Thursday, November 27, 2014

Gobble! Gobble! Intersecting Hate and Love during the week of giving Thanks.

I am thankful that I live in a pace where I can afford to use my discretionary time for silly things like hating Ole Miss.  When I think about every second after last Thanksgiving, I am so grateful for my friends showing me both tough love and unnecessarily doting on me.  I only had to be alone if by choice.  I cooked, danced, and laughed my way through 2014 when I thought I might never even smile again.  It is difficult to be the "happy " one on a group... The life of the party... The anchor for the group.  Lurching just a nudge off course and the alarms sound.  I felt off course a lot this past year... But I have been trying to remember if I've ever been so happy.  So many things are clicking in my life and that I am quick to hit delete when the bad stuff pops up.  I have so much perspective now.... I know life is short... I know people are made to love one another.... And lives to be shared.  

I think I'm completely different than I was this time last year.  I will not threaten my happiness any longer with doubt.  I am SOOO ready for 2015.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Why I'm Still Wrapped Up in Maroon and White

Still wrapped up in my perfect MSU fleece blanket from an early frigid night, I saw the texts coming through about our little bowling ball and his story.  I finally made it upright, did a quick twitter search and found the GameDay video.  Watching a piece on Josh Robinson on GameDay about him living in his car and b-roll of a lone cowbell atop his grandmother's tomb I had an ugly cry going on.  The type of cry that apparently everyone else in America expected us (State fans) to have after our team was outplayed in the first half and then ran out of time in the 2nd half.  But that cry didn't come.  I didn't shed one tear about the loss to Alabama until this morning about 10:15 EST.  Hearing our players' reactions on the State/Bama highlight-hype video made me emotional.  I successfully avoided ESPN all day on Saturday save for the piece on Josh Robinson.  I wanted Saturday to be about Mississippi State.. not Mississippi State vs Alabama.  When we lost the game, I felt like all the pressure of being #1 and the Heisman talk and the "they don't pass the smell test" would just slither away and State fans would be better for having the experience. As a fan, the greatest joy this year has been the spotlight on what great men our team is made of not the hard hits or the missed field goals or the spectacular Dak moments.  All of those things will be quilted into the folklore of this year in due time.  Each stitch holding together more hopes and dreams from a fan base than we could have ever imagined.  The focus on whether or not Dak was hurt and whether or not our kicker's leg would hold out was mind-numbing.  No one, especially not Vegas, thought we had a chance.  Well, that's why we play the game.  I think I was just happy it was over on Saturday night. 

A strange phenomena started.  First it seems every guy I have ever been on a date with decided to email or text me.  The same thing happened after we were ranked #1.  I guess everyone likes to be with a winner (dies out laughing... no really... what makes a guy think this makes me want to hear from you).  But, the tone was different after we lost- both from former flames and from the people who stopped me in elevators, on the sidewalk, at Target, Starbucks, etc and mentioned my MSU purse.  The tone was like "well, I guess you can go back to ______".  Go back to when I loved Mississippi State with all my heart and they were just #1 in my heart?  What short term memory loss the world must have.  I've work maroon on Friday since before it was an official HailState thing.  My cube at work is always covered in MSU stuff and yes I do occasionally switch out my MSU mouse pad for my Mr. Met mouse pad, but for the most part, it's obvious I'm a Bulldog.  Is that really a thing?  Are State fans really that different that it's shocking to people that we are still excited about the season?

I kept saying over and over Saturday night- we're freaking 9-1... do y'all remember the 80s?!?!?!  Do y'all remember 2002? 2006?  I mean... Sometimes it would take multiple seasons in a row to get 9 wins.  At least it would take a bowl win to get to 9 wins.  Do I wish we were 10-0? Yes.  But I also wish I was spending my winter in Tahiti.  New guy in the office from Florida State asked if I wore all my MSU stuff on Monday because I knew he was starting... and I laughed and said "I had all this stuff with me on Friday, why wouldn't I have it today.

