game hung in the balance till the last minute. Despite the heartbreak of defeat, the Ole Miss fans congratulated us on our victory. This graciousness in defeat was striking and consistent.

It seems this attitude is communicated to all visiting teams and their fans with the possible exception of their rivals from Louisiana State University – which of course is blamed on the LSU fans.

The “Holy Grail” of tailgating. Speaking of parties, the traditions of Ole Miss tailgating are regarded as the best in college football. Students are given access after school on Friday to set up their tents in the Grove, a 10-acre park on campus. The students dress up in evening wear, summer cocktail dresses, collared shirts and in some cases ties and coats. It is a visual riot of acres and acres of color, fashion, food and hospitality.

Food and beverages are plentiful along with flat-screen TV’s and other comforts. It is a sea of red and white humanity amid walkways and pathways that separated the tents. The home crowd and the visitors mingled and visited together in close proximity.

Shortly after one o’clock, the team buses drove up and the football players exited and walked on a path under a sign, “Walk of Champions,” while the crowd cheered them and the bands played. The throngs chanted their fight song. The pre-game excitement was so compelling that we felt almost worn out even before the game began.

The magazine Southern Living had an article citing Ole Miss Game Day as one of the 10 events you must attend before you die. It truly was a spectacle.

Putting sports in perspective. In a day and age when loutish and profane behavior is so much a part of athletic competition, Ole Miss stands out as putting sports in perspective. Maybe it is because their championship seasons are 50 years in the past, the sting of defeat or the pride of victory doesn’t spill over into the way they treat their guests. Whatever it is, it is certainly refreshing and positive.

Compare that to a hockey riot in Vancouver, Canada, or violence during or after a San Francisco 49ers/Oakland Raiders football game. The excessive emotional investment of fans in winning or losing might be more telling about the impoverishment of character and distorted perspectives of fans who need a winning team to feel good about themselves.

The Southern Baptists (bless their hearts) hosted the Mormons (bless their hearts), and both fan bases met and mixed with respect and courtesy. That fact alone may justify BYU’s effort to be independent when it comes to college football. One can only hope that the fans in Provo, Utah, will be as gracious in victory or defeat when Ole Miss comes to play as were our hosts in Oxford.

Maybe the Ole Miss expression could be put another way, “We may lose the game, but we can’t lose a friend.”


Val Farmer is a clinical psychologist specializing in family business consultation and mediation with farm families. He lives in Wildwood, Mo., and can be contacted through his website, www.valfarmer.com.

Tags: