Don’t Kill Ole Miss, Part 2

You know, I just hate it when people carp and complain and criticize without offering any suggestions on remedying the problem at hand.

Therefore, I’m going to continue the discussion I started the other day regarding Ole Miss’s mascot, or more correctly, the absence of a mascot.

Here are my suggestions to waylay the death of my beloved alma mater:

  • Bring back Colonel Reb. I’m NOT talking about that cartoony caricature of a colonel that was used most recently. I’m talking about a real, live Colonel Reb. A male student with some athletic ability who can rally crowds with lots of spirit, somebody with class and dignity who can represent this University wherever its athletic teams go. I’m talking about someone who can liaison between the cheerleaders, the band, the students, and the alumni. And I don’t care whether this person is white, black, pink, or green — he should bleed “red and blue”!
  • Colonel Reb’s attire. Cheerleader-type slacks, perhaps in gray with gold stripes down the sides of the legs, and a matching gray top (long-sleeved for cold weather, short-sleeved for hot) with gold military-looking embroidered thin stripes across the chest.
  • Spirit. Admittedly, I haven’t been to a football game in years, but do we have anything to take the place of our Confederate Flag? I understand the administration banned it, claiming it was “offensive.” Personally, I don’t see it as anything more than a symbol of Ole Miss, not something of “white oppression.” Why, it’s no more offensive than Mississippi State snubbing Golden Retrievers in favor of the English Bulldog! But if fans can’t wave the flag, what can we use — red and blue pom poms maybe? Or red, white, and blue hand towels to twirl? Or those annoying Vuvuzela horns used at soccer games? Or maybe somebody can invent a noisemaker (like a kazoo) for us?
  • Songs. Okay, when did we eliminate “Dixie” from our song-list? Talk about taking away everything! Sigh. Since we no longer can play/sing this rousing song, perhaps it’s time to initiate a new tradition. How about the playing/singing of our Alma Mater before games or at halftime? I didn’t know until I graduated that we even had an Alma Mater! The words are beautiful; so’s the melody. It could be very moving if everyone learned the words, rose to their feet, and joined in together.

Here’s the thing, people. I’ve heard and read far too many complaints that spirit at Ole Miss is down, that those attending games are lifeless, that we have nothing tangible to bind us together, generation to generation. That’s unacceptable.

Tradition is a big part of life. Greek organizations have their traditions; religious denominations, countries, universities, and even families have theirs. Alums should be able to go back to their university and feel “right at home,” knowing the old traditions are intact and open to adopting some new ones.

I’ve said it before — people don’t choose or reject a university based on its colors, mascot, or traditions. They learn to embrace and love those traditions, often before they even go off to kindergarten. And if they can’t stomach them, they choose another place to further their education. That’s the beauty of freedom.

Don’t Kill Ole Miss!

I received something in my e-mail this morning and am still distressed over it.

It seems my alma mater, Ole Miss, hasn’t had a mascot on its athletic fields since 2003. That’s going on a decade, people!

We used to be the Rebels. Our mascot was a white-haired, suited-up Southern gentleman called Colonel Reb. Our main fight songs were “Dixie” and “Rebel March.” Our flag was the flag of the Confederacy.

So much has changed since I was a student.

And it’s not for the better.

Now I realize in this politically correct culture that certain things had to go by the wayside, but everything?

If I — raised in the North — could rally behind Southern traditions, could embrace them whole-heartedly, could (in short time) fall in love with this university, then anybody could.

Those who can’t should choose another school — period — rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.

A similar thing happened at the University of Illinois a few years back when a very adamant minority convinced the administration that Chief Illiniwek, their student-portrayed Sioux mascot, was “offensive” and “racist.”

I didn’t think so. Still don’t.

But they banned the Chief, leaving the Illini without a mascot.

Just like us Rebels.

Recently, I received an online survey asking me to weigh in on the list of proposed mascots someone had come up with to represent Ole Miss. Talk about a joke! Who in their right mind could rally behind a horse or a lion or two goofy thing-a-ma-bobs named “Hotty” and “Toddy,” for cryin’ out loud??

It infuriates me that this great university has fallen to such depths. No wonder enrollment is down. No wonder students don’t feel any camaraderie there. No wonder alumni are frustrated and frantically searching for ways to inject life into an institution they love.

