The first game I ever watched Ole Miss play was on New Years Day 1955: Navy 21 — Rebels 0. Not listened to on the radio, you understand, but actually saw. By then I had several years of listening to radio games under my belt.
On a cold gray November day in 1950 I recall sitting in front of an early winter fire in the fireplace listening while Jimmy Lear and Ken Barfield and Showboat Boykin, etc. got their butts kicked in Knoxville. … and thinking our boys have gone off up north and are gonna freeze to death and never get back home! My earliest recollection of an actual game. (I’m sure that I had listened before then … I just don’t have specific memory.) I could see those games in my mind as clearly as any picture would ever, later, show on TV.
Of the literally hundreds of Ole Miss games I have watched since that New Years Day in New Orleans: last Saturday, in Knoxville … on a bright warm November day … I witnessed Ole Miss play with the least intensity and passion of a half-century of running onto a football fields.
The best friend I have made since my college days lives in Knoxville, was an All-American on the really good Tennessee teams in the mid ’60’s. Charlie and I go to a fair number of games together. Last year I took him to Oxford. He had not been to a game there since 1962. We watched the Rebels win in a thriller: Dexter McCluster at his best.
My youngest brothers ( twins ) had never been to a game at Neyland Stadium. They are both as passionate about their football as is any good Southern boy. They made the trek up on Friday. I headed west on I-40. Destination: A Football Saturday in the South! We all meet at Charlie’s house. (Susie came over to Asheville, spent the weekend with Ginny.)
Charlie was event-guide extraordinaire. The day, the weather, was perfect. Tennessee football legends showed up to be introduced right on cue, as if by magic. We encountered any number of Mississippi souls we had known in the past. The crowd was great. Later we grilled some steaks, onions, okra, potatoes, and tomatoes; drank some good red wine. Susie had baked some excellent bread before heading off to Asheville. We told tales ( and maybe a lie or two! ) late into the evening.