Published on September 10th, 2016 | by Scott Schroder0
The Grove Loves You, No Matter Who You Cheer For
The Grove and Ole Miss football holds in it a lot for visiting fans – even when your team gets destroyed, and you knew it was going to happen.
Even on a day of ranked teams losing in massive upsets (looking at you, Oklahoma State), nobody was giving Wofford much of a chance to beat #18 Ole Miss. Maybe they’d have a good drive or two (they did, with drives lasting in excess of seven and nine minutes), and maybe they’d get a few stops, but there was no serious prognosis of Wofford escaping Oxford with an upset.
The Rebs most certainly did have their way with Wofford in a game that ended 38-13, and it went pretty much how anyone who didn’t watch the game would assume, judging by the score.
Even though the game was always thought to go like this, a pocket of Wofford fans in the southeast corner of the stadium remained in their seats in stronger numbers deep into the blowout than the Rebels faithful did. To stay there through the later stages of this game meant, basically, that you’re either a huge fan of the team, or you’re related to someone on the field.
It’s little surprise, then, that almost every Wofford fan hanging out in the Grove beforehand was one or the other. Given that Wofford College’s undergrad enrollment is around 1,500 – a figure that hasn’t deviated much in the last few decades – there wasn’t much room for other kinds of people to come from anyhow.
Tony Shell, a former running back at Wofford, thought this was a great chance for the Terrier players to measure themselves against the SEC competition. “As an athlete you want to play against the best. It lets you know what the standards are.”
Another former Terrier, Seth Reynolds, took a more superstitious approach to the game: “There’s a chance, and I’ve already made a deal with a young Ole Miss fan: If we win today and y’all beat Alabama, that makes Wofford number one in the nation!”
Of course if we’re using the transitive property to its fullest extent, Ole Miss won the national title last season.
Naturally, there’s another reason to come to Oxford; a place where your team doesn’t necessarily have to win to have a good time: The Grove.
It almost feels like the football schedule is merely the official declaration of when we all meet. The seven specific dates and times every autumn when Ole Miss host a game don’t really matter; we just all need a firm time to be set so we can plan everything. And with very few exceptions, the visiting fans are invited to the party.
Reynolds couldn’t help but mention the Grove in the middle of giving his takes on how the game would play out: “This is the most welcoming tailgate I’ve ever experienced. The Ole Miss fans have taken us in and the hospitality is just incredible.”
Scott Collie, whose son is a freshman cornerback for Wofford, was carrying a styrofoam cooler on his shoulder like it was a boombox in 1988 when I talked to him.
“It’s unbelievable, I’m kind of in awe of what y’all have here. I can’t even try to count how many tents there are,” said Collie. It would take either some advanced math or a few hours of counting to figure that out.
He’s right about the Grove, though. I can only imagine coming here for the first time after a lifetime of football games elsewhere. It must be a case of sensory overload in some respects.
Others, well, they have their reasons too.
“My name is Hedley Lamar, and I’m just here for the ladies!”