Some students at Ole Miss have even begun a campaign to select Admiral Ackbar as mascot. He’s got lasers, they say. True, but he’s also this gosh-awful ugly catfish-looking creature from Star Wars.

You can’t blame the kids for trying, but why mess with a good thing?

I don’t believe students choose a university based on its mascot. Nor do I believe they refuse to attend a university based on its mascot. Just take a look at some of the silly mascots on college football fields today — mules at West Point, blue devils at Duke, Stanford’s tree, Syracuse’s orange, the Ohio State buckeye.

Still, there’s something to be said for Tradition. Something to be gained by binding generation after generation with the same songs, cheers, mascots, and symbols.

Something to be mourned when traditions die.

Those who seek to abolish all traces of what Ole Miss stands for need to be stopped in their tracks.

And the only way I can think of to stop them is by hitting them where it hurts — their wallets.

So the next time that perky student calls to ask for your donation, politely tell them ‘No, not until today’s Ole Miss returns to the glory that was Ole Miss.’

HOTTY TODDY!!! GO REBELS!!

Conquering Fear, Notre Dame Football Recap

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”

A week ago, Eleanor’s thoughts never crossed my mind. I was too busy fretting — worrying whether there would be heavy traffic on the Friday of Labor Day weekend, worrying if My Favorite Domer would have time between all his Band and class activities to pick up the “winter woolies” I was bringing him, worrying where I could park my car during the football game, worrying whether I could find my seat in such a big stadium, worrying if I could stand being in a crowd of thousands, worrying whether I’d brought the right clothes. . . .

Worry, they say, is like a rocking chair — gives you something to do but doesn’t get you anywhere.

Logically I knew that. Knew I was a mess. Knew I wasn’t trusting my own good instincts.

Emotionally I didn’t care.

I was hanging onto my worries and my fears, doggone it, and don’t even try to convince me otherwise!

How silly.

I left early Friday morning, beating most of the other travelers to my destination. MFD and I hauled coats, jeans, hoodies, etc. to his dorm between classes. And I got to enjoy some of his Band practices.

Piece of cake.

That gave me courage to tackle Saturday.

Again, I left the hotel early and found just the right parking spot. Skies were partly cloudy, temps were cool but I had a jacket.

I toured campus. Took lots of photos. Talked to other visitors and parents. Found an usher in the Stadium to direct me to my seat. Got to yell and scream and jump to my feet without feeling like a weirdo. And enjoyed a candlelight birthday dinner with MFD after the game.

It couldn’t have been more perfect!

As Notre Dame takes to the field this afternoon for their match-up against Michigan, I’ll be there in spirit. One of legions of fans bound together by tradition, loyalty, and love.

You’ll recognize me — I’ll be the one with misty eyes when I hear the beloved songs again, the one on my feet yelling (at the TV set) with the other fans, the one wishing I could be there in person, the one confident I will be for future games.

GO IRISH!!

Feelings surrounding my Notre Dame Weekend

Feelings are part of our senses, too, so I’ll try to compress all the emotions that washed over me during this past football weekend at Notre Dame.

  • Awe. Notre Dame, first and foremost, is a Catholic institution of higher learning. While they are immensely proud of that, they do more than just tolerate other faiths — they embrace them. Yes, there are chapels in every dorm; yes, there are crucifixes in classrooms; and yes, there’s a 19-foot tall golden statue of Mary atop the Main Building. But nobody is forced to become Catholic; indeed, there’s a plethora of religious organizations on campus for a wide variety of faiths. That they all co-exist so serenely is inspiring (maybe the entire world should take note!).
  • Peace. Notre Dame’s campus is chock-full of places where one can contemplate. The sheer number of unusual-looking trees overshadowing wooden benches makes for a hallowed feeling. The 14-story Hesburgh Library offers plenty of places to read and stretch one’s mind. And the Grotto with its kneeling rail and vigil candles provides a spot where even the most troubled spirit can find calm.
  • Jealousy. I might sound like an old geezer here, but I’ve got to admit to a teeny bit of jealousy — at these kids’ youth, their brightness, their exuberance, the possibility that some of them will cure diseases or save lives or make the world a better place — and they’ve got time on their hands to do so.
  • Anticipation. You know that heart-racing excitement you get when something wonderful is about to happen, and it can’t happen fast enough for you? That’s it! This was my first time to hear what a 400-plus member Band sounds like, to be part of 81,000 screaming fans packed shoulder to shoulder in an open-air football stadium, to re-visit some of the spots on campus  I’d only glanced at on earlier (and busier!) trips, to see (in person, no TV commercial breaks!) a college football game again.
  • Self-satisfaction. Hey, I faced my fears, stepped out of my comfort zone, whatever you want to call it — and was rewarded with the adventure (and memory) of a lifetime! It doesn’t get much better than that!
  • Pride. Watching My Favorite Domer in his habitat, smiling at the ease with which he greets fellow students, realizing how seriously he takes his obligation of being in the Band and his studies, knowing this great university is the right place for him — well, I can’t help feeling proud. What a difference a few years make — as his mom, I still remember the brave little boy walking into preschool without looking back!

