While most of the nation will celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow with family and friends, thousands of diehard Rebel fans will hit the road to Starkville to watch the Rebels take on Mississippi State in the 86th “Battle of the Golden Egg.”
The “Egg Bowl,” as the game has become known, represents more than the final regular-season game on the Ole Miss schedule and more than just another conference game in the tough SEC West division.
This game is for a year’s worth of bragging rights in the state of Mississippi. It’s for all the marbles. In many cases, it is the one game where houses across the state are truly divided: brother against brother; husband against wife; or friend against friend.
Yes, the holiday family gatherings just got a little more interesting in the Magnolia State, as the Egg Bowl returns to Thanksgiving night for the first time since 2003.
This contest would be meaningful regardless of whether either of the teams had a winning record or any hope of post-season play. (Incidentally, State’s hope of a post-season does hinge on beating the Rebels on Thursday. A win makes them bowl-eligible; a loss could usher in the end of the Dan Mullen Era.)
Traditions and Memories
I recently asked some of the Ole Miss faithful what their favorite Egg Bowl memories are, as well as how they plan to incorporate this year’s rivalry game with the Thanksgiving holiday.
Rebel Tim Fowler, the Asst. Superintendent for Operations for the West Point School District in West Point, MS, explained his family’s plans for the game: “We will host my wife’s family for Thanksgiving lunch, and then my son (a State fan) and I will go to the Egg Bowl. My wife, daughter and daughter-in-law will watch it on television.” He noted he and his family move their Thanksgiving gathering up a day so as not to interfere with the game.
Norma McCullough is another diehard Rebel who can be found in the Grove at every home game. She and her husband David have traveled to many Ole Miss away games this season, and the game against State is no exception.
“This year we are having Thanksgiving lunch at the Oxford home of one of our tailgate friends,” she said. “Afterwards, six of us will ride the Ole Miss bus to Starkghanistan.”
Do We Really Need More Cowbell?
Other loyal Rebels like Becky Wing and Jeff Greer won’t be making the trip this year. They will instead wait for the game to return to Oxford in 2014.
Becky commented, “We don’t go to Starkville. I got a massive headache last time from all the cowbells. In fact, when we watch it on television tomorrow, I will turn the volume down low!” When the Rebels do play in Oxford, Becky says she and her family eat Thanksgiving lunch at home and then head on to the Grove.
Oxford resident Clay Rodgers echoes Becky Wing’s sentiments and says, “To this day, I have never been to Starkghanistan. I can’t stand the cowbells!” Rodgers does, however, have very fond memories of Egg Bowls in Oxford. “My family had a farm and the day always began with a deer hunt, followed by lunch. Then after lunch, my cousin and I would make the trek to Ole Miss for the game.”
He added, “My passion for Ole Miss dates back to elementary school when my uncle took me to a game in Memphis. I knew then that I would play here one day.”
Jonathan Ferguson, founder of LandSharkNation.com, shared memories of his last visit to Starkville. “My father, an Ole Miss alum, took my brother and me there for Eli’s last game in 2003,” he said.
“It was gross; the stadium was falling apart. The fans were rowdy with cowbells to start, but the Manning effect took over and the blowout was on. Many State fans left—but then the school played cowbells over the loud speakers as the Rebels were laying the smack down. That is the last time I went to that place,” he added.
Ferguson, like the other Rebels to whom we spoke, does look forward to holiday Egg Bowls at Vaught-Hemingway. “It’s great the game is back on Thanksgiving. It’s a wonderful tradition!”
The “Immaculate Deflection” Game
Long-time Rebel supporter Jeff Greer says he won’t be going to Starkville because, as he puts it, “they don’t worry me enough to go over there.” When the games are played in Oxford, however, Greer and his family have Thanksgiving lunch early and then head to Ole Miss for the game.
Greer shared what he believes is one of the most memorable Egg Bowls—the 1983 “Immaculate Deflection,” as it came to be known. “Like many Ole Miss fans,” he said, “my favorite Egg Bowl memory was when State kicker Artie Crosby attempted a 27-yard game-winner, only to watch as a 40-mph crosswind made the ball hang in mid-air and then literally blew it backward from the goal posts, where it fell harmlessly to the ground.”
Another diehard Rebel, David Bariola, shared his thoughts on Egg Bowls past. “My family would eat Thanksgiving lunch, and then the whole clan would load up and head to the game,” he said.
Bariola also recalled the days when the Egg Bowl was played neither in Starkville, nor Oxford. “I have so many great memories of when the game took place in Jackson,” he said. “I played high school football with former Rebels Gary Abide and Marvin Courtney and had a great time going to watch them play against State. I remember how exciting the ‘Immaculate Deflection’ game was. The weather was bad and the wind was rough—but it was a great day to be a Rebel!”
(Incidentally, Bariola notes he does not really mind the cowbells. “They fire me up!” he exclaimed.)
Though every Rebel we spoke with indicated he or she will have turkey and dressing for Thanksgiving, one Rebel fan had a little different menu planned. “Fakier Dan Mullen,” as he is known on Twitter, will be feasting on something outside of the normal turkey and dressing.
Yes, Fakier Dan Mullen subsists on a meal consisting of “the vile venom and sorrow of a Bulldog loss,” and says the meal “sustains me all year and keeps me warm.”
So there you have it. Whether attending the game in Starkville–with requisite earplugs in hand to drown out the “clanga, clanga” of the cowbells–or watching on television with their families and friends, Rebels across the state are anxiously waiting for the kickoff of this year’s Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving night.
Happy Thanksgiving and Hotty Toddy!