Everybody say hi to this week's guest, The Ghost Of Jay Cutler from Red Cup Rebellion! Time to talk Ole Miss!
1. Just in case Mizzou ends up on this side of the conference at some point, I should ask ... how's football life in the SEC West? What are your goals from year to year knowing that there will be at least one, and perhaps two (or three) teams competing for the national title from the West?
2. Tailgating at The Grove: as good as advertised, or better?
3. What's the bigger sport at Ole Miss: baseball or men's basketball (or Other)?
4. At some point in the next 12 years, Mizzou fans will get a chance to visit Oxford again. Aside from The Grove, what should they make sure to see/do when in town?
Ghost Of Jay Cutler: 1. I love the SEC West even though it's a horrifying gauntlet of strong programs at the moment. It is important to note that, before Nick Saban, the SEC West was the stepchild of the East. Before Saban was hired at LSU, they were a mediocre and wildly inconsistent program. And Alabama at that time was pretty unstable as far as coaching and athletics administration is concerned. Florida, Tennessee, and even Georgia were stronger programs than any of those in the West.
My point is that this is all cyclical. Despite their clamoring to the contrary, LSU and Alabama aren't going to be the alpha dogs of the SEC forever.
All of that aside, though, I think reasonable goals for Ole Miss from year to year are bowl eligibility and victories over our rivals. If Hugh Freeze can build the program back to that level and maintain it, he'll have great job security. Also, a program at that level can, every few years, make some noise at a national level. Basically, what I'm describing is what Ole Miss was as a program under David Cutcliffe.
2. I'd say as good as advertised. Saying it's "better" than advertised would be adding hyperbole to a, frankly, hyperbolic representation the Grove has nationwide. I think the reason that people from outside of the SEC love the Grove so much is the pretension and the coeds wearing sun dresses. It is also very unique, so it has that going for it.
I'm not trying to knock the Grove. I love it. RedCupRebellion has a tailgate set up for most games (with a nice "RedCupRebellion.com" banner so our fans can find us) and it has been a great way for all of the blog's writers and readers to stay in touch and have some fun. I love the food, the drink, the company, and the location. But I, unlike a few Ole Miss fans, don't think that any other form of tailgating is inferior. What we do at Ole Miss is certainly good, but the tailgating at Alabama, LSU, Tennessee, and others is also really good. We just do things our own way. I'm not saying that it's better or worse than anything else - it's just unique.
3. The popularity of the Grove suggests that Ole Miss fans love doing two things: drinking and being outside. Since Ole Miss baseball allows for that, it's more popular than men's basketball.
There are a lot of bizarre blue laws throughout the Deep South, and Ole Miss/Oxford/Lafayette County are no exception, with each institution having its own set of (oftentimes contradictory) laws and regulations. For some reason or another, the confluence of blue laws in and around the Ole Miss campus has rendered the area beyond the outfield wall at Swayze Field fair game for beer consumption. You're free to bring coolers, which has led to the creation of the largest and certainly loudest student section in all of baseball.
Here, check this out:
While a very short video, it aptly captures both the size and enthusiasm of the Ole Miss baseball student section. What you see in the video is the ritualistic "home run shower" which is exactly what it sounds like - a celebratory toss skyward of one's beverage upon a Rebel home run.
If basketball were both outdoors and allowed for alcohol consumption, it'd have more fans at Ole Miss. That's not to say that Ole Miss doesn't have basketball fans, but it certainly ins't much of a draw against bad out-of-conference opponents or when the team is losing. The Tad Pad can be one of the loudest and most intimidating places to play in the SEC, and our home record under Andy Kennedy shows that. It can also seem like a ghost town.
We are building a new arena, though, and Andy Kennedy has been recruiting very well over the past couple of seasons, so perhaps there will be a renewed enthusiasm for Ole Miss basketball soon. Personally, I hope so, because I love college basketball.
4. Oh gosh, where to begin...
I will stick to the highlights and am happy to go into detail if anyone would like me to. Oxford is a really cool place, and it routinely makes all sorts of "best small towns" or "best college towns" type of lists. There's a pretty strong literary scene, as well as a good music scene and decent visual arts. The bars and restaurants are some of the best in the South, there's a good blend of all sorts of people, and the town's older architecture is very well preserved.
For cultural offerings, there's Rowan Oak, the home of William Faulkner, which is now a museum operated by the university; Square Books, the largest independently owned bookstore in America and a hangout for wannabe authors; The Lyric, which is an old movie theater turned print shop turned music venue that has played host to everything from The Flaming Lips to Snoop Dogg; and the Ole Miss campus itself which has a lot of history tied into the Civil Rights Era and the Civil War.