My point is while there is actually something left to lose, if we are all anxiety ridden and miserable that we aren't going undefeated instead of loving this team and enjoying the ride, then happiness will always be just out of our grasp.  This is a special year.  Our graduating seniors will have played in 4 consecutive bowl games.  This is the beginning of special times in Starkvegas.. not the end.  So no matter what happens over the next 10 days, I still plan on being somewhere warm on New Years.

And I'll close with this.  The text I sent to my dad before the game (green)... and the next day, I resent the framed note my dad left on my mirror the day I started at Mississippi State. 
My love for my Bulldogs will never hinge on whether or not we beat Alabama, Ole Miss, Tennessee, etc... that's what makes our fans different.  Isn't this the most fun ever?  #weallwegot #weallweneed

Friday, November 14, 2014

All the marbles.

I’ve been using the hashtag #allthemarbles this week because it’s somehow easier than admitting that this game is the biggest game in the history of Mississippi State sports.   The fear of admitting what every State fan knows has crept in many ways this week.  I can’t sleep. I barely ate half my Chipotle burrito bowl.  I made a playlist on YouTube that is ONLY HailState Productions  hype videos from this year.  I started writing this post five times.  I picked out the most awesome maroon and black luggage and then while standing in line to pay for it, freaked out and worried I was a jinx and put it back.   And this is the most fun ever.  EVER.  

My whole life I loved going to my Uncle Freddy’s office and seeing the plaqued cover from the Clarion Ledger from the 6-3 State win of Bama in 1980.  I was 3 so I obviously didn’t know it happened, but I have relived the game through memories of others my whole life.  When I was in high school, John Bond returned to State to finish his degree and he practice coached in Weir.  He was still rock-star handsome and one of the nicest people on the planet.  Every Friday night after the high school game, he would come to my parents’ cafĂ© with the coaches’ families and I would happily wait on the table while inside bursting with internal exclamation points.  When I was in college, we beat Alabama for the first time since that game in 1980, and I got to rush the field.  The grass I pulled up from the endzone is still in my parents’ freezer.  

For years ago State went to Alabama with heavy hearts and missing a teammate, Nick Bell.  I watched that game from a hotel room in Cleveland and my heart broke for an actual real reason.  I don’t even remember the score of that game.  2 years ago, State fans flocked to social media with reckless abandon proclaiming our equivalent of #shocktheworld with the #W*belie*ve posts.  (I reserve the right to not jinx my team by actually spelling it out.  Okay Ritchie?) I remember that score because I was at Nellies with my friends and we wanted to ring our cowbells all night and when I was ready to leave the bar at the beginning of the 4th Quarter my dear friend Ritchie bought a round of whiskey for everyone and made us stay because we would ring those damn cowbells eventually and we did for our lone touchdown.  Last year’s Alabama game is a blur because I was going through a terrible breakup… and I watched from a friend’s couch crying the whole game and ignoring my right leg that was about to betray me.  The next week, I had surgery to remove a staph infection in my leg muscle.  I didn’t have any time to be sad about the Bama game outcome.  

This year has presented one week even bigger than the last all season.  Even playing in the SEC, Mississippi State doesn’t usually have anything to play for besides bowl eligibility and bragging rights—oh and the occasional ‘we might get your coach fired if you lose to us’.  There is nothing like this season to even compare this experience to.  This is our moment, but our moments have never been this big… or this sound.  Why am I so nervous when I have no idea what it’s like to have a Heisman candidate lead my team into Tuscaloosa?  I have nothing to compare this to and it’s gut-wrenching.  Oh our #1 receiver is out for 4 games… no big deal.  We just go at you harder in other ways.  My boss was telling me “man no one has any faith in Mississippi State”… and neither does he.  So I just responded as Josh Robinson does “We are ranked #1, but we grind like we’re #2”.   And is there really anything better than hearing our boy J. Hughes say “WE ALL WE GOT” and the team responding with “WE ALL WE NEED”?  I can’t think of one thing (grammar doesn’t count) that makes me more fired up than to know our guys are focused.  I love that Coach Mullen let our boys do press this week because it is just another game to them.  If all of a sudden our boys weren’t allowed to do what they have been doing every week, then the game becomes something bigger.  

