Monday, October 20, 2014

Rebel Hyperventilation Nation

Last he pontificated on the subject, the Colonel was basking in the afterglow of a rare Ole Miss Rebel Football win over the hated Alabama Crimson Tide.

Said win was followed up in short order by fairly impressive, in the Colonel's not so humble opinion, wins over Texas A&M and Tennessee.

As a result, the Colonel's Rebels have occupied the loftiest poll perch in the Colonel's remembrance for two weeks running.

The Colonel has been breathing deeply -- the air at the top is rarefied and rarely inhaled by Rebel Nation.

The perch is precarious.

It's also meaningless until the end of the season.

But, oh how fun at the moment!  

At the beginning of the season, Rebel Nation knew they had an improving team, but hopes were tempered by experience and an acute awareness of the combat power of the neighbors in the SEC. 
The feeling was Ole Miss' year was coming -- we just didn't think it was this year.

The Colonel is still not sure this is the year.  

Look, we obviously caught Alabama looking forward to Arkansas. And, A&M was obviously looking forward to their trip to Tuscaloosa.  

While other coaches might have been tempted to overlook the next opponent and allow their teams to look too far ahead, Freeze, Wommack, and company have done an excellent job of keeping the team's focus in the moment

The problem is the Colonel just ain't an "in the moment" kind of guy.  He frets over the future of everything.

Over his morning coffee, the Colonel frets about what's for lunch.

On Mondays, the Colonel frets about what he'll get done by the end of the day on Friday.

In the last week of January, the Colonel frets about whether he'll survive the hated month of February.

The Colonel frets.  Period.  Wait, what is the Colonel gonna write next?      

It's not a fearful fretting, mind you.

When the Colonel frets, he runs countless possible scenarios over in his mind, each as equally capable of outstanding outcomes as they are fraught with disastrous downsides. 

When it comes to Ole Miss football, however, it always seems that the potential for disaster far outweighs the chances of success.

So, with the most critical six weeks of the season ahead, and the Colonel's Rebels on the brink of the greatest season in two generations of long-suffering Rebel fans, the Colonel's football fretting is approaching critical mass.

To call the Colonel manic would be a clinical understatement.  

One moment he's like all "Whooo hooo!  Seven and O, baby! We're gonna play for championships!"

The next he's all, "Woe is me!  We gotta go play the Corndogs at night in Tiger Stadium."

Then it gets better.  "Wait, our defense could hold the Packers to two field goals.  We'll beat LSU."  

Then it gets worse.  "Wait, what if 'Bama beats State, we lose to Auburn, and there's a three way tie for the West?  Oh no, they'll give it to Alabama!"   

Has the Colonel mentioned how much he hates Alabama?

And, don't even get the Colonel started on one-loss scenarios and the final four play-off selections...

Okay, Coach.  The Colonel will apply what little self-discipline he has left and endeavor to stay in the moment.  

Deep breaths.  

One game at a time.

BEAT LSU!




  

Monday, October 13, 2014

Passing in Reunion

Forty years ago this fall, the Colonel officially became an Ole Miss Rebel. 

He joined approximately 1500 fellow freshmen, about 60 of whom were enrolled in the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) -- most on a scholarship to become Navy ensigns upon graduation.  The Colonel and two others in that group were Marine Options -- on scholarship to be commissioned as second lieutenants in the United States Marine Corps upon graduation.

We three -- J. D. Henley, Rhett Anthony, and the Colonel -- bonded quickly.  We had little choice, outnumbered as we were.  

Sporting our closely cropped Marine "high and tight" haircuts we would have blended in quite well with the rest of the men in the freshman class... if it had been ten years previous.

But, this was the seventies -- freshman hazing was out and hair was long.

The Colonel, then an NROTC Midshipman 4th Class, had reported in and introduced himself to the Marine Officer Instructor -- then Captain H. L. Gerlach -- at the beginning of the semester with a fresh haircut.  It wasn't fresh, nor cut, enough.

"Nice to meet you, Midshipman Gregory.  Get a haircut."

When the Colonel protested that he had just gotten a haircut, he received the first of many very valuable and equally memorable "periods of instruction" from Captain Gerlach.  

In the Colonel's experience, there were two distinctly different types of leaders in the Marine Corps.  There were screamers, whose high decibel, vein-popping reactions to "teachable moments" soon lost their impact on screamees who learned to shut down most conscious systems and retreat into a metaphysical cocoon for the duration of the verbal assault -- emerging only when their faces detected a significant lessening of spittle impact.

The other, far more effective, leaders were those who could gnaw furiously on an errant subordinate's hindquarters all the while maintaining a collegial tone of voice.  Their correction of mistakes sometimes even brought a smile to the face of the correctee, who, reflecting later on the lesson-learned, often gasped at the realization that they had smiled during what they then realized was not really a smiling moment.      

Captain Gerlach was one of the latter leaders.

This coming weekend, at one point during which the Colonel's Rebels will go to war with the Tennessee Volunteers, a small group of the men and women, taught by Gerlach and a handful of other unsung American heroes during the mid to late '70's, will gather in reunion.   These former Navy and Marine officers, all with distinguished careers in and out of uniform, will renew acquaintance, reminisce, show off pictures of grandchildren (!), talk bad about those who for one reason or another failed to join them this year, and pause to honor those among their early number whose presence at the gathering is prevented only by their passing.

The Colonel looks forward to this weekend every year, if only for the opportunity to parade his trophy wife, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda.  

