The temperatures are falling, along with the pine straw in my front yard, which can only mean it’s my favorite time of the year. Chrysanthemums, pumpkins, candy corn — all mark the season for so many of us here in the South.
Summer is in the rearview mirror as we flavor our conversations with “Hail State” or “Hotty Toddy,” just to name a couple of famed local teams. Yesterday I saw a silver-haired Southern belle nudge her friend and overheard her say, “Here in Mississippi we have two seasons: summer and football.” The giggles commenced as I silently cheered on my favorite team — autumn.
Whether you stand up and shout for Jackson State’s Sonic Boom of the South marching band, ring cowbells, or call yourself a Golden Eagle, it’s time for tailgating. It takes me all the way back to Kelli Shannon in fifth- and sixth-grade with her USM hair ribbons and shoelaces. Not much has changed since then with your favorite team’s logo stamped on everything from bumpers and umbrellas to key chains and pajamas, totes and even faces on game day. It’s a rite of passage for so many, some honoring a family tradition and others starting a new one.
I must make a confession. I’m homegrown, but I have never climbed the bleachers of a university stadium, never stood up and hollered for that touchdown on a Saturday. I have never been to the famous Grove, only getting as far as small-town Friday night football and then only to see my niece cheer. Still, I don’t have to step far outside to see that football is like the little black dress, always in fashion.
Along with scarecrows on bales of hay, raffia door wreaths and candied apples, folks plan their weekends with their favorite team’s schedule close at hand. Homecoming maids are crowned, dance troupes take the field at halftime, and memories are made regardless of your alma mater. The game is played on the field, but the team spirit and pride waft through the September and October air to the bleachers and box seats above, through television sets in living rooms and right into the hearts of so many fans.
I’m not anti-football. I recognize it’s more than Beyonce performing at the Super Bowl halftime, so hopefully my earlier confession won’t get me benched for the season. In fact, while I have never followed the game, I enjoy the trappings of the season very much, and I have made my contribution in other ways such as preparing hundreds of fashionable ladies to support their teams with good hair.
Fashions come and go, but a college jersey seems always to be in style. I have not chosen a team yet, but this year I hope to check that Southern rite off my bucket list, along with riding the Zipper at the state fair and carving a jack-o-lantern.
Does anybody have a suggestion for my team of choice?
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.
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