Mississippians are passionate about our state. We know more about our famous alumni than most colleges. We celebrate our successes in spite (or because) of our status as the perennial underdog. And that means that when someone on the national stage disparages Mississippi, we attack… like Bulldogs, perhaps.
Midway through the first game of the College World Series finals, social media simmered with reports that the ESPN broadcast had taken at shot at the poorest state in the nation:
Even the university got in on the action:
I’ve reviewed the tape; here’s what was said:
Mike Patrick, play-by-play: “The coaches told us this morning, a lot of people came here from Mississippi – as that one rode in and caught him [Wes Rea] on the elbow – that can’t afford the trip, but they came here to support their kids. They are so proud of them and everybody is waiting for this team to explode, and [UCLA pitcher Adam] Plutko thought maybe he stuck the elbow out there.”
Kyle Peterson, color commentary: “You can just feel it now, too. They’re on their feet out in G.A. [General Admission]; anybody wearing maroon sensing this is the first chance they have to get to Plutko.”
Perhaps the comment wasn’t as venomous as it was made out to be. First, it is a statement attributed to the Mississippi State coaching staff, not Patrick’s own opinion. Second, the remark seems far more positive than negative, celebrating the fans – or possibly parents (“their kids”) – who sacrificed to make a 1,600-plus-mile roundtrip. It takes a good amount of reading between the lines to suggest Patrick and Peterson were belittling an entire state for its income level.
After watching the entire game, I came away with the impression that Mississippi State got more than a fair shake from the broadcast team. If anything, that 80% maroon crowd spurred coverage more favorable than that of UCLA.
The next day, ESPN released a statement acknowledging the comment and putting it in context:
“Mike was relaying information conveyed to him by the Mississippi State coaches celebrating the passion and dedication of its fan base. We look forward to continuing to showcase this great team to a national audience in Game 2 tonight.”
Mississippi State Athletic Director Scott Stricklin echoed the sentiment via Twitter:
But fans will always be fans, and when Mississippi is in the spotlight, we’re fans of our state.
Like during Hurricane Isaac in 2012, when someone at The Weather Channel allegedly referred to the area between New Orleans, La., and Mobile, Ala., as a “landmass.” This Facebook group sprung into action; t-shirts were sold; and Ole Miss
alum, er… former student Shepard Smith leapt to the state’s defense on Fox News.
Video confirmation of the remark never surfaced, leaving the Biloxi Sun Herald to wonder if it was ever uttered at all.
Now, the Mississippi State baseball team finds itself in Omaha for the finals of the College World Series. Playing for the school’s first national championship in any sport, fans flocked to Nebraska only to find at least one vendor selling an NCAA licensed t-shirt for the “Mississippi State Rebels” – combining the school’s name with the mascot of its rival, the University of Mississippi. And it’s true, Mississippians on both sides of the rivalry get tired of national broadcasters confusing the two schools. No commentator would dare call Florida State “Florida,” but there appears to be too much overlap between the names “Ole Miss” and “Mississippi State” to avoid a mix-up.
But these types of things are innocuous. It’s great to be proud of one’s home state – especially one that so desperately needs its best, brightest, and most passionate to stick around and contribute to the state’s growth. Let’s just make sure we’re justified before the landmass begins barking again.