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When Your Losing Football Team Brings Your Family Together

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
November 3, 2022 3:04 am

When Your Losing Football Team Brings Your Family Together

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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November 3, 2022 3:04 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Nancy Ball shares how “Being an Ole Miss Fan is in and of Itself a Lesson in Humility.”

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Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. And we return to our American stories. And up next, we have a listener story from Nancy Ball. Nancy lives in Birmingham, Alabama, but grew up in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. Today, Nancy reflects on her childhood with a short story she wrote called Being an Ole Miss fan is in and of itself a lesson in humility.

Ole Miss is the college here in our small town of Oxford, Mississippi, a mere hour south of Memphis and for anyone who's been a fan of a perennial losing team. Whether you were a Chicago Cubs fan or you are a New York Giants football fan, you know what I'm talking about. Here's Nancy to share her story. Until I went away to a college located in a big metropolitan city. It was then that I realized that not everyone had a similar childhood as mine. Of course, that is not to say that a childhood spent in a small town versus a large city is superior.

I had just never given the differences much thought. Childhood spent in a small town was all I knew. Additionally, most people who I encountered during my childhood had also grown up in similar environments. I was under the impression that all childhoods consisted of small towns where everyone knew each other's names and their family histories going back for several generations.

I thought everyone else's small grocery store allowed its eight-year-old customers to charge their purchases to their family's account with a simple signature. I thought everyone else had a family reunion party on Christmas Eve which had an attendance over 80 of their most beloved family members. I thought everyone else had worked in cotton fields and driven a tractor. It wasn't until I moved to a big city that I realized how seemingly unique my childhood had been amongst my peers. This was also confirmed by the fact that oftentimes when I would tell a story of my childhood or about life in general back home, the listener's eyes would grow large and at the end of the story they would respond with this simple wow or better yet that is a new one in me.

That in turn gave me reason to cherish my childhood all the more. For my day job, I am an estate planning attorney which means I regularly advise clients going through personal crises. I often hear how they wouldn't wish their current situation on anyone because it is beyond awful. One particular situation clients often struggle with is family estrangement. I recently read a book seeking to find out more about family estrangement as a book provided research on the reasons why such an event may occur.

I was surprised to discover that the author's research suggests that perhaps 25 percent of all families in the United States, if not more, have an estrangement within their family. A few years ago, I drove the four-hour trip to see my beloved grandfather as his health was failing him. As we were talking, my grandfather brought up the subject of my career and all of the family struggles I had encountered. He then drew in a deep breath and paused as he looked out into his yard for a while.

He then turned back to me as he said in a matter-of-fact tone, well there is nothing you can do to make me quit loving you. Shortly thereafter, my grandfather died. I started to reflect on the values that my grandfather and others had passed on to me which I now wish to instill in my children. The result to my great surprise was that I could not quit writing. I have written 50 stories about my family and growing up in rural Mississippi which hopefully provides some core life lessons I can pass on to my children. I could probably write 200 more stories.

After I'd written a good bit of these stories, I began to wonder if there was any sort of magic to living in a small town that can't be found in a big city. I, like most parents, want my children to be smart, well-loved, and well-rounded. But more than anything, I want them to be good people.

I want them to be kind to each other and to others they encounter. In many ways, they will have a completely different environment for their childhood than I had. One way I can instill these small-town life lessons in them is to tell them the stories of my childhood.

Today, I am going to share one of those stories with you. I am a third-generation Ole Miss student. My dad attended graduate school at Ole Miss. My grandfather was an undergraduate student at Ole Miss. I grew up going to Ole Miss for football games and other events for most of my life. I grew up hearing about the Ole Miss football great Archie Manning and his wife, the homecoming queen, Olivia Manning.

Ironically, Archie grew up in the same rural Mississippi county as I did. I also heard about the glory days of Coach Fault, who was the last coach to lead Ole Miss to win a football national championship, which occurred in the year 1962. He had also led the football team to win the Southeastern Conference Championship for six years during this time frame. Ole Miss has not won either of these titles since Coach Fault.

He retired in the year 1970. During my childhood, I saw the hurt looks on the faces of my father and grandfather when Peyton Manning, the son of Archie and Olivia Manning, decided to attend a school other than Ole Miss. I also saw their looks of pure joy when their younger son Eli Manning decided to attend Ole Miss. I have seen Ole Miss football through some pretty dismal seasons. I recall one game in which the opposing team's quarterback took a knee during every down of the third quarter.

