Jeff McKay interview.
When your first starting posting on my message board, you were exclusively a University of Oregon fan. Since that first post, you have slowly become a big Mississippi State fan as well. Talk a little about what caused that to happen.
"Well, at the beginning, there were some (MSU) people who were posting on the eDuck board (the Oregon board on TheInsiders) asking questions about where to go when they came to Oregon for the game. I started answering their questions and noticed there was a link to Gene's Page. I clicked on it to see what it was about. There were a few days where I was just looking and reading and not paying much attention. Then, I started posting some responses on your page such as where to go and other things like that. One thing kind of led to another, then I met a few MSU fans at the (Oregon-MSU game), including meeting you briefly at the game. I met The Bone, TheDawg, FourPaws, Red and a few others and really liked the people.
"When the football game was going on, we were sitting right next to the MSU fans. We noticed that their fans were a lot more passionate. Oregon fans were there, but there is a passion in MSU (fans) that you only see in Oregon when they are winning. Of course, there are your loyal fans (at Oregon) who are always there, but MSU had been going through some hard times and these guys were still supporting their team. Even though Oregon was ahead by four touchdowns, MSU fans were still encouraging their team. I observed that sitting right next to them. That got me to thinking about their fan support. It's different down here in the SEC than it is in the Pac-10. The schools are a lot closer and the rivalries are a lot more intense. We have a couple up there in the Pac-10 with Washington and Oregon State, but it's not quite what it is here."
So, you continued posting on my message board and continued your relationship with the MSU fans?
"Yeah, I met the people and really like them. I met Ping Pong on the board. There was one incident that I think turned the board in my favor. A Duck poster came onto Gene's Page, and at the time Ping Pong had a picture of a forest fire on his signature. It was a beautiful picture, but at that time we were having some pretty severe forest fires in Oregon. (The Duck poster) came on and thought that Pong was making fun of the forest fire situation, not realizing that Ping Pong is the fire chief of the volunteer fire department of Oakland, Mississippi. I knew what he thought wasn't right, so I went back to the eDuck board and found this guy and told him to go back to Gene's Page and post an apology to (Pong). He came back and apologized."
You are now here at Super Bulldog fan. How did that come about?
"I was on your premium page and asked a question about (MSU's baseball stadium) Dudy Noble. During that conversation, Valerie Maples emailed me asking if I was coming down for Super Bulldog Weekend? I said I wasn't going to be able to. I didn't even know what it was. That's the last I heard about it until two or three weeks later when I received an email from Valerie telling me that she had some news, but that she wanted to call me and tell me about it. She said she thought that she had an offer that I couldn't refuse. I gave her my phone number and she called me a few minutes later. She said they wanted me to come down for Super Bulldog Weekend. I said, 'I really can't afford to at this point'. She said, 'you don't understand, we want you down here and we are paying for your trip'. I didn't know how to respond besides just saying ok. I was literally speechless. I had never been shown that kind of hospitality. It totally floored me."
Now that you are down here, what's the experience been like?
"We flew in and stayed the night with Ping Pong. Friday morning, Ping Pong's wife, Kelly, got up at 6:30 and made our breakfast, which included homemade biscuits, gravy, bacon, sausage, grits. We had never had any grits before or the homemade pork sausage. It was good." (Jeff said good while his wife, Tonya, said it was awesome.-Gene)
"We decided that we wanted to get some MSU tattoos, so we went to Tupelo and got them there. (Gene's Page poster) Donna's son-in-law is a tattoo artist in Tupelo. After we got our tattoos, we had to get down (to Starkville) to get our keys for our room. We got (to Starkville) at about a quarter to four, met David Sellers, got to our room and got our tickets from Valerie shortly after that."
You knew the people from my message board. What has the experience been like meeting them in person?
"The people have been great. I really didn't know what to expect, but the people have been great. I've met a lot of people who read Gene's Page but don't post. I've had a lot of people come up to me and ask me if I am Jeff. I was sitting next to a couple of people behind first base who happened to see my Oregon shirt and they asked me if I was Jeff. I told them I was and they introduced themselves. They said they read Gene's Page but don't post."
There were many MSU fans involved in putting together and financing this trip, including Valerie Maples, David Sellers, Ping Pong, the Internet Bulldog Boosters Club (the IBBC), and other Gene's Page members (free and premium), just to name a few. As a spokesman for the group, I interviewed Ping Pong, a good friend of Jeff's.
Ping Pong interview.
Why did you guys decide to do this for Jeff?
"We got to know Jeff from his posts. He kept saying how sincere and passionate (MSU fans) are about our football. He said it was more like family."
Jeff jumped back in here after hearing the family comments.
Jeff McKay "That's what I was telling Tom. This is like a family. Some of the people on your board have helped me a great deal through some times that I was going through in January and earlier. You didn't see it on Gene's Page, but it came from private emails. I have saved every message that I have received from an MSU fan. I have them all on my computer; I haven't deleted a single one of them. It's just more of a family type of thing. I have never experienced it anywhere else. I've never felt that from anyone." (Jeff's two sons, both in the military, were in Iraq and Afghanistan during that time. Since then, Robon has returned to the USA, while T.J. still remains in Baghdad.)
(Back to Ping Pong) What made you guys decide to do this for Jeff and Tonya? There are a lot of fans of other schools that have posted on my page, but this is the first time this has ever happened, at least the first I know of?
"What I think caused this is everybody saw Jeff for what he is. The way Jeff posts, you can tell he loves the people on Gene's Page. The people on Gene's Page and other people who are not involved with Gene's Page wanted Jeff to see what Mississippi State is all about. They wanted Jeff and Tonya to come here to see what southern hospitality is about. Now that they are here, they love it.
"Not trying to plug your page, but we have a group of people who really care about other people. A lot of people care about Jeff. There are people who posted on your board that are as far away as Pennsylvania. They wish they could be here to see Jeff and Tonya."
(Back to Jeff McKay) Jeff, I know you have become a big MSU fan. Not only do you support the team verbally, but you have even become a member of the MSU Bulldog Club. The burning question is who will you pull for when MSU and Oregon play on August 30th in Starkville, Mississippi?
"That is a tough question to answer. At the beginning of last year's game, we started out routing for Oregon. As the game went on, we had a real hard time because we were clapping for Mississippi State and we were in the Oregon section. We had our Oregon gear on and the other Oregon fans were looking at us kind of funny. It's like I told Pong a little while ago; either way, I will feel good about the game. If Oregon wins, great. If Mississippi State wins, great. I'm a winner either way because both of these teams are close to my heart."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.