Ole Miss athletics still has a ways to go
By By Stan Torgerson
May 23, 2002
This year for Ole Miss fans has been like taking your girl to the dance expecting to kiss her before the night is over and she leaves with another guy.
It's been like having your golf opponent down on the 16th tee and he wins the next three plus the first playoff hole.
It's been like betting on a sure thing at the track and the good-for-nothing horse finishes out of the money.
It's been like believing your boss can't do without you and he tells you he's already hired your replacement.
Frankly, it has been a 100 percent disappointing, lousy, pain below the belt line on the backside, I can't believe this year has happened and good riddance to it.
Of course, for Mississippi State people its been a Miracle on 38th Street year with Santa Claus showing up at the last minute and spreading around goodies they never thought they could possibly receive. They win the Golden Egg and knock Ole Miss out of the SEC baseball tournament with a clean sweep on the last weekend of the season. How does it get any better than that for the Bulldogs?
Rebel fans should have know what was coming last November. There they were, sailing along 6-1 with the only question being whether or not to pack warm weather clothes for the bowl game or throw in a jacket in case they had to play in Nashville or some other location above the Mason-Dixon line.
Then 6-1 became 6-2 after that seven overtime never-to-be-forgotten 58-56 loss to Arkansas followed by a 20 point kicking at the hands of Georgia and a stinging defeat from what is best known in Oxford as Cow College. Now it was 6-4 and nobody loved the Rebels any more, even with a season ending win over Vanderbilt. The once high flying, bowl bound Rebs spent the holidays watching television when 7-4 was not good enough.
It was basketball's turn. Rod Barnes' kids played their hearts out and earned another bid to the NCAA where they had the opportunity to add more glory to a former also ran program that the previous year had done something no Ole Miss team had ever done, advanced to the Sweet 16. But they didn't play well against storied UCLA and it was one and out. Still a good year but with a disappointing ending.
But neither football or basketball could possibly have prepared Rebel supporters for what happened in baseball. Somebody or a lot of somebodies, fans or players, made the mistake of reading the newspaper stories that said in no uncertain words there was a Top 10 team playing at Oxford and they were a lock for the Conference Tournament and what time do we have to be at the Memphis airport to catch our plane for Omaha?
Why put you through the pain of the last 12 games of the season, the stretch in which Ole Miss lost 10 out of 12 including the last six in a row? I'm not a cruel person. They still packed their bats but put them in the equipment locker for storage instead of an airplane luggage space for transport. It was one of the most disappointing end of the season collapses we can ever remember.
The truth is that Ole Miss is competitive in the SEC but not yet good enough to win a conference championship in the big three sports. Quality depth is, and continues to be, a problem year after year. By the end of the season, injuries and fatigue take a toll and there's no one available to step in and maintain the highest level of play. The Rebels are no Florida or Tennessee with a bench of reserves who could be starters somewhere else. They're not 10 deep in basketball like a Kentucky or the Alabama team of last season. And in baseball when the Rebs allowed MSU to score 36 runs in the last three games of the season it tells you the arms got tired and the pitching just ran out.
It's a great school with fine coaches, good kids and more than loyal fans. But the Rebels haven't won a football championship since 1963, haven't been to baseball's college world series in 30 years and have never won an SEC overall basketball championship. That's reality.
But heck it will soon be football time again and maybe Eli and friends can do it. Why can't this be the year you get that kiss, your opponent three putts, that horse's nose is just one inch longer than the one challenging him on the outside and you boss gives you a promotion and a raise instead of the boot.
Why can't the upcoming year be joy and happiness and celebrations in the grandstand and an honors banquet with trophies as tall as a goalpost crossbar?
Remember Scarlet O'Hara? Remember her just before the fadeout of "Gone With The Wind" saying, "Tomorrow is another day." In my book she was an Ole Miss fan.