You heard this correctly. This happened in the third quarter. For those of you who are not football fans, this is not good.

In fact, it is practically unheard of as it is an outright recognition by one team that they are not evenly matched with their opponent. The quarterback was trying to prevent his team from scoring any more points as the game was already a bloodbath, with the quarterback's team being up on Ole Miss by almost 50 points. My father never let us leave a football game before it was over, as he said that was not who we were. He would usually say in response to requests to leave a game early, something along the lines of, we need to support the team no matter what happens.

We need to respect their effort. However, my father made an exception to his policy for that particular game and we left early. In November 2003, Ole Miss was having one of those rare football seasons where they were winning a good bit due in large part to the play of Eli Manning. Anyone associated with Ole Miss football could just sense that something different was going to happen that year. We seem to be destined for something better than finishing at our usual bottom or middle if we were lucky of the SEC football conference. So the weekend came for the annual Ole Miss vs. LSU football rivalry matchup game right before Thanksgiving.

The winner of that game would secure the title of the top team of the SEC West and go on to play in the SEC championship game in Atlanta. The scalp ticket prices for the game were at record levels. Before the game, I mentioned to my dad that he should consider selling our season tickets to make a nice profit. He was downright offended at this suggestion.

In his mind, that might as well have been treason. My dad insisted that we would both attend the game as we had earned the right to attend this game after sitting through so many losing games. He was also sure that we were going to see history in the making. So there we were sitting in our regular well-loved seats in upper level section C of the stadium towards the end of regulation play with Ole Miss down 17-14. Eli Manning and Ole Miss were in position to make a game-winning drive.

The energy in the stadium was palpable. At this point, my dad did one of the most amazing things I have ever seen him do. He pulled out of his pants pocket, a picture button pin, without saying a word, proceeded to attach it to his shirt. As I leaned in to further inspect the pin, I fully expected there to be a picture of Eli Manning on it, similar to the other buttons I had seen that day being worn by so many of the other Ole Miss fans. To my great surprise, it was not a picture of Eli Manning, but rather it was a picture of Archie Manning, which my father, who can't seem to ever keep up with his reading glasses, had kept from his childhood. The pin had not seen the light of day in 30-plus years. I looked at the pin and then looked at my dad in shock as a smile broke across his face as he said, I had been saving this pin for the perfect occasion.

I didn't know whether to cry or cheer in that moment, so I did a little bit of both. Ole Miss did not win the game that day, and Eli Manning went on to play in the NFL. My dad often jokes that we may have to wait until another Manning attends Ole Miss in order to have a chance at playing in any championship games.

While my dad says this in a joking manner, I know that he is not entirely joking. He closely follows the births of the members of the next generation of the Manning family, knows each of their genders and ages, and follows any press materials about their athletic abilities. Knowing my father, that Archie Manning pin has gone back into his dresser for another special occasion. That occasion may not come during my father's lifetime or even during my lifetime. It may not come until my young son is an adult.

When it does, my son will have that pin and he will be ready. And a great job as always by Madison on the production and the storytelling on that piece. And a special thanks to Nancy Ball for sharing her story about her father's tradition and now her tradition of rooting for Ole Miss football and doing it together. What a story she had to tell, hopefully we're inspiring people to do the same, to be the resident historian, the keeper of the legacy of the family. If our show could do anything, it's not just to inspire people to know the stories of this great country, but to know the stories of their communities and their families. Nancy Ball's story, she grew up in a town of 1,000 where cotton, corn, soybeans, and catfish were what were farmed. But so much more was raised in that small town and small towns across this country.

Her story here on Our American Stories. When the world gets in the way of your music, try the new Bose QuietComfort earbuds too. Next gen earbuds uniquely tuned to the shape of your ears. They use exclusive Bose technology that personalizes the audio performance to fit you, delivering the world's best noise cancellation and powerfully immersive sound so you can hear and feel every detail of the music you love. Bose QuietComfort earbuds too. Sound shape to you. To learn more, visit Bose.com. Listen to the Calling Bullsh** podcast on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts.
Whisper: small.en / 2022-11-07 14:35:08 / 2022-11-07 14:38:15 / 3

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