Number 9 – Alabama at Mississippi State – Nov. 14, 1998, Davis Wade Stadium, Starkville, Mississippi
(editor’s note: this is the second installment of a series abou the worst Alabama games I have personally attended. You can see Part 1 here.)
This was my first trip to Starkville for a game and it is a trip that I hope to never make again. It was raining and pretty chilly, Alabama lost, and State has to the be the home of possibly the worst stadium in the conference.
As you might recall, in 1998 Alabama was in their second year with Mike Dubose at the helm and while there was some improvement over the dismal 1997 campaign, overall Alabama was still not a very good football team. The Tide was 6-3 going into this game with a blowout loss at Arkansas, a very close loss to Florida at home, and a pretty solid beating at the hands of Tennessee (who was on their way to a national championship). State had beaten Alabama two consecutive years and this trip to Starkville was to be the third. I’m sure that’s why the Bulldog fans seemed to be full of piss and vinegar as we passed through them on our way to the stadium after parking below the baseball field.
Now, I’ve know some fine folks that went to State, but in all honesty, Starkville is one of those places that you go to, not through. There just isn’t anything there and it seems to me that it would be an absolutely dismal place to go to college. Their stadium is a reflection of that. With the exception of Vanderbilt they are the only stadium in the conference who hasn’t constructed proper end-zone seating, giving their stadium the appearance of an overly large high school venue. There is very little aesthetic appeal to it (if college football was played in Russia, this it what I imagine all the stadiums would look like) and on this day in particular it was a dull-gray mammoth lurking into a dull-gray sky.
Alabama gave very little to cheer about that day. The running game never got un-tracked and it seemed that the defense was totally incapable of stopping State’s ground attack. As I recall, our fireplug of a fullback, Montoya Madden, was the only bright spot. While ten years have made the details sketchy, I distinctly remember that the weather was awful and the Alabama’s play was not much better.
At half-time I went to the concession stand in the upper deck to get a hot dog. I was about sixth in line for the half-time rush and remember the first customer ordering a hot dog only to be told they were out but more would be arriving shortly. About that time a man comes up the ramp with a tray of about thirty-five hot dogs. Of course they were all gone when I got there and I just kind of looked at the girl with disgusted silence when she told me they were out of hot dogs again.
After the game, as we made our way through the jubilant State fans who were knocking each other over to shake a cowbell in the face of any Alabama fan they could find, all I could think was that this was a fan base that was so unaccustomed to winning that they didn’t know how to handle it. We were treated quite rudely as we left and it was not a pretty site. Now I know that not every Alabama fan is the model of decorum after a victory, especially after the defeat of a hated rival, but actions of a lot of the State fans we encountered as we exited left enough of a bad taste that I decided then and there that I never want an opposing fan leaving our stadium, regardless of the team, to be treated the way we were treated that day.
One of my favorite parts of college football is the tailgating and fellowship that takes place before and after a game. Regardless of the outcome I am usually up for a beverage or two after the game but I have never wanted to be on my own couch, which was a scant ninety mile away, as I did that day, and so without bye or leave we left Starkville as quick as we could vowing never to return. And to this day we haven’t.
One final note; on the way out of town, off the side of the ramp onto the four-lane, there was a couple of State fans standing in the grassy area right of the shoulder, dropping their pants and mooning the Alabama fans as the started east. The whole scene was funny enough until a car about three or four ahead of us, pulls out of line and starts in their direction, sending the drenched mooners sprinting toward the fence. At least we had one thing to smile about that day.