College football a common denominator

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 27, 2015

Let’s talk college football.

Other than March Madness — the NCAA’s annual college basketball tournament — which to me is the premier of all sporting events, college football season is the greatest time of the year.

Few things are better than getting up early on a fall Saturday morning, watching ESPN’s College Game Day while loading the crock pot with all of the ingredients needed for vegetable soup or chili, preparing to make a big pan of cornbread in the cast iron skillet, and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., watching non-stop college football.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Oh, the joy! It just doesn’t get much better than that.

My love of college football began early and naturally. I come from a sporting family. My father, James Griffey, at age 16 signed a major league baseball contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, at the time one of the youngest to ever do so.

He never played in the majors, but made the circuit on farm league teams throughout the south for a number of years, ending up as a player and manager for the Natchez Indians back in the early 1950s. That’s where he met my mother and his baseball career ended.

Daddy died at a very young age. He was 42 in 1972 when he had a heart attack. I was 10. I wish I knew more about him. I’m also told he held records on his football team at Chattanooga (Tenn.) Central High School for kicking.

My younger brother was a standout in football and baseball through high school, and I was his biggest fan. I grew up on sidelines and in stands. It became a part of me.

Some people just don’t get sports. Try as I may, I’m not sure I can describe the appeal.

Sometimes, sports bring out the worst in people. We’ve all seen it. But sometimes, sports and displays of sportsmanship can be so poignant they stop you in your tracks and bring you to tears.

My team is Notre Dame. No, I didn’t go to school there, unfortunately. I have no legitimate ties to the university, other than I lived less than 10 miles from the campus for 20 years and know what an incredible community member it is.

Nonetheless, in my mind, it’s God, Country, Notre Dame.

As a young girl growing up in Natchez, my household was solidly purple and gold. My mother’s brother, the late Charles Kelley, played football at LSU. I have distinct and frightening memories of attending a night game in Death Valley in Baton Rouge.

The unruly, drunken crowd was growling, “Tiger bait, tiger bait!” The woman sitting behind me at the ballgame was flailing around a cigarette, and I feared being burned by her when she was jumping up and down.

Of course, not every LSU football game experience is like that, but for an 8-year-old girl, it was pretty scary.

I vividly recall the contrast of attending my first game at Notre Dame. Home games there are mostly an afternoon experience. The Notre Dame band gathered on the steps of the administration building, which features the famed Golden Dome. Spectators listened to the band play while the football team was gathered inside the Basilica of the Sacred Heart for its pregame mass.

When mass ended, the football team, dressed in coats and ties, marched single file from the Basilica to Notre Dame Stadium.

The band followed the football team. Then, spectators filed in behind it and entered the stadium.

Lastly, the first song the Notre Dame band played in its pregame show was the other team’s fight song.

Unfortunately, I was no good luck charm for Notre Dame in that first game, which was Nov. 20, 1993. Boston College topped Lou Holtz and his No. 1 ranked Fighting Irish with a last second field goal.

I had Michigan friends who offered to buy me tickets in hopes that I was a jinx for Notre Dame.

That’s college football.

You can relate, certainly. I’ve only been in Vicksburg a month, but it’s been long enough to know we here take our college football seriously. One only had to come to work in a building with an equal mix of Alabama and Ole Miss fans to know that. Last Monday was a bit awkward here!

Here’s hoping you and your team have a bunch of happy Saturdays this fall.

Go Fighting Irish!

Jan Griffey is editor of The Vicksburg Post. You may reach her at