I married a man who loves MSU to the core. When he was in the eighth grade, Graham signed all of his school papers “John Bond.” He knew every fact, figure and face related to MSU sports. He was so diehard that his high school principal allowed him to skip school on Mondays after the Egg Bowl if State lost.
He loved it so much he was miserable. He grew to be a fan who cared so much he couldn’t even watch the game. He internally absorbed every disappointing play, every loss. Even the wins were hard to accept because the possibility of loss had overtaken the joy. A few years ago, we diagnosed him with “Maroon Sadness.” I think he came up with the term, we thought it was funny, and it stuck.
Graham has never been very vocal with his intense loyalty. I don’t think I have ever heard him say “Hail State.” He reluctantly accepted a cowbell as a gift from me the year I presented him with one signed by Coach Jackie Sherrill. It is almost taboo for him to ring the thing. On the rare occasion he takes it in a game and rings it and then we lose, the cowbell doesn’t come back. All season.
His superstitions are strong. The way his brain wraps around MSU sports is weird. Our friends and family know not to “go there” with him. One year after a really bad loss in the Egg Bowl, he was so out of sorts that our dog ran away. That was a bad season.
Graham is a very kind, cordial and loyal fan. He’s so considerate that he doesn’t give or sell his tickets to opposing fans. As a child, he was harassed by a very mean drunk who, after a Jackson Egg Bowl loss, waved a Confederate flag in his face and screamed “Hall of Shame boy, Hall of Shame” to him. He never forgot. He must have promised himself that he would never be “that guy.”
During this 2021 College World Series, Graham Thompson turned off his phone. He watched mafia shows on Netflix. He wouldn’t watch. Last night, he drove all over town in his dad’s old Chevy S10 truck. He avoided watching the games because he didn’t want to see us lose. When the games were over, our girls would come and in say, “It’s ok to watch now, Dad.” I had to call him last night when we were winning 9-0 and say, “Come home, it’s safe to watch…we are going to win.” He was hesitant. But he got home to watch the last two innings.
It is because of all of this, for the 36 years I have been watching, sitting, traveling and suffering with him that I am so thrilled to announce that Graham Thompson has finally been cured of “Maroon Sadness.” We sat around last night after the game and laughed and cried about all of the fun times we have had as MSU fans.
Here’s to road trips with Chris Clay and Brian Ezelle when we all piled up in a single, stinky Motel 6 room. The football game when we lost Pat Coward under a bush at LSU. Me pushing Graham down in the MARTA line after a forgettable Peach Bowl (it only took me 26 years to confess to that). Almost losing a friendship to Pat Coward over the spice black pepper (tensions were high). Coors Light Party Balls with Jimmy Belk and tailgating under “the big tree” with Sam Jaudon.
Going swimming instead of bathing during regionals in the ‘90s with Ruben Doty. Flipping a vomit-soaked mattress instead of telling Terry Coleman after too many margaritas in Left Field Lounge. So many more friends and stories are tangled together, and we tell them over and over to our girls.
In 2013, Graham and our 13-year-old daughter, Olivia, were getting ready to leave for Omaha the next morning. They were making the trip with Brian Ezelle and his 13-year-old son, Cole. We were sitting out back and got the phone call that changed everything. Brian and his family had been in a horrible car accident on the way home from a baseball tournament. His wife, Heather, and Cole survived, Brian and their daughter, Patey, didn’t. It shook us to our core. We had spent so many seasons of State football and baseball with Brian. Road trips, jokes, memories, quotes and one-liners for days. It didn’t seem like we would ever be able to celebrate MSU again.
The win last night makes me so happy for Graham. So many of our best memories revolve around MSU. But for all of the bad times, the disappointments, the nights when he was drenched and defeated but still wouldn’t leave Scott Field until the clock ran out…last night made up for those times. Last night, after Mississippi State won the College World Series National Championship, Graham got a phone call from Japan. Cole Ezelle is 21 years old now and stationed there with the United States Marines. It was lunchtime in Japan and Cole had taken the day off just to watch the final game. He called to share the victory with Graham because he knew his dad would have been there watching. Cole sharing that moment with Graham meant everything.
This win was for all of the MSU fans who have stories just like this. For everyone who has ever had a bad case of “Maroon Sadness” and for everyone who has lost someone that they know who was cheering from Heaven. I am sure that most of us thought about the ones who never got to see this moment. Winning meant more than just this game, this team, this sport or this year. Last night’s win helped heal a whole lot of hurt.