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Think Like A Writer

A recommendation to dejected Ole Miss fans

By Neil White

Photo by Nathan Latil / Ole Miss Communications

Writers understand one thing better — no, make that sooner — than non-writers: What’s bad for your life is great for your story.

As we all recover from this weekend’s embarrassment at Alabama, I try to remember what makes a great story. Simply put, it is conflict. In the classical stories of our time, the protagonist must face great obstacles and disappointments. In the most enduring tales of our time (whether fictional or true), we find deep sorrow, loss, and tragedy in the midst of the hero’s journey. Without these setbacks, the story wouldn’t last.

Without the tornado, Dorothy would never find home.

Without the evil Mr. Potter, George Bailey would not know his importance.

Without the Death Star, there would be no victory for young Skywalker.

Sports stories are no different. From Hoosiers to Brian’s Song, from the 1966 Texas Western basketball squad to the 1980 U.S. Men’s Hockey Team, the greatest victories are sprinkled with defeat and heartache along the way.

So here is what excites me about the unfolding narrative of Ole Miss football in 2013:

When Ole Miss selected Hugh Freeze as its coach, he was a dark horse candidate. Sure, he was the high school coach from The Blindside and, yes, he’d won at every level. But those levels weren’t comparable to winning in the SEC. In his first year, Hugh turned a 2-10, ragtag team (he actually started a 185-lb linebacker) into a winning program. In his second season, he started 3-0 (and in the process delivered an ass-whipping to Texas). He was heralded as the new savior of Rebel football.

Then, came the loss at Alabama. A shutout. Manhandled. Belittled. All on primetime television.

Huge Freeze, an offensive genius, was outmatched by a coach who happens to be a defensive genius — perhaps the best in the world. Nick Saban and his team had the luxury of studying our film. They dissected how our potent offense ripped through typical defenses. And they not only stopped us. They humiliated us. What’s more, every other team in the SEC can now watch how they did it.

For Ole Miss fans, it seems like a terrible spot. But it sets the stage for a magnificent story.

Just like Toto being kidnapped by the witch . . .

Just like George Bailey standing on the edge of the bridge . . .

Just like the Death Star destroying the people of Alderaan . . .

We sit on the edge of our seats. We speculate about our chances. We count the days until Saturday.

So, now, it’s Hugh’s turn.

Like it or not, Ole Miss fans are living out the drama and we have no way of knowing the outcome. Personally, I can’t wait for the next chapter.

It’s got the makings of one hell of a story.

–Neil White is a writer and publisher from Oxford.

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