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Brown: Welcome September! (And Football)

Photo by Steven Gagliano

Welcome September!  While the temperatures have moderated somewhat, it may still be perceived as part of summer in the South.  Except, of course, for the return of football, that sport which is more of a religion.  And football means fall.  With the passing of Labor Day, it is time to put away the white clothing which came out at Memorial Day.  As with all trends, this practice of when it is appropriate to wear white has faded.  But football—never!
Football is the most popular sport in the United States.  This sport has varied little from the beginning.  A sport played by two teams of eleven players each on a rectangular field with goalposts at each end.  While the rules may change ever so slightly, you can bet that on any given field, interpretation of those rules will be loudly discussed by the viewing audiences whether at a pee-wee game, high school football, college, or the NFL.  
Many women will tell you the fine distinctions in the rules of football are hard to decode mainly; I think because football has always been a male-dominated sport.  There are very few girls playing football.  Early on, girls are encouraged to play soccer which is deemed more appropriate for their gender.  One such young lady is Brianna Amat from Pinckney, Michigan, a small town near Ann Arbor.  In 2011, her claim to fame became kicking the winning field goal for the Pinckney Pirates varsity football team the same night she was crowned homecoming queen.  
While we won’t see any women on the Ole Miss football team, we do see women taking an interest in the sport and trying to learn the fundamentals of football.   There are also women learning about the X’s and O’s at the Ole Miss Ladies Football Forum, a one-day “camp” held on the Ole Miss campus.  And let’s not minimize the contributions of the women in the coordination of tailgate details—from food to elaborate decor.  After all, Ole Miss didn’t acquire the title of the Tailgate Mecca because of the fellows.  
The Grove on Gameday. Photo by Steven Gagliano

Yes, we welcome September and Football.  The Grove is such a beautiful and inviting place and serves as the centerpiece for the Ole Miss football season.  It is a special place that comes to life and provides an incredible backdrop to carry out the time-honored Rebel traditions of fine food and fellowship.  We extend this exquisite brand of hospitality not only to fellow Rebels, both known and unknown but also as a warm welcome to the fans of the opposing team.  Isn’t that the true definition of hospitality?
The Grove is a well tended, revered piece of property.  It provides a green blanket of greeting to all members of the faculty, staff, and students during school days and thousands and thousands of alumni and visitors on football weekends.  The lush green grass doesn’t happen by accident.  It is lovingly maintained by Jeff McManus, Director of Landscape Services, and his staff of some 32 full-time magicians who are responsible for the entire beautiful campus. There are a number of volunteer organizations tasked with the cleanup of The Grove following the football game where some 70 tons of waste (depending on the opponent) are collected allowing The Grove to return to its splendor by the early morning hours.  
As fall advances, the leaves come tumbling down providing a colorful background and a bit of a cushion.  Then comes the rain.  There’s always a real soaker sometime near the end of the season home games that produces enough mud to suck the boots right off of the Rebel co-eds, leaving the hallowed ground pitted and devoid of much ground cover.  It is at that moment; I would expect to hear Jeff McManus and his talented crew let out a collective groan and experience a massive migraine.  However, that’s not the case.  They dutifully and gladly wade into the muck and mire to overseed The Grove with 4500 pounds of tall fescue and look forward to the spring and summer when again The Grove becomes the welcoming blanket of green for yet another football season.  
Of all the seasons of the South, fall brings about the most change.  Again as referenced earlier, there is the obvious change of wardrobe.  The laid-back feel of summer routines give way to the structure of school children returning to school and the unwelcome organization, lamenting the end of camp days, pool parties, and sleeping late. College students gladly return to campus from summer jobs and parental control to once again enjoy the camaraderie of their fellow students in the form of independent living, testing boundaries, and self-discovery along with the never-ending anguish of class and tests.
Could I tell them this is the most carefree time in their lives?  Would they listen to the lessons learned by their parents of entering the realities of the work force, mortgages, aging, and parenthood?  No, I can tell you for a fact they would not.  When you are a college student, you are perpetually young, somewhat irresponsible, and often caught up in manufactured drama.    Yes, your days may be fraught with anguish over classes but primarily today’s college student is far removed from reality unless they seek some cause about which to fret.  Life has yet to teach them what is truly important.  And for some, those lessons may take a while longer for some than others.  The most important lesson we will learn is that with each decision and choice, there comes a consequence—sometimes positive but oftentimes not so much.  Sometimes minor and, regrettably, sometimes monumentally dreadful.  
Photo by Robert Jordan, Ole Miss Communication

However, if you are lucky enough to have good role models, lucky enough not to make too many bad decisions, lucky enough to get a good education, then you will likely be lucky enough to find your way back to Ole Miss and welcome September in The Grove, and find your way to Vaught-Hemingway to  experience all the joys (and sometimes disappointment) of what it means to be an Ole Miss Rebel!  Hotty Toddy!

Bonnie Brown is a contributor to HottyToddy.com. Brown recently retired and was a longtime employee of the University of Mississippi. 

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