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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Like the warm and fuzzies? Get involved

COLUMN: Remember basketball? Oh now, sure you do – it’s that indoor sport you can’t tailgate for, before or during, that Ole Miss fans treat with the horrible paradox of indifference in the way of actual support and fierce, aggressive criticism.

Everyone within the limits of this readership seems to know basketball in late February. For seven long years Rebel fans heaped their frustrations upon Andy Kennedy and his players. They also offered a brand of armchair analysis so woefully uniformed (even among armchair analysis standards) that it reinforced the fatalist idea that this is, nor ever would be, a basketball community.

But oh, what a March it was in 2013 – a surprise slump-busting run through the conference tournament and a first-round win over Big 10 power Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament. Validation for AK! An olive branch for estranged fans! A recruitment drive for new fans!

That feels like a year ago, not six weeks. Case in point: Can you tell me, sans-Google, who Jerron Martin is? How about how many guards are going to be on the Rebels’ roster come 2013-14? Can you name the former Ole Miss basketball player taking over influential Jackson powerhouse Callaway High School?

When Ole Miss fans used to rise to a collective, grumpy crescendo talking about hoops in March and then seem to forget the sport entirely by May 1, their attitude had some merit. Now it doesn’t – the program reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament and won its conference tournament for the first time in decades — plural.

Now it’s uncouth to ignore the sport entirely, or worse, relegate it miles behind baseball and mighty football. Since the dust settled on the NCAA Tournament, the only legitimate conversation I’ve heard among Rebel fans was that if senior Murphy Holloway received an invite to the Baltimore Ravens’ rookie minicamp as a tight end, why wasn’t he playing the position all along for the Rebel football team?

That’s a common observation among some of the worst the Ole Miss community can offer – if the basketball team has any kind of standout athlete, he should be immediately ushered across campus to the care of Vaught-Hemingway. That’s heresy in Chapel Hill and Lexington, and while the Rebels aren’t at that level of hoops devotion, it should be in Oxford as well (By the way – Holloway was cut after a week, so it’s safe to say he was in the right place all along).

There’s a wonderful equity to be found in success, especially in sports.  Kennedy has it now more than ever, and while it’s never good business for a coach to make outright demands of his fans, allow me to set the mandate: If you like the warm and fuzzies that Selection Sunday gives, get involved. It’s counterintuitive to gripe and groan at full volume two months out of the season if you aren’t involved the rest of the time.

Now, Google the answer to those questions and continue tailgating. (May 14, 2013, Page 8)

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