Mississippi State finally got to the top of college baseball world. The Bulldogs have long had an elite baseball program, becoming a regular host of regionals and a regular visitor to the College World Series. But this year, after some of the most dramatic baseball in the school’s history, Mississippi State captured the national championship.
Watching the celebrations of players, parents and fans was enough to make anyone smile. From Omaha to the streets of Starkville, Bulldog fans were jubilant. And the entire nation took notice.
As MSU President Mark Keenum said, “We couldn’t afford to buy this exposure.”
The fanbase that descended to support the Bulldogs in Nebraska had people calling TD Ameritrade Park “Dudy Noble North.” Maroon was the overwhelming color in the stands. ESPN announcers talked of how many State fans they met and talked to on the streets and in the hotels. In many ways, it was a weeklong celebration of and recruiting advertisement for MSU.
But it was also about more than just Mississippi State – it put Mississippi as a whole in a brighter light.
Even during Game 1 of the final series, when some parents of Black Vanderbilt players were the target of racial slurs – reportedly by a few drunk Mississippi State fans – it did not spiral into a national story about the uglier parts of Mississippi’s history. Part of this was because of the way it was quickly handled at the stadium, and part was due to the quick condemnation of the actions by MSU Athletic Director John Cohen and others. More than that, it was seen as the actions of a few drunken outliers who do not reflect what was on display by the larger MSU fanbase or Mississippians as a whole.
The national sports media has long been enthralled with fans of our college teams. When they visit Mississippi, spending days in our college towns before big football games or baseball series, there is something special they see and feel, and they communicate it to the world.
Fandom can be fierce, and rivalries can be bitter. But in times like these, it’s important to remember the power of athletics in America. Mississippi State may be national champions, but all of Mississippi is reaping the benefits of the great publicity and national attention for their win.
Congratulations to the Bulldogs, and thanks for the spotlight you brought to Mississippi.