38-14. In favor of the Auburn Tigers, the hated away squad. It’s enough to make the most fair-weather Mississippi State Bulldogs fan wince. Yet I saw something else. Something more.
As the swarm of Mississippi State fans exited Davis Wade Stadium, fans skipped happily along, children wearing either jersey played football together in a small grassy field, and cordial smiles filled the campus. It was an impressive display of sportsmanship and validated what one of my hosts told me–people love a Southeastern Conference (SEC) Game Day in Starkville, MS because everyone is just so gosh-darn nice!
What isn’t nice is the cruelty of an 11:00 a.m. football game start time. Waking up at 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday is not my idea of a happy start to the day, and partying deep into the night at the Bulldog Bash the prior evening didn’t help the situation. On the bright side, one benefit of an early morning weekend for many in the Southern United States is the mimosa–a fruity, bubbly alcoholic drink served classically in a champagne glass.
Or Southern style in a red Solo cup.
For those of you who don’t know, a fun fact about me is that I don’t drink alcohol. That personal abstinence isn’t so much a religious choice as one born out of an initial religious choice and a desire to maintain full control of myself and awareness of my surroundings. Even as my stubbornness waned over time, I discovered two important facts. First, I don’t like the taste of any of the alcoholic drinks I’ve tried. Second, alcohol is a waste of perfectly good calories that could be more wisely spent on chocolate cake. LOTS OF CHOCOLATE CAKE.
That all being said, I had a double mimosa and discovered my alcoholic weak spot–orange juice. At one point in my video, you see me screaming incoherently after downing some of that deadly, early morning concoction. Perhaps you thought I was drunk. No, I’m just really like that. Although it does make me wonder how I’d perform on Drunk History. We’ll leave it at exceptionally. (And let me tell YOU a ‘lil shumthing ’bout an SEC Game Day in the early dayz…they had trees! And zha football was made from a pig…they tossed a piiiiiiggggg!! *snort laugh*)
Cruising for Campus Cultural Hotspots
I was fortunate to have a brief campus tour from Angelia Knight, Director of MBA Programs at the university. With deep roots in Mississippi State culture, she was the perfect candidate to shuffle me through the maze of an SEC Game Day to four key cultural hot spots. After a tour of their up and coming business school (including Silicon Valley-styled entrepreneurial lab rooms!), I was primed for some cultural flavor of the college.
Angelia started my tour with the Dawg Walk, a grand delight of an SEC Game Day tradition in Starkville. Cheering fans line a walkway to the stadium, the marching band plays its choicest songs, and the home team players walk to the stadium while high-fiving fans. How tight are the players with their fans? I saw one Goliath-sized team member stop in the middle of the walk and hug a fan. If that’s not enough to tempt you to scream, “Go Dawgs!” then the clip in my vlog of the adorable little girl all decked out in MSU Maroon & White ought to pierce your stony heart. Go on…say it. “Go Dawgs.” There. Easy, right?*
Next, she took me to one of five Bulldog statues on campus. I squealed in delight at finding one, not knowing the prior significance. Traditional newbie hazing entails finding all five statues. I found one all day which means I either failed spectacularly or am due a return trip to Starkville. I’ll take Option B for a $200 return next season, Alex.
Third, Angelia provided a tour of the Chapel of Memories, an old church building dating to the 1960s but containing bricks from a building called Old Main dating back even further–the 1800s! It’s a piece of pure history in the heart of campus and a popular haunt to chillax. At one point, Old Main housed hundreds of people and was the world’s largest dormitory. Who knew!? The subsequent chapel is gorgeous inside with beautiful stained glass windows allowing soft light to stream into the pews, and an outside courtyard with chalk drawings throughout is perfect for fall or spring relaxation.
Our final stop was Perry Cafeteria, a former train depot containing Gothic arches and a bazillion flags flanking interior seating. While I didn’t sample any of the food, the ambiance left me wanting more of the campus. Mississippi State architects definitely did justice to several areas in keeping them relevant to today’s world while preserving the historic charm of yesterday.
Tailgates, Tents, & Time to Eat!
Tour complete and stomachs famished, we returned to the mass of tents where food awaited. Mississippi State has a very nice program allowing interested parties to rent tent space and work with a vendor that will pitch tents with accessories like fans. I was impressed. Don’t expect to have that option during a visit though; the college rents tent spaces for the full football season though you may find groups that split costs and/or games. This little adventure proved to me that leveraging your network and friends can be all kinds of college awesome.
Adding to the awesome is a plethora of food. Between the free-flowing cups of mimosas, you’ll find free-flowing plates of tastiness piled in such a way that you know you’re risking two events at the end of the day–heartburn and a food coma. Don’t be deterred; eat the food. Eat ALL the food. Then, make friends with your tent neighbors and eat all THEIR food. Potlucks are a part of Southern culture; and an SEC Game Day potluck is a special treat. Whether you crave smokey barbecue and pecan pie or grape jelly sauced meatballs and buffalo chicken dip, a happy food coma awaits those who overindulge.
In other words, it’s a fair deal all around. And if you pursue that food coma road, you might be facing a fair deal of weight gain all around your burgeoning tummy. Or you might be me. Regardless, I ate approximately three platters of delectable delights ranging from sausage balls to a creamy raspberry torte. Sufficiently fattened with the caloric content of approximately two days, I enjoyed my last moments awake as the day came to a close.
SEC Game Day–No Win, No
Problem (Seriously, Please Just Win)
Mimosas, cultural photo opportunities, and fab food in a temporary tent city all do the double duty necessary to make the day a formidable win. But if there’s one concept I’ve learned while living in the South, it’s that you live for football Saturdays in the fall that deliver a TEAM win. And if your team loses, you live for next Saturday’s shot at starting a new win streak. Starkville citizens and Mississippi State fans see the bigger picture as evidenced by the friendly post-game revelry. Bulldog and Tiger fans alike shared their congratulations and amicably enjoyed the rest of a picture perfect, crystalline blue sky day.
And why wouldn’t you? Southern football culture aside, this is a great way to spend a crisp, fall day. Football, food, friends, and fun in a family atmosphere? Sold. Especially with views like above at every single turn.
Just please win next time. Mkay, deal? Mkay, deal.
Have you been to an SEC Game Day at in Starkville or another of the other 13 SEC towns? I would love to hear your recommendations about them! Share your stories in the comments section below!
*Note: As an Alabama Crimson Tide fan…I’m ending this blog as I should by resuming my throaty “Roll Tide Roll” call. Ahem. ROLL TIDE ROLL. There. Conscience clear. But seriously, Go Dawgs. Wait…dang it.