Hey. You see that guy in the picture above, number 85 for Ole Miss, Cory Peterson? Well, that’s me! At least it was for a day.
In Fall of 1994, I was playing high school football with some real studs, myself excluded. Trey Belcher, who had an exceptional career as a receiver at Miss. State, was visiting Starkville as a recruit, and watching the Dawgs play UT. Being that Cory was also a recruit, and a dumbass like the rest of us, he said that I was welcome to use his tickets. So, naturally, I wanted to take full advantage of my time as a “recruit” for Mississippi State University. Trey and I checked into the Seal-M Club, overlooking the football field of Davis Wade Stadium. Trey, naturally, signed the recruiting roster as himself. I, however, signed in as Cory Peterson. With name tags proudly displayed, I grazed the sausage plates, cheeseballs, and bbq with a name tag reading, “Cory Peterson, Germantown High School, Wide Receiver 6’3” 175lbs.” Being that I am not quite 6’ and weighing a smooth 240lbs, I couldn’t imagine that anyone would notice. I mean, how serious is SEC recruiting anyway? The Dawgs pulled out a victory over The Vols (in what I believe what Peyton Manning’s freshman year?) and my love affair with Mississippi State football had begun.
The next year I enrolled at Miss. State. This was when I attended my first Egg Bowl. At the time, the Egg Bowl was played on Thanksgiving day. Being that the Starkville Police Department had decided to hang on to my driver’s license for most of my freshman year, it seemed logical just to hang around campus for the football game. I had no way of knowing what sort of experience I was about to have on Thanksgving, in the year 1995.
The Egg Bowl 1995. I loved it! There were people hollerin “Hail State” and “Hotty Toddy”. There were kids throwing footballs and men grilling meat. There were pretty women dressed up nice, and a campus that had all of the colors of fall on display. There was passion. There was energy. There was excitement and anticipation. There was also booze, cigarettes, and a noisy environment…I was in paradise.
I immediately spread the news of what I had found to my family in Germantown, TN. The Egg Bowl became a necessary event, and a family tradition had been born. My cousin, my Uncle, and myself would sit down for Thanksgiving with the family, and try to act like respectful adults, while inside we were dying to get out the door. We couldn’t wait to finish Thanksgiving dinner, and haul ass to The Egg Bowl. I have the fondest memories of this. My Aunt would load us down with Turkey and mayonnaise sandwiches, pimento cheese, and whatever else could fit in a basket…. and, IT. WAS. ON.
Hear me correctly, we are big Bulldawg fans, but HUGE Egg Bowl fanatics, and we are far from alone in this mindset. In my opinion, there is no greater event than the annual Egg Bowl of Miss. State vs. Ole Miss. I am about to explain why.
I want to tell you about my most recent Egg Bowl experience, and hopefully you will understand why I have such a fondness for this rivalry. Before I get started, it would be unnatural, disrespectful, and down right rude if I did not begin the story with the heartiest “GO TO HELL OLE MISS!”
That’s right, GO TO HELL OLE MISS….but don’t change a thing!
It is Saturday, November 29th, 2014 at 8am, and my girlfriend Amanda Kimsey and I begin the much anticipated road trip to Oxford, MS. Coffee and hopes in head and hand, we make the comfortable 1-hour trip to the campus of Ole Miss. The first thing we notice is that the event is run nicely. There are clearly marked directions and a flow of traffic, which makes it easy for even the most ignorant of visitors to find a parking spot, and find their way to campus. The second thing I notice? Crappers, everywhere. There are port-a-potties strategically placed throughout. They are clean, convenient, and easily accessible. As nervous and excited as I get before a game, it is nice to have a convenient place to pee 10 or 15 times, before kickoff.
We had not been on campus for 5 minutes before someone yells Amanda’s name. It is Amanda’s friend Kim, whom she knows from her residency after pharmacy school. She is obviously an Ole Miss fan, and it is clear we are for State. In our Maroon and white, it would be expected for her and her husband to throw a middle finger and a rock, but instead they offered to throw us a beer or water. I shook hands with the husband, we humorously wished each other a good morning, but bad afternoon, and continued on our way. We got closer to the Grove and the excitement increased. The tents were already set, but the catered foods, chandeliers, decorations, and table settings were still being placed. We journeyed through campus and took a look at the live broadcast of The SEC network. What a production this thing is, from start to finish.