If you're looking for a place to eat, there are few places where one can go wrong in Oxford. My favorite restaurant right now is Snackbar, a cocktail/small plate type of place which is an excellent place to spend a Friday or Saturday evening with friends. It's the type of place where you order a few whiskey drinks, oysters on the half shell, and a charcuterie plate to split among friends. Next door to that is Big Bad Breakfast, which is a breakfast and lunch only place which makes everything from scratch. They even cure their own bacon and jar their own jams and jellies. Ajax is a great blue plate type of place for lunch which features some of the best Southern food I've ever had (their meatloaf is the most popular dish they serve). City Grocery and Boure are more genteel places - the type of place you'd take your parents - and are impossible to get a table for during a game weekend. While technically not in Oxford, Old Taylor Grocery is about a ten minute drive down into the middle of nowhere, and is perhaps the most Mississippian place ever established. It's a catfish house that allows brownbagging and features live music on Thursday and Friday nights.
For drinks, I like City Grocery (the second floor of the restaurant is a bar that has been on GQ's list of best bars in America several times) but, again, it's unpleasantly crowded during football weekends. The Library is the most famous bar in Oxford as well as the biggest, but it's mostly a place for undergraduates. It's technically three bars, with the sports bar and patio areas being 21+ and the main bar/dance floor area being 18+. Proud Larry's is a good spot that features good local live music most nights. The basement of the Rib Cage is a decent dive bar. Irie is a Caribbean themed place that has something like 30 beers on tap.
Really, I could write a thousand words or more describing each and every bar on or near the Square. They're all unique and have something to offer.
RPT: RIP All That Beer In The YouTube Video.
Ghost Of Jay Cutler: 1. My first question is the one I'm sure you've heard before and will continue to hear for at least another year, but how excited are Mizzou fans to be a part of the Southeastern Conference? Are there fans who wish to have remained associated with the BigXII, even if for nothing more than maintaining the awesome rivalry with KU (seriously, it's one of the best rivalries in college sports with the whole "Bleeding Kansas" history and whatnot)?
2. In which sport is Missouri going to first win an SEC championship?
3. What about the cultural identity of Missouri, both the state and the university, make them a good fit for the SEC?
4. Barbecue: St. Louis or Kansas City?
Michael Atchison: 1. Most Mizzou fans are ecstatic about the move, and most of the ones that aren’t understand why it had to be done. The Big 12 as we knew it didn’t exist anymore, and when it seemed that some peace had been reached, David Boren (Oklahoma’s president) said something about OU evaluating what was in OU’s best interest, and then it was clear that the best thing was to leave because there was no guarantee of any sustained stability. Geographically, it’s going to be a bit of a shock, especially for those of us on the state’s western side who have had easy access to Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State for a century’s worth of hostilities. And the separation from Kansas is a big deal, but you move on. Culturally, it’s going to be interesting. Last week, we had guests from Mississippi State who expressed that one of the great things about the SEC was the unifying effect of being southerners and banding together against forces north of the Mason-Dixon line. There are some people in Missouri who will identify with that, but there are tons who won’t.
2. Sadly, wrestling is not an option, and SEC softball is stacked. I actually think Mizzou has a puncher’s chance to win men’s basketball this season. I’ll go with that.
3. Missouri is a real mixed bag culturally. St. Louis and Kansas City are definitely Midwestern-style cities, with St. Louis tilting a little more eastern and Kansas City more western. The Ozark territory in the southern third of the state will fit just fine culturally. It borders Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee and it feels like it. The northern third of the state has a lot more in common with Iowa and Nebraska. I think Missouri will always be a bit of a cultural outlier in the league, and I think the predominance of professional sports will be a big part of that. Unlike Alabama and Mississippi where the SEC is everything, the NFL and Major League Baseball occupy a lot of attention and disposable dollars in Missouri.
4. This isn’t just because I’m from Kansas City, but the answer is Kansas City, and it’s easy. Just too many landmark places and great little places that no one knows. If the question is Italian food, St. Louis wins a rout. How’s that for diplomacy?
ghtd36: St. Louis barbecue is like Albuquerque Italian.
Bill C.: Or Texas barbecue.
/MAJOR shots fired
/also totally incorrect
Ghost Of Jay Cutler: To follow up, I was in Kansas City a couple of years ago (I have a good friend who works for the Chiefs, he hooked me up) and really liked Oklahoma Joe's. I have no idea if that's authentic KC barbecue, but I liked it all the same.
