New, with Flash

Hugh Freeze steals the spotlight wherever he goes. It's only natural. He's the new guy in town. The breath of fresh air. The sparkling new car, perfectly wrapped in a ridiculously sized bow for the spouse to discover on Christmas morning.

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Remember the "Wonder Years" episode when Kevin's dad, Jack, was looking to trade in the family's rickety, old Dodge Polara? Hugh Freeze is the Dodge Dart purchased by the neighbor across the street. Kevin loved that car. He wanted Jack to buy one for the family.

Jack went with a newer model Polara. Safe choice, Jack. I'd have sprung for the Dart. Why? Let's think of Ole Miss as the Arnold clan in this feeble attempt at an analogy. The Arnolds were in a rut, stuck in the monotony that was suburban life in the late 1960s. The Dart would have broken the mold, especially for such a bottom-line, economical type such as Jack.

Just think: Jack and Norma, top down, rolling through the streets of California. Hell, the Dart could have very well saved Jack from a heart attack at just 48-years-old.

(An aside: What an absurd, morbid way to cap the finale, creative team. Thanks for that. Jack dying and Kevin ending up with a woman not named Winnie Cooper. A gut punch, with a groin kick thrown in for good measure.)

Ole Miss went for the Dart. Had it gone for the Polara -- say, a Skip Holtz or the like -- I'd venture to say the fan base would have opted for weeknights on the couch over those Rebel Roadtrip meetings this summer.

Kevin had it right, Jack.

The real question now, with kickoff of the 2012 season just over a month away, is how quickly will the new car smell wear off? The Dart is only fun for so long, until the family attempts a road trip to visit the in-laws, or someone spills some form of liquid on the carpeted interior.

Freeze, at least in July, is spotless. Yes, Nick Brassell is gone. But we all expected that. Actually, those of us who cover the team all but said his departure was a foregone conclusion months ago. His grades were that bad, folks. Obvious, I know, seeing as he's made his way to Scooba, Miss., for at least a year of junior college ball.

But back to my point. That new car smell. Nothing better, right? Freeze has certainly taken advantage of his honeymoon period, speaking with donors and fans, all the while granting a retweet to any fan who asks for one on Twitter.

He's handled himself well. The hard part isn't here yet, though. A 3-1 start to the season, with wins over UCA, Tulane and UTEP, would keep momentum in his dugout. I'm interested to see how long before the message boards erupt in frustration. I just can't see how Ole Miss beats Texas, so let's call that game Danger Zone One.

Ole Miss hasn't won a conference game in two seasons. A bit of advice, Hugh. Snap the streak. If you do, fans will follow you without hesitation. Follow an SEC win up with a victory over in-state rival Mississippi State, getting the team to five or maybe _ though a long shot _ six wins, they'll stop short of building a statue.

All I ask from you, the Ole Miss fan, is this: Be patient. As in, teaching your kid to drive patient. Or waiting quietly, with a forced smile, as your pregnant wife tries on maternity clothes patient. And trust me, as any father-to-be will tell you, that takes a helluva lot of patience. I've had a handful of such experiences over the last seven months.

This team is so broken, so thin, so damaged. Freeze has his work cut out for him. A Dart is flashy at first. It revs up quick, and blows the doors off the Pinto stopped alongside at a red light. But until its dependability is tested, it's just that: all flash.

But if you give it time, some miles, it could very well prove to be your dream car.

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