I took a trip to Oxford, Mississippi this weekend to soak up some Ole Miss football, and it was an experience few will ever understand.
I am a huge college football fan. I live and breathe for Saturdays in the fall. My Wisconsin Badgers run in my DNA. I have also been very critical of SEC play in the past couple years, but I have also always opined about my respect and love for their fanbases.
That is the reason why I jumped at the offer to fly down to Oxford to catch a Rebels game against LSU. I had no idea what to expect. I’m used to the bars and tailgating of Madison, Wisconsin. We wake up early, crush beers at the bar, head to the game and repeat the second step after the moment of the final whistle.
I had heard of The Grove and the atmosphere from all my Ole Miss friends. They hyped it up as a majestic place for every football fan to visit. My expectations were sky high, and I wasn’t disappointed.
We arrived in Oxford early Friday morning and had cracked a couple cold drinks on the flight. I knew I was in for a great time with the group around me. However, I didn’t realize how much my expectations would be exceeded.
Friday night, a pair of young women took me to a gathering of their family friends. I felt like I was back in rural Wisconsin the moment I walked through the door. Living in Washington, D.C. sometimes makes you forget how wholesome people can be.
Our incredible hosts wouldn’t stop offering me food and drinks. It was an incredible time. I shared some stories of my life back in Wisconsin, we discussed SEC football and where we saw this country going. It was an incredible night. We spent some time at the bars, hit our beds and prepared for The Grove.
I knew The Grove would be great, but I had no idea how impressive it’d actually be. You have thousands of freedom loving Americans drinking beers, cooking food, smiling, laughing and loving life. It’d be an understatement to say it’s one of the best football atmospheres on this planet. The Grove is downright outstanding. It’s a tailgating experience that I couldn’t have ever anticipated, and you have to go if you’re a fan of college football.
The only problem is that you’re not allowed to carry around cases of beer openly. I’m not kidding. We walked onto campus with a bunch of beer in a cooler, and my friend was carrying an 18-pack of ice cold Miller Lite. A police officer instantly confiscated it. You know who else would confiscate the beer of football loving Americans if they got the chance? The terrorists. Congratulations to the Oxford police department. They both don’t want football fans drinking beer. I hope they’re proud.
We eventually made our way to the game. The atmosphere against LSU was electric. The Rebels couldn’t pull out a win, but it was still one hell of a time. I’m a Big Ten guy, and I found a newfound respect for the SEC game day atmosphere.
Of course, our night didn’t end after the game. We headed to The Library and raged for the next several hours. The beer was cold, the women were gorgeous, the music was great and everybody had a wonderful time.
I had no idea what to expect when the plane touched down in Mississippi. All I’d known about the Rebels was what I’d heard from my friends and what I’d seen in ESPN’s documentary “Ghosts of Ole Miss.” I entered the lion’s den with an open mind, and I experienced something that I’d never been through before.
I grew up among people in Wisconsin who love football, God, guns, cold beer, America and freedom. It turns out the people in Oxford are pretty much the same way. I was outside the bubble of Washington, D.C., and among some of the best people walking this country. There’s zero doubt that I’ll continue to be critical of SEC play this year, but nobody can debate how incredible the people in Oxford are. They know a good time when they see it, they love their Rebels and they were welcoming to a visiting Midwestern guy.
Hotty Toddy, and thanks to everybody who opened their arms to a Wisconsin guy looking to experience some SEC football. Your women are attractive, the beer is cold, the football is exciting, the atmosphere is fun and the people are welcoming. That’s a win every single day in my book.