Is there room to jump on the Bulldogs’ bandwagon?
The division of college sports fans in Vicksburg is unique. If you go a little east in Mississippi, you have nothing but Ole Miss and Mississippi State fans. Cross the river into Louisiana and it’s all purple and gold for LSU.
Here in Vicksburg, however, it’s a weird melting pot. Ole Miss and Mississippi State still make up at least 80 percent of the fans, but Southern Miss and LSU also have sizable followings. Another group pulls for Mississippi’s smaller schools like Alcorn State and Jackson State.
For the record, I have a degree from LSU and cut my teeth as a college sports fan on Saturday nights in Tiger Stadium. Whatever rabid fandom remains buried deep inside an aging sports writer pulls for them.
As you might expect, however, I’ve also come to enjoy the exploits of our Mississippi programs. Besides it being good for business when they do well, all of them have a perpetual underdog status and grittiness that’s hard not to appreciate. They’ve had some success, but not enough to be spoiled by it. Conference championships are not rare, but a national championship would make that program folk heroes forever in this state.
Heading into the NCAA baseball regionals, it felt like we had four state teams to root for if you count LSU. We’re down to one, Mississippi State, as the College World Series begins this weekend.
The other Southeastern Conference teams in the CWS field don’t move the needle for me. Texas Tech has built a nice program but is just sort of there. Louisville and Auburn have Mississippi connections — Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell was an Ole Miss assistant in the early 2000s and Auburn’s Butch Thompson was a longtime Mississippi State assistant — but that’s not enough to pull me in.
Florida State is a nice story with retiring coach Mike Martin chasing an elusive national title, but it probably doesn’t have the juice to finish.
Michigan is a Big Ten team, and the Big Ten is boring.
Mississippi State, on paper, is certainly playing well enough to be considered a favorite. They have experience, depth, and a certain indefinable quality where you feel like they’re never out of a game no matter the score. Throw in goofy things like last year’s Rally Banana craze, and they’re a fun team to root for even without any local connections.
So, for as long as they can stick around in Omaha, I’m jumping on the Bulldogs’ bandwagon — if there’s room and those manning the doors will have me. Hopefully it will be a long and fun ride.
Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at email@example.com