Oh, and one more thing -- Go Rebs!  Beat Tennessee!

   

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Sweet, Go Home, Alabama...and take your refs with you.

Victory is a sweet reward in any contest.  Even sweeter the victory over an old rival.

Then, there is the absolute sugar-rush, near diabetic coma sweetness of a win against Alabama.

To be an Ole Miss Rebel is to know some of the most frustrating football fanaticism known to mankind.  Unlike the millions of bandwagon fans sporting RTR and Geaux Tigers t-shirts, an Ole Miss Rebel wears his Red and Blue for an entirely different reason and with an entirely different passion.

Bandwagon fans gravitate to, and identify with, perennial winners, puffing out their chests and proclaiming "We!" about a team for which their only association is a sense of a lack of self-worth shared with a million other otherwise losers.  They strut their Walmart-bought Tide and Tiger apparel like pre-pubescent peacocks preening on the outside of the mating arena.

Ole Miss Rebels wear their fan togs like a penitent wears a smudge of ash the day after Fat Tuesday. 

But, the Colonel digresses too far into that rabbit warren of self-pity-driven hatred.  He'll attempt to collect himself for coherence sake.

That, and the angry spittle is beginning to cover the computer monitor screen to the point that it is becoming difficult to see what the Colonel is tippy-tapping on the keyboard.

The Colonel will concede that the University of Alabama, more often than not in his lifetime, fields one of -- if not the -- best football teams in the country.  

And, far more often than not, in the Colonel's lifetime, the University of Alabama's football team has waltzed over his Rebels, whipping our boys around as easily as Fred led Ginger. 

(For the LSU grads attempting to follow the Colonel's witty use of digital analog, Ginger Rogers -- not Gilligan's Ginger -- was the dance partner of the greatest dancer -- Fred Astaire -- of the 20th Century.)

The Tide's all-time win record against the Rebels is so lop-sided that most Ole Miss Rebels can count all of the Rebel wins they have witnessed on one chain-saw mangled hand.

The Colonel has been to two -- count-'em -- two games against 'Bama from which his Rebels emerged victorious.  The first was in 1976.

The second was last night.

That win-loss record frustration is compounded by a phenomenon that EVERY SINGLE Ole Miss Rebel immediately calls to mind the second Alabama football is mentioned -- the refs are always for the Tide.

The Colonel knows he sounds like a whiney crackpot conspiracy theorist.  To which notion he replies, "who you callin' a 'conspiracy theorist?!?'"

(Hey LSU fans, did you see what the Colonel did right there?  No? Well, look, the Colonel said that somebody might call him a "whiney crackpot conspiracy theorist" for believing that the refs always call a game in favor of Alabama; and then the Colonel's refutation implied that he was indeed a whiney...  Oh, never mind.)

Look, the Colonel won't bore you with a recitation of game and quarter, play and flag from the Book of 'Bama.  Just know that, yes, we have a self-pitying, venom-filled "Book of 'Bama," and that said tome includes countless verses recited faithfully by every Ole Miss Rebel above the age of accountability at every mention of the annual matchup.  

The officiating in favor of Alabama has gotten so bad in recent years that Ole Miss Rebels have even started to accept it as fate.  We're being punished.  We deserve punishment, but that's beside the fact.  

Perhaps the worst thing about the officiating in favor of Alabama is that, as the Colonel explained to a 'Bama fan seated in front of him -- in seats sold by a traitorous money-grubbing psuedo-Rebel season-ticket holder -- "the most frustrating thing is that y'all don't need the refs help to beat us."

So, just before the half last night, with the Tide clinging to a 7 - 3 lead after scoring the first touchdown allowed by the Rebel first-string D all season, three -- count 'em -- three refs, all standing within five yards of, and looking directly at, one of the most flagrant face mask infractions ever perpetrated by a defender, watched in Alabama-lovin' relief as the 'Bama defender knocked the ball out of the arms of the Rebel runner, whose head had been yanked violently 90 degrees away from the direction the rest of his body was traveling at a dead sprint.  The ball was picked up and returned for an Alabama touchdown.

No flag.

14 to 3 at the half.

During the half-time performance of the Pride of the South, the Colonel sat dejectedly processing through the five steps of grief.

"That didn't just happen did it?"  

"Oh, the agony! I can't keep going through this every year!  Good Lord, what have I done?  I know it must somehow be my fault."

"Boo, refs, boooo!  Why can't you just let us lose the game without all the calls going against us?"

"Oh, no! State won their big game against A&M earlier and if we lose to Bama, the cow-tippers will never let us forget it.  The thought of facing State fans tomorrow is too depressing to event contemplate."  

"Oh well, we are Ole Miss."

It is a very good thing that the Colonel was not in the Rebel locker room at half-time. 

It is a very good thing that Hugh Freeze, Dave Wommack, and company were.  What an incredible challenge they faced.

What an incredible job they did, keeping the team focused and ready to play the second half against Satan's... errr, Saban's demons... errr, players.

Don't get in a huff, 'Bama fans.  You've called us worse.

Or maybe not.  Most of you don't even know we exist on the schedule, what with your preoccupation with Iron Bowl meltdowns against Auburn.

Sorry, the hate is just too strong.  Forgive me, Lord. 

Long story made short -- the Ole Miss athletic department will be submitting an order for two new goal posts come Monday morning.

The Colonel will neither confirm nor deny that he participated in destruction of University property.