Journey to Starkville with Jackson


My son Jackson and I at our first game in Starkville together.

One thing that I often forget is how easy it is to miss the camaraderie of fellow Mississippi State fans. I live in Northwest Mississippi, and I work in Desoto County. It’s an absolutely fantastic place to live and work, but it is almost a relocated Oxford when it comes to the number of Ole Miss fans and the number of Mississippi State fans. So when I get to be around a bunch of other Mississippi State fans and go to games in Starkville, I get really excited. Sometimes I end up over doing it on Twitter because I just get so caught up in the moment. If you follow me on Twitter, you probably know what I am talking about if you were on the site for the game this past Saturday. I loved everything about being at the game, and I was mentioning it quite a bit on the social media site.

This past Saturday was even more special though. It was the first time that I got to take my son to a game at a place that is one of the most dear to my heart. I don’t usually like sappy stuff, so I am just going to go ahead and apologize in advance because this will have more sap than the finest maple syrup. My son Jackson is seven years old. He and his two year old sister are my pride and joy. I talk about my kids a lot on the various ways that I interact with our readers because I love being a dad. I also know just how precious my kids are and that they are on loan to me. They aren’t my own. I know God has blessed me and my wife with these amazing gifts, but they are his and not mine. We learned that the first night that Jackson came into the world.

My wife went in to labor two and a half weeks early when she was pregnant with Jackson. As a result, the doctors tried to stop her labor. In doing so they gave her a lot of morphine so she wouldn’t have so much pain which can expedite labor. They did other things too, but this stands out to both my wife and I for a very good reason. After about four or five hours of slowing the contractions, my wife’s water broke and then there was no question about it: Jackson was going to be born that day. After about 16 hours of a labor, Jackson was finally with us.

After all the family came up to the room to see us and tell us congratulations, my wife Allison and I were there alone with Jackson and my wife’s best friend from college. It was right at three hours after he had been born when Jackson all of the sudden stopped breathing and turned purple. The nurses ran in to the room and literally snatched our son from my wife’s arms. The morphine had made it more difficult for my son to breathe, and now he had stopped altogether. I was terrified. They quickly got him breathing again and he would spend a few days in the NICU, but it wasn’t how you wanted your first day as a parent to get started. My daughter also came down with a fever at four months of age and eventually had to have major surgery at five months. So yeah, I know just how quickly these children we love so much can be taken away.

That being said, I was overjoyed to be able to take my son to Starkville for the very first time. Some tickets came available to us from a person I went to high school with my freshman year so off we went (Thanks @MSUandUGA! Go follow her on Twitter if you have an account). My wife was also a trooper for this as well. Our daughter got sick and threw up all over her bed the night before. I told Allison that I would stay home and skip the game. Having a sick child by yourself can be a huge challenge. She insisted that we go, so she deserves a ton of praise. I knew I would find the evening special, but what I didn’t realize is how emotional it would be.

Jackson loves sports. He has a had a ball of some sort in his hand ever since he was big enough to actually hold one. He also knows how much I love Mississippi State and has slowly adopted that as well. He has a cowbell that my aunt decorated that is a perfect size for him, but since we don’t go to the games at the stadium that often, he rarely gets to use it. When we walked in to the stadium and everyone was ringing their cowbells as loud as they could, his face lit up because he knew that he could ring his cowbell all he wanted for the first time. He was ecstatic. And it almost made me cry.

As the game played on, it thrilled this daddy’s heart to see my seven year old instinctively pick up on so many of the things that we do at ball games. With every cheer that we do, he learned when he needed to ring his cowbell during them, what to say, and when to say it (pretty certain his favorite is the Maroon and White cheer). He also asked what “Hail State” meant and as soon as I told him, he couldn’t stop saying it. He also figured out how to “Ring Responsibly” without me telling him anything about it. I was going to just let him ring away because his bell isn’t that loud, and I didn’t think one seven year old would get us fined. But after the first few times that he saw all the other people around us stop ringing when Vanderbilt approached the ball, he knew he needed to stop as well. It was an awesome thing to witness.

And I know you’re wondering if there were issues with having a seven year old at a game that would have taken away from the actual game. Of course there were. That’s called being a child. Jackson wanted to go get something to eat almost as soon as we sat down. He wanted to leave half way through the second quarter. He said he was tired. He was afraid we were going to miss the shuttle back downtown and have to walk back to my truck. Despite all those things, there wasn’t anything better in the world Saturday night than getting to watch my son cheer on the Bulldogs in person. Since it was the Vandy game, I knew we’d likely leave early. I also knew there wouldn’t be a ton of edge of your seat moments. It worked out perfectly. We left the game after the Bulldogs went up 44-0. We could have gone home earlier, but I wanted to one day tell him that he saw every play of a game Dak Prescott played in at one time.

I know Jackson won’t remember the details of tonight. He will remember going to the game. He will remember ringing his cowbell as much as possible. He will remember that Mississippi State won. He won’t remember that the Bulldogs won their 10th game in the regular season for the first time ever. He won’t remember that this game sets up one of the most critically important Egg Bowls ever. I don’t care about any of that.

I’m just glad my son and I had a great time at a place that means so much to me. And as any parent can tell you, it doesn’t get any better than that.