I’ll wrap up my journey down Memory Lane tomorrow — though this won’t be the last of my blogging. I’d love to hear your thoughts on my adventure!

Sights from Notre Dame

Everybody knows “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

The “wordsmith” in me doesn’t particularly like that statement, but I’m realistic enough to know it’s probably a tru-ism. With that in mind, I’m sharing some of my favorite photos from my weekend at Notre Dame. Enjoy!

The Band of the Fighting Irish during march-out Friday afternoon

National Championship banners line the tunnel at Notre Dame Stadium

The Grotto for prayer and reflection

Bagpipe Band serenades campus

Some of the estimated 81,000 in attendance

Irish practice scrimmage before the game vs. Purdue

Students doing pushups after the Irish score some points

Post-game, football team faces student section and sings the Alma Mater

Tomorrow, I’ll add to this Memory Book from my first-of-many Notre Dame weekends to come!

Smells from Notre Dame

Think you know where I’m going with this one, right?

As a writer, I have to “exercise” all my senses, and scent is definitely one of them. So here goes:

  • Incense. Mass at the Basilica on Sunday morning featured the newly-installed Bishop of Lafayette, IN. While he obviously was a Purdue fan, Notre Dame welcomed him, and he returned the welcome — dousing all of us with tons of blessed incense. Thank goodness for air conditioning, which helped clear the air!
  • Grilling. The individual dorms set up luncheon fare — brats, hot dogs, burgers, etc. — on the grounds outside, and students hawked their wares at passersby. The pungent odor of charcoal blended with the scent of magic markers (used to write out their prices on poster board signs).
  • Cigarettes. Being from Illinois, where smoking has been all-but-banned in every public space, I’ve gotten used to the clean smell of fresh air. Our neighbors to the East, however, haven’t opted for this type of law. Consequently, I found lots of cigar and cigarette smoke wafting across campus (though smoking IS banned in Notre Dame Stadium!)
  • Clothing. Because it turned cool early, people brought out hoodies, jackets, and jeans — all of which have a distinctive scent. Perhaps it’s mustiness from being in a closet or drawer for so long; maybe it’s simply newness from being purchased that day at the campus bookstore!
  • Brass. Band instruments made of brass — trumpets, trombones, tubas, etc. — offer up a metallic smell as their owners march past.
  • Dog. Surprisingly, many people brought their dogs to campus to watch the festivities. I saw a Puggle (Beagle-Pug mix), a Goldendoodle (Golden Retriever-Poodle mix), and many others (one wearing a cute Notre Dame bandanna!)
  • Grass. No, not the drug! I’m talking about freshly-cut green grass, the kind you walk on. The scent of mud blended with the grass and reminded me just how beautiful this campus is — in every season.
  • Beer. Okay, you knew I had to smell that! While officials are fairly rigid about prohibiting alcohol inside Notre Dame Stadium, tailgate parties were being held all over the place — parking lots, nearby hotels, and I expect dorms. In addition, I saw people carrying beer cans around campus, heard more than a few slurred words, and got a whiff of brew whenever people opened their mouths to talk or cheer.
  • Cologne. Not just on the women but on the men, too, in the form of after-shave lotion, antiperspirant, etc. Much better than plain-old sweat!

Join me as I do some more reminiscing tomorrow.

