In early schooling I remember an assignment or two to write about what you did on summer vacation.

After two weeks away I could do that, but it would pale in comparison to what happened in Mississippi while I was gone.

I covered some of the run-up to the state flag vote before I left, but it was still unclear at that time how the legislature would respond to statements by the SEC and the NCAA that it would cease to allow Mississippi to host championship events.

I watched the back and forth, the wrangling for votes from a Texas beach house with college friends.

It would have been nice to see the people of Mississippi vote for this change. I believe that would have happened but not without long, hard campaigning from both sides fueled by more outside influence. It would also have opened wounds that would have taken a long time to heal.

As it played out, it looked like the most important piece in the puzzle was the letter by 31 former Mississippi college athletes asking the NCAA to stop playing baseball regionals and women’s March Madness games under the old flag.

NCAA Tournament baseball in Mississippi is a cherished event to which all three Division I schools can relate. So can the businesses in Oxford, Starkville and Hattiesburg.

Here’s the pitch

Postseason is a big part of the atmosphere on our campuses. Had that possibility been lost, a recruiting pitch would have gone with it.

Unable to host coaches could say, “Come to our place where postseason means being a dangerous 2 seed on the road or maybe a national seed as the regional No. 1 someplace else where everyone will ask you about the state flag.”

So sports helped move Mississippi to this point, but the discussion wasn’t going to end with sports. There was a business impact coming.

My position on the flag has been that it’s not my place to say what offends someone else.

Being offended these days seems to carry a different weight than it did when I was growing up, and that’s something we need to get a handle on as we seek the unity we say we seek.

The flag brings out passion in a lot of people, but so does talk of our future.

College baseball being what it is in Mississippi, it’s hard to think of a future that doesn’t include our state schools playing at home to try and climb the ladder in the NCAA Tournament.

Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. Find more in the Facebook Group ‘Ole Miss Discussion w/Parrish Alford.’

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