Bill C.: It really isn't as authentic as some of the classics (Bryant's, etc.), but it also might be the best in town. Hope you had the Z-Man sandwich (or got one for the road).
ghtd36: I would elect Z-Man for President. I recognize that Z-Man is not a human. I maintain my lone political stance.
The Beef: I may not have much to offer today (since I am in the Pacific Northwest in a training)....but...
Boy howdy do I love the Z-man. Second favorite sandwich behind Primanti Brothers
Michael Atchison: Dave’s and Beef’s out of office replies should really liven this thing up. We need to invite a St. Louisan to participate to take exception to the barbecue thing.
The Beef: I suppose I am the closest thing to a St. Louisan and I have never had BBQ on this side of the state
ZouDave: Glad to have you here this week, Red Cup Rebellion! Hotty Toddy, gosh almighty, who the hell are you?
1 - Most Missouri fans, and certainly this on in particular. are as excited as we can be to be joining the Southeastern Conference. There are definitely still fans that wish we were part of the Big XII, and a lot of those fans will probably never change their minds. Some of those want to stay with our historic roots and rivals, others don't see us as a cultural fit, and others think we're just going to get our brains beaten in every week. But I think even those that still want to be part of the Big XII see that this was the right decision for Mizzou, and are already starting to see some of the benefits of this move and we're not even officially in for another few days. The rivalry with kansas is definitely one of the best in college sports, and it's a shame nothing has been worked out yet to continue that great rivalry. I, and many others, firmly believe it's just going to take time (and not very much of it) before both sides do what is necessary and get back on the field/court. But, pettiness between the schools is part of what has made this rivalry so heated, it was just usually reserved for the fans and not the administrations.
For the record, it's kansas that won't continue the games. Mizzou is ready.
2 - Excellent question. I'd love to say wrestling, but the conference doesn't have wrestling! We're really good at softball, but so is the SEC. We're decent at baseball, but not close to the SEC's elite. Football...well, it's been 44 years since we won a conference title in football and I'm not going to expect one in the SEC for some time. But in basketball? Well there we will have a shot. We haven't won a conference championship since 1994, but we've been very good many years in that duration and just couldn't get over that kansas hump. It's not necessarily going to be any easier getting over that Kentucky hump, but that's where we're going to have our best shot. Honestly, it could happen this year.
3 - Missouri is every bit the middle of the country, geographically and culturally. We have portions of the state that are straight out of the South, we have big cities, we have farming communities, we have every season, sometimes all in one month, we have sections of the state that are very religion-focused, we have it all. So culturally, parts of our state are going to fit right in. Missourians are kind and considerate people by and large, so we'll get along. As for the University, it's a very good school with AAU membership that has a lot of top-flight programs that has a lot to offer the SEC academically. We're the biggest school in the state and the flagship school of that state, and our enrollment keeps getting bigger and bigger.
4 - Easiest question ever. Kansas City. Not a contest, not a discussion. It's what we do, it's who we are. KC is the BBQ capital of the world.
RPT: 1. Atch covered most of this. Most Missouri fans are absolutely thrilled, the majority of which are excited about the SEC itself and the others who are excited to be in a more stable conference no matter which one it was. In my experience, Missouri fans are wont to give in to a persecution complex, so being in a conference that values its collective worth as opposed to pitting programs against one another is a massively welcomed change.
2. Which will win first? Chronological order may be in play here, which means that Mizzou Volleyball probably has the best shot of the fall sports. The program has been extremely consistent in the past decade, with the Kreklows putting together NCAA Tournament teams in most years and making deep tournament runs on occasion. The team made the tournament last year despite having about 4-5 freshmen factoring heavily in to the rotation. The East is a tough volleyball division with UF, UK and UT, but Missouri could conceivably challenge for that title.
3. My favorite thing about Missouri is the same thing that gives the entire state its cultural identity crisis. It's not homogenous. It's equal parts Midwest and Southern. St. Louis wants to be Chicago. Kansas City is like a massive Fort Worth (not meant as a shot, KC). The small towns south of I-70 would fit right in with much of the south. If you're insulated in any one of these groups, you'll fight to the death that the state culture is either Midwestern or Southern. But as you meet more people around the state, you start to realize what a mixture of these two cultures it really is.
