Note: I originally wrote this for theolemissblog.com, but since today (and this week) are excruciatingly slow, I have chosen to also post it here. It might be in violation of some sort of unwritten blog law that is stupid, but I DO AS I SEE FIT. Anyway, if you're an Ole Miss fan and you need to feed the monster inside of you, check out the link above.
Growing up an Ole Miss fan, I learned several truths that always applied to every Rebel team no matter who coached the team or played for it. One, Vanderbilt will never roll over and die when playing Ole Miss. Two, Ole Miss defensive backs will never turn around to play the ball as it gets close to the receiver. And three, Ole Miss will never beat Alabama.
When these harsh rules were first explained to me, I tried to deny them, fully believing that each Ole Miss team was different and capable of breaking these and other chains that always pulled them down. And, like all young people progressing from grade school through high school, I was an idiot. I suppose you can chalk it up to the hope that lives in all youthful people before the real world sucks the life out of them by letting them know that, no, that’s not how things work around here. Whatever the reason for my optimism, I was ultimately cured of believing such nonsense by regularly attending Ole Miss games since I was about 12.
It wasn’t until I was in high school (‘97-‘99) that Ole Miss finally started to field teams that could compete on the field each year with Alabama. Billy Brewer had a couple of teams that played them well (19-14 loss in 1993, which technically was won a few years later by Ole Miss due to a forfeited victory by Alabama) and even beat them in 1988, which, until I finally saw the highlights of some years later, I always believed it was something Brewer and/or Ole Miss fans made up, but Brewer’s teams could never keep up on a year-to-year basis (note: I didn’t really start paying attention to Ole Miss football until sometime around ‘90 or ‘91).
In these high school years, I was still dumb enough to believe that whatever the year, this was the year we were finally going to beat them. In 1997, I believed it all the way up until the moment John Avery was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for diving into the end zone while an Alabama player was two yards away from him. Avery had just sprinted through Alabama’s kickoff coverage team and kept Ole Miss alive in the game. The penalty forced the Rebels to go for one instead of two, and they eventually lost 29-20.
I was in Tuscaloosa the following year as I watched a Noel Mazzone offense destroy a Crimson Tide defense between the 10-yard lines (as Noel Mazzone offenses are want to do). The Rebels got inside the Alabama 10-yard line eight times and scored only 17 points, missing four field goals and lost 20-17 in overtime. One year later I saw Shaun Alexander run for 214 yards and beat Ole Miss 30-24, and it was an Ole Miss team that would lose four games by a total of 15 points.
But in 2001, sandwiched between a 45-7 loss in 2000 and a 42-7 loss in 2002, Ole Miss did it. Aided by Mike DuBose’s terrible 2000 team, Dennis Frachione and the arm of Eli Manning, the Rebels finally did something I thought I’d never live to see and they beat Alabama 27-24. I remember being about as happy as I’d ever been in my life up until that point (sad? Yes, but screw you). For days, months, hell, even now, I still can’t believe it happened. It had become the curse of curses and it was finally broken. We even beat them again in 2003 (and badly 43-28).
Since then, the Rebels have not beaten Alabama. Eli Manning’s graduation, David Cutcliffe’s horrendous recruiting efforts, the Ed Orgeron disaster and the arrival of Nick Saban have created a new streak of victories for the Tide. Although in this latest string of losses, Ole Miss has remained competitive, losing four of the six games by four points or less (and all six games by an average of about nine points a game). But what I’ve discovered in this latest round of losses is that the Alabama game doesn’t mean what it used to mean to me.
Don’t get me wrong, I HATE losing to them, repeat, HATE IT WITH EVER FIBER OF MY BEING, but this game no longer represents something Ole Miss cannot do. We’ve beaten them before and will hopefully do so again (at least in the next decade or ten). This game now represents beating one of the big guys that 82% of the time has beaten us (and often with great ferocity). And, of course, there’s the whole keeping the dream of going to Atlanta alive, which is the new curse of curses (meaning: WE ARE NEVER GOING TO ATLANTA. EVER.).
On Saturday, I will make my sixth trip to Tuscaloosa to watch Ole Miss play there. The five previous trips have all been horrible losses. Two overtime games, two games in which Ole Miss lost by 38 and 35 points, respectively, and a game that featured Michael Spurlock and Ethan Flatt at quarterback. Barring the sports gods deciding to have a little fun at the expense of Alabama fans who are already on DEFCON 3 meltdown alert, Ole Miss will not win. In fact, we’ll probably get blown out. But when I leave the stadium early (and you better believe that a blowout combined with an 8 PM kickoff that my ass is leaving early), I won’t be walking out with a sense of hopelessness and the urge to projectile vomit. I’ll be walking out with the urge to just projectile vomit.