Egg Bowl always matters

The Battle for the Golden Egg - 1 p.m., Saturday, Oxford. Official numbers: UM leads series 57-37-6. In Oxford, UM leads 18-10-3. Since the inception of the Golden Egg trophy in 1927, UM leads 51-20-5.

Let's get something straight. Saturday's game does matter.

If you've read Ole Miss internet message boards lately or even talked to some other fans personally, most of it doesn't center on the football game with Mississippi State. Most of it is about anything but that, mainly the football program and its future under David Cutcliffe.

But for one day – Saturday – it's best for Ole Miss people to put all that aside and help the Rebels beat State. Nothing right now is more important. Nothing comes close.

Some will agree with me on that. Others would disagree.

It seems I kinda get into this begging mode to our fans about this time most football seasons. Has something to do with playing State. It's the unpleasantness of it all, whether in a good season or a bad one. Whether it's to encourage our fans to go to Starkville and support the team, or like now to just show up at home this Saturday and do the same.

I want Rebel fans, football players, coaches, the whole Ole Miss family to be able to keep the Golden Egg here. Simple as that. You should, too.

They need your help to do that. I can't imagine an empty Egg Bowl trophy case here for the next 12 months.

So gnash your teeth and rant and rave about what you feel is the status of the program. Make threats of pulling your support and your money, of boycotting and not buying tickets next season, of waiting until things are once again as you want them with the program.

I won't go so far as to call those who don't show up Saturday fair weather fans just because they are disgusted, and I won't those who choose to bail out next season for the same reason. They need no label. They are what they choose to be, and others can label them as such.

It's the nature of sports. Win and they will come. Lose and many will not. At least most places it's that way, and certainly it is at Ole Miss.

There are few exceptions. South Carolina comes to mind. Maybe that is one of the reasons Steve Spurrier took the job. He knew they'd support him through thick and thin.

But if the winning gets too thin even there, some won't show either. No school or team is totally immune to the wrath of the fans when things go sour. Again, just the nature of sports.

The Rebel players want to win Saturday. They will play for the Golden Egg and give it their all. So will State, and that's what has some of our fans worried.

It isn't the same Bulldog team that lost games early in the season. If you had predicted that State would have three wins right now, would you have believed they would not be Maine, Vandy, or UAB? They win those and they have a winning season already secured.

And so we both sit here on Thanksgiving week 2004 with 3-7 records overall and 2-5 Southeastern Conference marks. I don't believe for a minute that any of those prognosticators in the preseason who picked Ole Miss generally fifth in the SEC West ahead of State envisioned the Rebels limping into this one with this type record.

But here we are with only one opportunity left to at least get us through until next football season – and that's to keep the Golden Egg in Oxford.

I've attended every Ole Miss-Mississippi State football game since 1969, the first one as an elementary school kid watching Archie and company beat State 48-22 in Starkville. Well all of them, except one. I watched one on TV. More on that later.

The record over those 35 games stands at 21-14 in the Rebels' favor (23-12 if you count the two NCAA-mandated forfeit wins UM got after losses to MSU in 1976 and '77). I've seen all kinds of Egg Bowls, just like all our fans who have watched during those 35 years.

Some were blowout wins for us, like 48-0 in 1971, 51-14 in 1972, 38-10 in 1973 (now that was some three-game stretch there, don't you think?). And of course last year 31-0.

Some were close wins, like 21-17 in 1981 (still my personal favorite for my own reasons), 15-14 in 1997 (my second personal favorite), and 24-23 in 1983 (my third favorite).

Others were painful losses, none moreso than in 1999 and 2001, both in Starkville.

I'd be lying if I said I hadn't taken the same course of action some Rebel fans have threatened to do this Saturday to display their disgust by having an empty seat in their honor. I too actually fell into the trap of what some would call a fair-weather fan. I've regretted missing that one game since late on the afternoon of Sat., Nov. 24, 1984 after we'd kept the Golden Egg at Ole Miss for another year.

The Rebels had lost to Tennessee in Jackson the week before and looked terrible. The final was 41-17 Vols, and we'd won only three of 10 games that season. I wasn't about to drive back to Jackson the following Saturday for the State game. Heck, I actually thought we'd lose to Coach Emory Bellard's next to last State team. (One year later with a winless SEC record and a lop-sided loss to Ole Miss, Bulldog faithful got their wish to "Make Emory a Memory."

The '84 Egg Bowl was on TBS, so I stayed home and watched. Billy Brewer and company's team kicked the Dogs around pretty good that sunny November day and won 24-3.

I was extremely happy we won, but I should have been there. My streak was broken. I was a fan of Ole Miss and the Rebels and didn't go because I was disgusted with the season and the game the previous week.

I haven't missed an Egg Bowl battle since.

When anybody asks me how many Battles for the Golden Egg I've been to in a row, I say it's up to 35 now. However, I always come clean and sadly say "One of them I attended by TV, though."

On Nov. 24, 1984, I dumbed down, lost faith in the team, decided I'd protest, felt sorry for myself, quit on the Rebels, and didn't go to the last game of the season.

But I should have. It's what a real and committed and loyal fan of his/her school and team would have done then and should do now.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving, and I'll see you Saturday. After all, this one always matters.

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