Thursday, October 8, 2009

Smackdown: Alabama-Ole Miss

Michael Gordon:

Say what you will about our friends from Oxford, they do have an appreciation for the past.

"I love Mississippi," Gov. Ross Barnett said in 1962, part of the most infamous halftime speech in the history of SEC football. "I love her people ... I love and respect our heritage."

Coming from a state with its own fixation on the past, I, too, respect certain Mississippi traditions, particularly this one: 45-9-2. Allow me to translate: Ole Miss almost always loses to Alabama.

Think about it, the land of the Brewer Boys and Johnny Vaught, Eli, Archie and all the rest almost always get swamped by the Tide -- 5 out of every 6 for you Ole Miss historians who never quite got the hang of math. Put another way, the neighbor boys have played each other 56 times, and Alabama has won or tied 47 of them.

That imbalance would not be so astounding if the opponent were Vandy or Mississippi State. But Ole Miss still prides itself as being among the conference elite. That conclusion, like so many things at Ole Miss, relies on an increasingly parochial interpretation of an increasingly distant past. The University of Mississippi has indeed won three national championships and more than 600 games. But its last SEC championship was in 1963.

Today, Oxford still has The Grove, the ghosts of Faulkner and Willie Morris, that wondrous gene pool from which spring too many Miss Americas to count, plus the largest clan of able bottle-throwers this side of Baton Rouge. Yet the fans show up to the Alabama game with their good bourbon and their luscious dates and their Confederate flags, and they lose all the same.

Keep it up, boys. As the Confederacy showed us, there's honor and mythic power in supporting a doomed cause. Do the honorable thing again this Saturday.

Alabamians, haunted and seduced by our own history, cherish this one part of your heritage. In fact, every October we count on it.

R. Trentham Roberts:

Let me just start out by saying, and I'm not quoting anyone here, that I love Alabama and its people.

I love how they will stand there and look you right in the eye and go off on your old race-baiting governor when they know, and they know you know, that they are the good people who loosed George Corley Wallace Jr. on an unsuspecting world. And that if you were to point out this curious line of reasoning in polite coversation, they would not so much as blink, even as they trot out their time-honored response: "What about it?"

Truth be told, Ole Miss and Alabama are two peas in a pod most times. As my colleague made clear, both schools have fashioned for themselves a living, breathing history that's been known to put the U. in Unpleasantness. Both are petri dishes of doctors, lawyers, Capitol chiefs. And both never tire of those game-long incantations that sound like they came from a guy showing off his Esperanto skills at closing time.

But football is where the two schools part ways. Their records speak for themselves, no doubt. It was gracious of you to concede three asterisk-pocked national titles to Ole Miss, pre-empting any questions one might have about Alabama sneaking off with the crown jewels while the rest of the country was busy with the Great Depression. (Damn you, Gordon, and your City of Vulcan mind tricks!)

And I'll give you this: Your state flat knows how to recruit. From Wernher von Braun to Joe Willie Namath, when y'all go hunting for talent, you don't come home empty-handed.

So yeah, maybe -- probably -- Alabama wins again. You want to, you expect to, you need to. It's what gets you up in the morning, what makes you thrust out your chin and proclaim, "WE are the sun. YOU are the lesser light." (I guess I'd also want to hang my hat on such a belief if my home state took more pride in being the birthplace of Forrest Gump than, say, Hank Williams or Helen Keller.)

And once the game's over, us Mississippi folk who don't know any better will just have to go on about our business. Especially on the Coast, where I'm from. You see, we still can't quite figure out how we managed, all by our lonesome, to concoct a perfectly legal system by which we convert your gambling losses into our tax base.

Guess we're just dumb that way.


Parker said...

Thanks for the ignorant posts. Alabama has the most arogant fans on the planet, but when is the last time the Tide won the National Championship? 1992? That's considered to also be living in the past. Go back to your trailer park and beat your ugly wife.

R. Trentham Roberts said...

Hey, Parker, I see that you're in Dallas, holding down the fort for SEC fans. How'd you come across our site, anyway?

Observer Sports said...


You're right, our last national championship was in '92, which was great.

But our immediate past includes a team that was one quarter away from the national championship game, and is now ranked 3rd in the country.

That said, we may have our delusions handed to us on Saturday. It's happened before in Oxford, just not very often.

BTW, my beautiful wife is from Ohio.

Thanks for stopping by,

Bigdawg said...

Right now it looks like this to me: Tier 1 in the SEC is clearly Bama and the evil Gators and not just based on their records, but because of what we've seen so far. Tier 2 includes the 5 teams that still have at least a ray of hope because they have less than 2 conference losses (UGA, USC, LSU, Aub,and Ole Miss). For the remaining 5 teams in Tier 3 who already have at least 2 SEC losses, there is no ray of hope, there is no joy in their own desperate little Mudvilles.

The question for the Bama-Ole Miss smackdown is whether the Rebels can somehow manage to pull the Tide down into the chaos of Tier 2, or whether the Tide, once and for all, drops the Rebels into the rubbish heap of the demoralized bottom feeders. Good sense says don't take the Rebels and 6.

Drake said...

you do know that vaught and bryant never played right?? just checking... I wonder why we never played alabama then????

Observer Sports said...

Drake, check your dates. Bryant and Vaught went against each other for years. Vaught was hired at Ole Miss about the time the Bear signed on with Kentucky.

Bryant came home to Alabama in '58. Vaught retired at Ole Miss in 1970. His last and Archie-led team beat Alabama that year in Jackson.

In 1971, Vaught predicted an Ole Miss win, but Bryant wishboned them into little more than blue and gray stains on the Astroturf at Legion Field, which happened to be the first SEC game I saw in person.

So yeah, they went up against each other, a lot.


J said...

Bigdawg - Don't let Gordon talk you into saying the SEC is just 'Bama and Florida. LSU and Auburn are also undefeated in conference and thus are part of tier 1. Squawk all you want about Auburn having not played anybody, but they are in the top tier in the conference until someone beats them. Granted, that easily could be this week against the Pigs. (Yeah, them folks in Ar-Kansas don't know how to spell or pronounce, but they can score touchdowns really well.)

As for 'Bama and Misipi, I don't see how Misipi can win this game. Would love for it to happen, but I can't see it.

Observer Sports said...

Did some more checking . . . Vaught's Ole Miss teams didn't play Alabama as often as I thought.

Vaught's record against Alabama was 2-4.

The teams didn't play for 20 years, a streak ended by the '64 Sugar Bowl (a 12-7 Tide win). The gap in the series may have been motivated by the utter domination by Alabama, which had two wins of 64-0 and another of 61-0.

Vaught ended his career with a 10-8 win in 1968, the classic shootout in 1969 in which Alabama outlasted the Archies, 33-32; and an Ole Miss beatdown at Jackson in 1970.

Odd bit of history. Ole Miss was originally nicknamed "The Flood" before turning to the Rebels in the '30s.

So at one point you had the Tide vs. The Flood, a classic battle of Deep South gridiron redundancies.


Observer Sports said...

J, I gave Auburn as much love as I could muster at the beginning of the week. Was mucho impressed with your offense vs. Tennessee -- great intensity and creativity. You guys will be a very scary game at year's end.

But facts are facts. For now, and that's all we have to go by, Alabama and Florida are the best teams. However, as we both know, that premise gets tested in the SEC every week.