Sounds from Notre Dame

Okay, I know most people would write about “sights” first, but I’ve always liked shaking things up a bit!

From the peace and calm of the Basilica and the Grotto to the wail of sirens, the screams of fans, and the blare of the Band, Notre Dame is a sea of sounds over a home football weekend.

  • The Grotto. How many universities in this country have their very own “prayer-place” where the silence weighs heavily despite the throngs nearby?
  • The Basilica. Commonly referred to as the “wedding factory” because of the sheer volume of weddings it hosts (never on football Saturdays, though!), the Basilica of the Sacred Heart is where the entire football team and coaching staff go — clad in suits and ties — before home games.
  • St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s Lakes. Complete with a real swimming swan, no less.
  • The circle. Plenty of benches to rest you, fat squirrels to entertain you, shade to cool you (but, with temps hovering in the 50s and 60s, that certainly wasn’t necessary!)
  • Campus tours. Led by students who walk backwards while carrying on a running commentary, these are a great way to see campus and hear some interesting tidbits of the past and the present.
  • Bagpipe Band. Comprised of kilt-wearing students, this group parades around campus playing bagpipes and drums; they also hold a short concert on the morning of a home game.
  • Band of the Fighting Irish. Approximately 400-strong, this group is the heart and spirit of the University! Some of their traditions for football weekends include Trumpets in the Dome, a Concert on the Steps of the architecture building, march-outs around campus, as well as pregame, half-time, and post-game performances.
  • Clarke Memorial Fountain. AKA ‘Stonehenge,’ this limestone fountain features water splashing into a black granite pool; no matter the temps, you can find swimsuit-clad students (mostly males) with immense plastic blow-up rafts and other water toys awaiting the Band’s arrival and cheering wildly.
  • Leprechaun. Yes, a student chosen as the green-suited, acrobatic leprechaun to help the cheerleaders keep the noise pulsating before, during, and after games.
  • Fans. Dads playing an impromptu game of catch with their young sons, moms helping paint their daughters’ fingernails alternating colors of navy and gold, students running to and fro chattering excitedly, fans of the opposing team arriving and people actually being polite and nice to the visitors.
  • The Stadium. You just can’t help hearing “the Echos” of past generations in tradition-rich cheers, chants, and ceremonies — the blessing the players receive in the tunnel before the game, the singing of “America the Beautiful,” the raising of the American Flag, the playing of numerous school songs, and the singing of the Alma Mater at the conclusion, when the entire football team proceeds to the student section, links arms, and sways from side to side!

I’ll continue reminiscing tomorrow!

Notre Dame Football, part 1

I just got back from my first football weekend at Notre Dame, and I’m stoked to capture it all! But, writer that I am, I took in so many impressions I’ll have to break them up over a few days’ time.

Let’s get the preliminaries out of the way today.

This was a BIG DEAL for me. I imagine lots of people go to college football games every year, but I’m one who hasn’t.

Not that I haven’t wanted to.

It’s just that I live 500 or so miles from my alma mater (Go Rebels!), and that’s a pretty far piece to travel for a three-hour game.

So I watch on TV every Saturday, screaming at the screen, yelling with the fans, and scaring my poor Sheltie senseless!

And even when I was an undergrad, I was in the Band all four years, so I never really had to figure out the logistics of attending a game. Things like: how do you get a ticket, where can you park, what can you bring (or not bring) into the stadium, how do you find your seat.

That sort of thing.

So last year, when My Favorite Domer asked me to come to a Notre Dame game, I panicked and put him off. Couldn’t get tickets, couldn’t get a hotel room.

‘Fraidy-cat. Big time.

This year, he tried again, only he was ready for my excuses. He fired up his laptop and found me a convenient hotel (so it was in the next county, but Indiana isn’t that big!); he even sent me a link to order my tickets online.

How could I refuse?

My sister (who’s been married forever) said I was very brave to try something like this by myself. Several friends, jealous they couldn’t get tickets for the season’s first game under a brand new coach, insisted I take LOTS of pictures so they could experience it vicariously. Even my mom volunteered to go with me and stay in the hotel “so I wouldn’t be alone.”

They thought I was NUTS for wanting to be alone!

But I wasn’t. There were 80,000-plus fans screaming right alongside me!

Tomorrow, I’ll share more sights and sounds from campus.