So here we are.  This morning I finally got out of bed after tossing and turning for hours and dressed for maroon Friday again this week just as I do every Friday.  Memories of years of heartbreak can’t take over my sensibilities.  I know we have never been this close, but I also know it has never been this fun.  This week, I thought a vandal from Ole Miss wrote Hotty Toddy on my #1 sign hanging on my work station in my office.  Turns out it was actually my former Congressman Chip Pickering (also my former political foe)… the first words he wrote though: GO DAWGS.  I spent half an hour talking football and Mississippi with a man I worked very hard to defeat for years.   Let that sink in (for those who know me)….

My heart will bleed maroon and white next week and the next.  Winning a game or losing a game tomorrow in Tuscaloosa doesn’t change anything for true fans.  Sure there are more sparkly things in the future if we win, but State fans already have the prize.  Our boys and our fans changed the landscape for a moment like this and there is simply no going back.  Tomorrow the nouveau #1 team goes to Tuscaloosa as underDAWGS against the ghosts of every Alabama team in history.  They college rings and we collect cute hashtags and cowbells… isn’t that what they have said this week?  We might lose tomorrow and this post becomes a eulogy for our #1 ranking, but we might win.  We might need help from Jack Cristil, Nick Bell, Keefer McGee, Kent Hull, all our pawpaws and #mammaPrescott to make it happen.  But if we don’t, everything has still changed.  The maroon has never been more beautiful than when all the marbles are at stake.    

Monday, October 13, 2014

What happens when the team who is #1 in your actually #1?

My heirloom cowbell from Dad at Gator Bowl
I was eating a pickle.  I will always remember that crisp, yummy, from a Jersey diner pickle as the best pickle ever.  Something happened while eating that pickle that has never happened in anyone's lifetime.  I received a text from my dear friend Blake with a screenshot of the Coaches Poll... Sitting at the top of the list was validation for everyone but true maroon fans...validation that, in fact, my beloved Bulldogs were on top of an actual poll.  In college football!  There was a time in September when State was unranked.  There was a time in my life time when I was too young to remember John Bond beating Bama and thought beating Shane Matthews when he was QB at Florida was the greatest moment I might ever have with my Dad.  Then we beat Peyton Manning and TN... and then I decided to go to State.  I lived the glory years in Starkville.  My parents were used to paying for bowl trips for me as Christmas presents and though I worked as a waitress in my dad's retirement project- the Weir Cafe- I always had Saturdays off so I could be on campus.  My friends and I went to New Orleans for a weekend my junior year and went to see State play in Baton Rouge... I can't remember what the score was but it was something like 38-0 at one point... or felt like it.  Cotton Bowl trip was my graduation gift... and I went with my parents.  Ricky Williams must have had a gozillion yards against State while we sat frozen to our Cotton Bowl seats.  I remember my dad saying "it's not so got better football than I grew up with at State".    I don't think I really thought it would get any better than that.  I moved to Washington, DC... and enjoyed 2 or 3 decent seasons until Dan Mullen took over at State. 

The ONLY different thing I have in my cube is a cowbell on a wobbly cube separator.   Usually it sits on a more stable tabletop next to me.  I'm proud that last week I may have cried every day with tears of pride and happiness, but when game time was near and my bestie Bulldog was finally next to me to watch the game... I physically couldn't handle watching the game.  Not the whole game.  How do you suppress years of heartbreak?  How do you not remember that you're Mississippi State?  When were going to break?  When was our team going to falter like everyone predicted? When were we going to break from the pressure- not able to sustain such a high level of overachieving for 3 games in a row?  WHY WERE WE ACTUALLY MAKING PLAYS?  What is going on?  I was on the verge of tears and a stroke for the better part of 3 hours.  Our defense... holy crap our defense (that's my very high level description of what I saw on Saturday).  A few offensive mishaps and at least 2 terrible decisions (the fake punt inside the 30 and the muffed punt by a freshman) meant our defense was tired or in my mind they were tired... but they played like they were as good as billed.  The bent, but they didn't break.  For the 99% of my life, State's football story has been those two terrible decisions.  Those were the plays that defined who our team is.  Those were the plays on the ESPN Not Top 10.  State games were "fill-in" parts of Sportscenter.  MSU was hardly ever mentioned on Mike and Mike. 
This morning, Greeny and Golic were ringing cowbells.  I can turn on ESPN at any time of the day and hear stories about my Bulldogs.  Things are different now.  Not better.  Different.  Easier.  45 out 60 AP voters voted for Mississippi State.  45 people not named Staci.  45 people who aren't my Dad, my friends, or my fellow alumni. 45 people who likely couldn't find Starkville on a map 2 months ago said State is #1.   It was hard for me to take off my HAIL STATE shirt this morning to come into the office.  Scott Stricklin once thought that State fans wouldn't even wear Maroon on Fridays.  Which brings me to something I thought about long and hard on my trip back from New Jersey yesterday...