The Grove at Ole Miss is a well-oiled machine. If you combine any woman’s desire of hosting the most elegant dinner party, with every male’s deepest fantasy of a mancave, with every human’s desire for people watching and glutony, squash them together, and spit them out on a canvas….you are left with the Egg Bowl in Oxford- at The Grove. It is nice. It is plentiful. It is clean. But most important…it is welcoming and the people are respectful.
We spotted my old buddy, Dean Harris. THIS GUY! I haven’t seen this piece of work in years, and I could not have been more excited. Dean extended the invitation to his tent earlier in the week, along with many others, and we took him up on it. We got to meet him and his beautiful girlfriend, and he “apologized” for only having an enormous plate of Chik-Fil-Et nuggets and sandwiches available to us at 10:30 in the morning. He explained that the ribs, bbq, cheese plates, more sandwiches, and desserts would be there shortly….I was willing to let it slide.
Amanda and I enjoyed the campus. We stopped by the student union, bought a Starbuck’s, and sat in Santa’s lap for a picture. It was people watching at its best. As we cruised through a sea of red and Blue, prouldly wearing our Maroon and white, there were very few comments. There were a couple of young girls, who appeared to be dressed as prostitutes, and doing their best bratty white trash impersonations, who threw up some Hotty Toddy gang signs, but they were obviously outliers (God only knows, us State fans have some outliers who slightly “miss the mark”). There was a Panera Bread tent ,and a lady who said to come eat. She said that we could eat all we wanted, no charge. So, I did.
We saw some acquaintances of my brother’s, which had fed and watered me during the Ole Miss/Mizzou game last year. They generously offered to feed and water us, the same way everybody on that campus does. By this time, things were winding up, so we headed back to Dean’s tent. They were living LARGE, and had plenty to go around. I was introduced to some really nice people, and we had some really good laughs. I got to see Brian Ratcliff, whom I had not spoken with in years. Turns out, he and Amanda recognized each other from previous jobs they had. Small world. We stuffed our faces. We were commanded to eat more, and take larger bites and chew less. Dean and I shared some old stories, and some funny fat guy logic that we both understand, like how it makes sense to spend hundreds of dollars every week and drive an hour to the grove, but $16 a month for a gym membership, that is located 5 minutes away, just doesn’t fit the budget. We then made our way to the stadium.
We had incredible seats. Amanda bought 4th row- 40yard line seats before State had beaten a ranked opponent, much earlier in the season. No one had any idea that both State and Ole Miss would have the kind of success that they both enjoyed. I felt like I had Willie Wonka’s golden ticket, and I knew I had the hottest girl in the stadium. So, I was living like Jay-Z, up in that rumpshaker. Life was good, and things were about to get real.
There were a few State fans around, but primarily Ole Miss. We were crammed into our seats, so it was hard not to get a little personal. As most people know, I will talk to most anybody, so it didn’t take long before me and the gentleman to my left had struck up a conversation. We discussed some strengths and weaknesses of our respective teams, and our desires for a win. The guys behind us were closer to my age and a bit younger. They were more in the party mode. When I say party mode, I mean they hollered a little louder and their drinks were a little stiffer, but by no means were these young men disrespectful, antagonizing, or threatening. There was an older gentleman, with whom I presumed to be his grandson, to Amanda’s left. The old man was for State and the youngster was for Ole Miss. As kickoff approached, the seats were so tight, I was essentially alternating prom picture poses between Amanda on my left, and the fella on my right. There was an obnoxious State fan in front of us, but he seemed to have been given grace, simply because he was such a stooge (an outlier). Ole Miss immediately started whippin that a*s, but leveled off before halftime. It was pretty tight, but the Rebels just seemed to be a step ahead.
During halftime, we enjoyed some conversation, and some space. The halftime festivities were nice, and I was just happy to be a part of life, and proud to live in the state of Mississippi. There was a young man who had an opportunity to kick a 20yard field goal for a year of free chicken, but he totally shanked it. I told the Ole Miss fan behind me that I would still rather that dude kick the field goals for State. I was willing to take my chances on him.. He responded that he wanted Bo Wallace to be a pallbearer at his funeral, so he could let him down one last time. It was funny, but wasn’t gonna happen today. I truly enjoyed both bands, and appreciated the amount of time, effort, and coordination that would go into such a production. People are really capable of some amazing things.