4. Though there's a smokehouse or two in STL that are objectively strong, that's Kansas City's game, no doubt. The sheer number of options in KC make it no contest. STL owns Italian food and beer (YEAH, I SAID IT, BOULEVARD APOLOGISTS. #TeamSchlafly).
ghtd36: I'm one of the guys who wishes Mizzou would've stayed in the Big XII (for cultural and tradition reasons), but ZouDave's right that we on this side also recognize that it's the right decision financially and stability-wise.
The Beef: Woo hoo #TeamSchlafly!!
Michael Atchison: Dave, you could have just put quotation marks around my response and saved yourself a lot of effort typing.
ZouDave: Shutup, Atch, or I'll send you my Out-of-Office reply again.
Michael Atchison: That would be a more original effort than your answers to the questions.
ghtd36: I have to admit...I don't think I've ever really eaten STL Italian. But Provel is gross
RPT: Seconded. Provel is the Kansas of cheeses and perhaps the Kansas of all foods.
Michael Atchison: Actually, Ft. Worth is like a little Kansas City.
And Schlafly makes some nice beers, but come on. I just had the Boulevard Saison-Brett. Checkmate.
The Beef: Only makes sense they put it on their crappy thin-crust pizza
ghtd36: QUICK. EVERYONE PILE ON ST. LOUIS' TERRIBLE PIZZA.
And Atch, you're onto something: Fort Worth is an underrated town.
RPT: Since I love arguing about stupid semantics, Kansas City is the country's largest "town" and St. Louis is one of the country's smaller "cities."
If this makes no sense, just smile and nod.
Michael Atchison: Smiling, nodding.
Ghost Of Jay Cutler: I have family from Fort Worth and love visiting. I'd much rather live in Ft. Worth than Dallas.
Oh, speaking of beer, I really enjoy Boulevard and Schlafly, and I hope some of you Show-Me-Staters can make it south and drink some of the stuff we have going on in Mississippi. Lazy Magnolia has some good stuff.
ZouDave: For the record:
Also, Oklahoma Joes (while awesome) is owned by beakers. I'm glad that it's not very close to where I live so it's easy for me to avoid, because I don't WANT to support it.
RPT: I don't know about you guys, but I could greatly use a primer on local beers from SEC country. Knew about the beers in the Big 12 and the beers in the midwest, as well as bourbon from the southeast, but my quest for SEC beer desperately needs a guide.
Bill C.: By the way, provel tastes great with bologna. Processed + processed = surprisingly great.
RPT: Provel and bologna?
Bill C.: Have you tried it? I DIDN'T THINK SO.
RPT: I also haven't tried heroin and I feel good about that decision too.
ZouDave: I haven't tried hitting myself in the face with a hammer, either...I have a feeling I know whether I'd like it or not.
Bill C.: So you haven't tried it then.
ghtd36: /spreads margarine on spam
ghtd36: Slightly off-topic: just got an e-mail from Mizzou asking for a donation. C'mon, man. You guys just got $30 million handed to you. I'm starting to think Truman is the inspiration for Jesse Pinkman.
SleepyFloyd7: $30M is not the finish line Tep. And unless you were part of the KC Sports Trust consortium, then roll-em-up.
RPT: Did you receive an e-mail from MU or from Mizzou Athletics? Because if you act like they're the same revenue stream, I might have an aneurysm.
ghtd36: I'm just saying that asking for money the day after getting $30 million and loudly declaring that your new building "will pay for itself" seems like non-ideal timing.
Michael Atchison: I think I’ll donate to the University of Missouri Press instead.
ghtd36: It was sent to me by Truman the Tiger. No, seriously, that's who it's addressed by.
Michael Atchison: Truman is a Nigerian prince. Send him the cash. He’ll pay you back.
ghtd36: That explains why he called me "SIR OR MADAME".
ghtd36: Might as well hit all the RMN Roundtable hotspots and move into TV:
Anyone care to review The Newsroom?
Michael Atchison: I wish I could, but I gave up HBO years ago when I realized I was paying for it but my TV was constantly tuned to Nickelodeon instead.
ghtd36: I've always enjoyed Aaron Sorkin's work (RIP Sports Night), so I'm inclined to give it a chance...though the reviews have been...um...less than favorable.
Ghost Of Jay Cutler: I'm too poor to afford cable.
Michael Atchison: Sports Night may be my favorite show of all-time. I’ve watched the episodes enough that I’ve started to pick out errors in the broadcasts (for those who haven’t seen it, the show revolves around the production of a show called Sports Night that is very much like SportsCenter). Sometimes, they’ll report on two sports that don’t have seasons that overlap, or there’s one episode where they’re all in the studio on a Saturday for wall to wall coverage of the NCAA sweet sixteen. Of course, the Sweet Sixteen is played exclusively on Thursday and Friday nights. By the time Saturday comes, you’re down to the Elite Eight.