HailState's blog has a great article about State's fans... Scott Stricklin still remembers when the idea for Maroon Friday came up. Now Mississippi State’s athletic director, he recalls someone in the meeting telling him that nobody was going to do it. State fans wouldn’t wear maroon every Friday just because they said so.
I have exorcised my Cam Newton demons.  Actually at 3:29pm on Saturday I said "that's it.. no more.. we're in a different place now". 
And now I'm letting go of the "We Believe 8-0" campaign as a failed gimmick.  The quote above made me think about just how far State fans have come in the past 6 years.  When State was 7-0 and going to Alabama, the idea of tweeting #webelieve with a picture of 8-0 signs from around the globe was much maligned by all the "real" sports fans.  How silly did we look?  What were they thinking?  That's so dumb!   Reading Stricklin's worries about whether or not we would wear maroon just out of suggestion made me think he must have been overwhelmed when people tweeted pictures of 8-0 from around the globe.  I know I was overwhelmed watching the snapshots come through my twitter feed.  It was never about beating Alabama.  I know that's hard for some to understand.  Oh sure now you say that because you were crushed by Bama.  No, actually, it was us buying in.   Buying in to whatever MSU was selling... buying in to patience... buying in to Coach Mullen.   The next year when State's baseball team fell to UCLA in the College World Series Final and State fans stayed in the stands doing the Maroon and White cheer while UCLA celebrated on the pitchers mound, I was so proud that our baseball team was able to feel the love... like our fans could appreciate what they did for us and mostly for Mississippi State.   Blue and gold confetti might have been swarming around our baseball team that night, but cowbells and chants of maroon and white could be heard on TV.  Of course that made me emotional.  Everything my MSU does makes me emotional.  BUT all of this has been because I bought in...because I bored the HELL out of my friends making them watch MSU highlight youtubes and listening to State on XM radio... and saying "you never know" when alumni from actual traditional powerhouse schools would walk past my cube with a sympathetic grin like "awww that's so cute... a Mississippi State fan".  Scott Stricklin may not have thought that anyone would maroon at one point, but I hope State fans have shown him just how much we will do, we will tweet, we will go, and we WILL SHOW UP FOR our Bulldogs.  Being #1 and the worlds greatest pickle didn't make it sweeter to be a Bulldog.   We may be #1 for a grand total of 6 days.  That's 6 days more than I ever imagined when I was a kid.  I'll let Coach Mullen keep our team focused on the prize.  The only poll that matters isn't at the 6 week mark.  But I hope that he'll forgive some of the fans (**raises my hand**) for not being able to take off the maroon... for soaking it all in... for sitting around with the goofiest smile ever on my face during conference calls.   I'm going to let go of all the ways this might backfire... of my fears about Coach Mullen leaving... I am LETTING IT ALL FREAKING GO.  The view from the top of the college rankings might be nice, but it can't possibly be as nice as the view is for lifelong Bulldogs!


(that even looks funny!) BUT I LOVE IT.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

#HailState -- why this week is just like any other week.