Amanda and I noticed a male in the Miss State Color Guard, and we discussed having never seen that before. This gentleman was flamboyant and animated. He was serious about his role, and he performed with everything that he had. He was doing it, BIG. We discussed that if my son decided that color guard is what made him happy, than I would support him with all I had. I would hope that he would perform his role with the same amount of gusto, as the gentleman on the field. I had a football coach that preached doing things with gusto. Whether it was playing football, playing the trumpet, or tap dancing, he believed in doing it large and loud. I love that kind of stuff.
After halftime, the gentleman to my right and I deducted that Vaught Hemmingway probably held about 8 less people because of inflation due to nachos, cokes, and hot dog consumption. He sucked in his gut and said “think skinny”, and we made the most of our close quarters. The second half was good only for the home team, as the Dawgs got the hell kicked out of them. With about 1 minute left to play, Amanda and I tucked our tails and headed towards the exit. Leaving just before us was the old man and his grandson. Before he left, an older Ole Miss lady reached out her hand and said, “you have been a real pleasure. Good luck in the bowl game.” I reached behind, shook the hands, and congratulated the young, excited, intoxicated, yet very respectful men. We said goodbye to some State fans, and made our way up the walk of shame. On the way up we were greeted by a couple of different Ole Miss fans that shook our hands, congratulated us on the season, and wished us well.
Did we hear “hotty toddy” or “fail state”? Of course…it’s the Egg Bowl for God’s sake. However, throughout the entire experience there was, at no time, anything that I would not have been completely comfortable with, in the presence of my children. There was no taunting that made me feel physically threatened, nor did I ever feel that my personal space was invaded. Did some Ole Miss fans rub salt in the wounds, and make the sweet thoughts of homicide come to the surface? Of course…it’s the Egg Bowl for God’s sake. However, I did not fear any post game altercations, or that safety was ever an issue. There was no concern of getting to the parking lot and having the excitement taken too far. Would I consider Vaught Hemmingway a hostile environment? Of course…it’s the Egg Bowl for God’s sake. But I never felt like there was a dangerous amount of distance between decadence and decency, between law enforcement and plain good people.
So why do I say, “Go to hell Ole Miss”? Why do I choose to hate TSUN? The answer is simple…because I have a vested interest in it. If you have ever watched the cartoon “Tom and Jerry”, then you know what I am talking about. Tom Cat hates Jerry Mouse, and visa versa. They are arch rivals, cat and mouse, back and forth, always and forever. Have you ever seen the episodes where one of them gets in real danger? There is panic and concern, because without Tom, no one gives a damn about Jerry, and without Jerry, ain’t nobody rooting for Tom.
The so-called “hatred” I have for my Ole Miss counterparts might be the only reason I connect with an old friend once a year. A simple, “Go to hell ole miss” text message might be the only way that I let an old friend know that I love them, and I am doing ok. For some folks, the only reason Thanksgiving dinner occurs is so that two families can come together before the game, and rib each other about what is going to be the final outcome of the event. You can’t have an annual football game without at least a finite amount of “hate”. This is why you don’t hear anything about the 87th Woodstock- too much love, not enough hate.
I am supremely proud that the team that I despise the most is exactly who it is. If you are going to have a disdain for an institution, it helps if that institution has a beautiful campus, with beautiful woman, with too much food, and too much booze. It helps if that particular university enjoys things a bit over-the-top….and would rather “bless your heart” than break a bottle over your head. Although, I would like to point out, a polite “congratulations” can hurt just as bad as a mallet to the forehead as you both smile, but only one is gritting their teeth. I don’t know much of anything, but I know this for sure, that big golden egg aint sittin in nobody’s house for too terribly long, cause as soon as one of us starts seeing some spoils of victory, the other is gonna slide over and get a taste. As much as it pains me to say it, and will forever deny it….Hotty Toddy, thanks for being a class act. Y’all enjoy that egg while you got it, cause it’s coming home next year…..and the wheels go round and round.
Peace, Love, and all things Beef related,