And speaking of Sorkin, has everyone seen the Sorkin Supercut?
RPT: Speaking of Sports Night, how is it that Canada got the closest thing the world has to offer to Casey McCall and Dan Rydell?
Michael Atchison: Ah, yes, Greg, that’s the inspiration for one of the great rock and roll songs ever.
ghtd36: Man, SportsCentre doesn't even seem like the same stratosphere as SportsCenter.
In a side note, SportsCenter is completely unwatchable now.
The Beef: Oh I don’t know...I was up at 3am local time this morning and it seemed plenty watchable for the 4 hours I had to kill before I actually had to get up
SleepyFloyd7: He said "watchable," not "enjoyable with no repercussions for your eternal soul"
ghtd36: This is an important sports point, Sleepy.
SleepyFloyd7: This is my niche.
Michael Atchison: I kind of like the west coast guys. I heard Neil Everett drop a Hudson Brothers reference into the show today, and I like having the feeling that I’m one of only four people in the world that gets it.
Ghost Of Jay Cutler: Ah yes! A beer primer! I don't know why I let this one slip through the cracks.
While my Southern beer experience has been limited as of late (I live in DC now, which doesn't have a lot of the beers brewed in the Deep South), I can offer my opinion on a few beers and breweries of note.
Tennessee has the Yazoo Brewing Company, a name which I find odd considering that the Yazoo river is in Mississippi - seriously, why would some folks from Nashville name their beer after a geographical feature that isn't even in their own state? That aside, they have some fine beers including Hop Project and Dos Perros Ale.
In Mississippi there's the aforementioned Lazy Magnolia. Their flagship beer is Southern Pecan, a brown ale reminiscent of English ales that is flavored with roasted pecans. Indian Summer is a spicy, crisp ale of theirs that has become more popular as of late. I'm not too keen on the Reb Ale (get it, like "Rebel") even though I feel I should be.
Perhaps the most famous Southern brewery is Abita out of Abita Springs, Louisiana. I absolutely love Abita Andygator, which is a high gravity helles doppelbock that can't be beat when it's hotter than hell outside. I also dig their Jockamo IPA and the Save Our Shores Pilsener.
Sweetwater out of Atlanta is also pretty popular. The Sweetwater 420 Extra Pale Ale is their "flagship" beer, so to speak. It's full and crisp and pours very nicely.
Those are the big ones. Alabama has, in the past few years, apparently opened up a lot of new breweries. I think I've had something from the "Good People Brewery" or something like that, but I can't recall exactly.
Michael Atchison: I’m sure the folks at Yazoo are just big Alison Moyet fans.
SleepyFloyd7: Southern Pecan had me drifting a little here at work....
This is an important question, Cups - over the next 25 years, who will we hate the most (as a fanbase) in the SEC? With whom will our most heated internet exchanges come?
ghtd36: BREAKING: Noted ESPN.com contributor (and esteemed Mizzou alum) Wright Thompson
Ghost Of Jay Cutler: Mizzou alum, yes, but also an Ole Miss season ticket holder. He lives in Oxford. The more you know.
Michael Atchison: Yeah, we know. It was the cause of some controversy a few years back.
Michael Atchison: In his defense, he’s referring to the food, not the beer. I think the food is pretty good, but the beer is definitely the star.
ghtd36: Agree; the beer makes Flat Branch great. But man...I could live on Flat Branch burgers. I'd only live to see 30, but I could live on them.
Bill C.: I mean, it's bar food, so I guess that makes it overrated, but it's REALLY REALLY REALLY GOOD BAR FOOD. Burgers: awesome. Pizza: solid. Green chili chicken fingers: to die for. Buffalo meatloaf: outstanding. Sauces: great.
The Beef: Knew I should have punched Wright when I had the chance in Harpos all those years ago. Only a very good friend stopped me...would have been the only person I ever punched FIRST in my life
Ghost Of Jay Cutler: I have no idea what this place is, but I will say that the difference between good bar food and bad bar food is night and day.
I used to live in Virginia across the street from this brewpub that had literally the best chicken wings I've ever eaten. Nothing I've come across comes close to these wings. They were so good that, if you dressed them up and gave them a silly name with lots of accent marks (Poulet L'Occitane avec sauce Buffaleaux or something) you could sell them for four or five times the price.
ghtd36: Amen on the "good bar food" point. Bad bar food doesn't hurt a bar, but great bar food can certainly improve it exponentially.