The bar last Saturday was electric.  There were just 4 state fans in the bar, but the DC chapter of Bama alumni had the bar reserved for their game watching party against Ole Piss.  The enemy of my enemy is my friend.  The game switched on the big screen, but I stood next to a guy I've known since my first week of college at State, quietly waiting for the victory formation.   He would ring the cowbell in victory, and we took our front row seats to get our ROLL TIDE ROLL on.  Deep breaths escaped only out of necessity for the three hours before the victory formation.  That first one I took in celebration was as sweet as pie.  No one said we could be LSU AT LSU... then everyone said that TAMU wasn't LSU... okay... but our boys did it.  Our Dak looked as poised and comfortable as I've seen any player at State ever.  All my fears were dimmed for a moment. 

With an interception against Bama, I was reminded we don't always get what we want.  But all I care about is Mississippi State.  And this is exactly what I've wanted for 37.5 years.  So SI cursed us... but if lose to the 3rd Top 10 Team we've played in a row...then holy crap, am I going to jump off a ledge?  Heck no.  I kept bursting into tears last week with all the coverage of State on ESPN and SEC network all week.  I was in school at State during the last age of "glory years"...the late 1990s.... when we expected to beat Bama, Auburn, etc...I got to see more exciting games while I was in a student than my dad experienced in his lifetime.

But how is this different in an actual meaningful way?  I have lived in Washington, DC for almost 15 years.  When you're in Mississippi, it's all around you.  In DC, there were years when I couldn't even watch State play on TV.  For years, we were so bad, there was no need to waste money watching at a bar where you would be on the small screen with no sound.  I'm surrounded by alumni from the biggest programs in the country- schools with national followings and I've taken great pride in decorating my work space in maroon and white and choosing my NFL picks of the week based on if they have State players on their team or not.  Coach Mullen has made Saturdays fun again for alumni across the country.   Suddenly, our expectations were raised, and now suddenly everything that we have dreamed of happened slowly, and then all at once.  But my love of MSU hasn't increased... it's NO better to be a Bulldog this week than it was a month ago or a decade ago.  That's where my biggest burst of pride comes from.... that State fans have stayed the course... we bought our True Maroon shirts and gave cowbells as gifts even during the years when our logo didn't flash on the screens of sports TV.

I nicknamed my best friend Bulldog.  Why? Because after my first football season in DC, I was starved for someone who knew anything about Mississippi State and he did- at 4am in a coffee house there was this guy from upstate New York who immediately mentioned Jackie Sherrill when I said I went to Mississippi State.  For years, he would give up 3 hours on Saturday to watch State play with me.  I would always say 'listen to the cowbells'... or "look how hard our guys play".  He never said anything negative about State, and I was always grateful that he let me be excited or heartbroken without comment.  I took him to his first Egg Bowl and for Christmas I made him go with me for NYE to the Gator Bowl... finally he was seeing what it meant to be part of the Mississippi State family.  I would bean with pride when I would see him wear his MSU cap somewhere.  One day, he asked me "wouldn't you rather be in a conference where you can win week in and week out.."... he was sincere- he had seen me cry and slam my cowbell down in bars, on his balcony and in front seat of a car so many times, he probably thought he was offering some kind of magic pill to me- a different conference where we could run the table.  But I stopped him and said "I wouldn't want to be in a sub-par conference... State plays the best... and one day we'll be on top"... I've believed that my whole life.  We aren't there yet.. we are near the top this week.  We may not be next week.  It doesn't matter... It's a long process, but at least now, Bulldog can sit in amazement with me and say "HOLY CRAP MSU IS #3".

I had a conversation with my friend John in Arkansas... and I was freaking out about being on cover of SI... and saying I wouldn't want to go to the Egg Bowl because we might lose.  And he then proceeded to crack me up by saying "do you realize if we are playing the Egg Bowl for the SEC West, that means we likely have 9 or 10 wins!?!? what is wrong with you..."... and he's right... success scares the hell out of me.  I'm lucky I have Bulldog and John... and Blake and Demi... and Ritchie to suffer through the games with me in DC.  All these guys are far more sensible than I ever will be.  But of everyone who is enjoying this, I have to say that the person I am most excited for.. is my DAD. 

Think about it... my Dad named me after Billy Stacy- his favorite player at State.  Whether I was a boy or a girl, I was going to be named after a Mississippi State football player.  He raised me to love Mississippi State and I was taught that if we just beat Ole Miss, it's a good year.   When I was a kid, my dad worked in Kuwait and I would listen to Jack Cristil just to get the final score so I could call and tell dad on Saturday nights.  We almost always lost.  It was the Rockey Felker years.  Dad still wanted to know the score- no matter what.  That's where I learned what it meant to be a Bulldog.  Every week, I'm still a Bulldog.  No. Matter. What.   I sat with my dad at many Egg Bowls where we were didn't win... yet we would go back the next year.  We watched Peyton Manning take his first snaps at QB and State intercept the ball and win against Tennessee. My dad was with me for years of State football games before I was a student... and I would hear him get frustrated and then I would love the car ride home when we would laugh at the callers who had the craziest funniest callers.  My dad was the first armchair QB I thought knew everything.  He taught me the phrase well if they don't care, I don't care but I knew he always cared.  It's the reason he picks out MSU jewelry for me for every Christmas... and saves Clarion Ledgers an stacks them on my bed for me to enjoy when I come home.   My dad is 72 years old, and for his entire life, he's never seen State be in the center of the sports universe.  I'm so happy for him.  72 years of being a Bulldog with every week being equal... he would never admit that this week is any different, but in my eyes, for him, I'm so happy he finally gets to enjoy the praise, the attention, the all out MSU love fest (save for Danny Kannell and colin Cowherd) on TV... I've always told Dad that I wouldn't want to be anything other than a Bulldog, but this week, now the rest of the world can see why.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

2014 Baseball...

I will restart my blog. I miss my baseball awards. 

The Mets will win 70 games this season. that's all I have right now...

That and I LOVE Daniel Murphy.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Baseball, Sequestration, Hail

Just the term "spring training" reminds me I don't blog as much as I like to.  I used to think that twitter would never replace blogging, but I'm lil Miss Instant Gratification and well, Mets fans are the funniest people on twitter so I have neglected my first social media blog.

Last night, another annual tradition was revived- the "working crazy hours getting ready for our annual convention" night arrived and notably it usually arrives about the time I have baseball to keep me company at the office late at night.  I'm grateful for the sounds of Kevin Burkhardt and Ron Darling and know that in just a few weeks, I'll have radio AND TV baseball to look forward to.
Of course the first play I saw was David muffing an infield ground ball.  But it was a beautiful thing...and I felt the giddy feeling most similar to Christmas Eve for a seven year old! 

To prove I'm not one-dimensional...  and that I'm still very much Staci-  It hit me today that sequestration is going to happen.  Even I suffered from post-election political numbness and the victorious glow I thought I would have for months didn't last very long.  BUT, this morning, I was revived.  When I read the headline that the Tea Party was going to oust John Boehner as speaker if he budged on the spending cuts, my first thought was "why are they still relevant?"....didn't America send them packing except for a few pockets of wackos?My second thought it HOW DOES ONE END UP SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE AND HAVE NOTHING RESEMBLING A SPINE ANYWHERE IN HIS BODY?   And it's all over freaking military spending??? I shouldn't be surprised...but why the GOP is busy making sure we have enough tanks (which we don't use anymore in the grand scheme of things), they are hell bent and determined to do nothing to take care of people here in the US.  Let the children starve, let head-start go away...oh, shut down 400 airports.  ALL SO WE CAN HAVE AN ARCHAIC MILITARY BUDGET?  CIA, FBI cuts will happen's like Ann Coulter is holding America hostage.   I want to think "yes, the Dems are going to come out of this smelling like a rose"...but the Mets fan in me knows that we'll find a way to screw this up.  I'm maybe a little jealous that the Democrats' gun control faction can't hold our leaders to the same fire the tea party can hold the GOP to...but then again, it's the price I pay for being a proud Democrat who happens to be part of the ultra-liberal end of the spectrum.  First I'm a Democrat...then I'm a liberal. 

Okay, back to sports...Mississippi State's combine participants- Josh Boyd, Darius Slay (ME!), and Jonathan (take it to the) Banks  all seem to have turned heads in Indy.  I'm most excited at the Jets have talked to Josh was surprising to me that the Jets were even interested in a SEC know....guys who have film playing against good schools...on a weekly basis.