Justin’s Journey as a Bulldog: A House Divided


Every fan of every team has a story. It doesn’t matter what kind of fan you are or what team you cheer for, each and every one of us has a story about why we love the teams we do. The fans of Mississippi State University are no different. We all have our reasons, and they are all unique. Today, I will share mine. I finish up with how my family became a house divided.

Life Changing Trip

I had the opportunity to embark on a short term church mission trip back in the spring of 2004, and it ended up being one of the most significant events in my life for several reasons. If you have ever seen a missionary come and speak to a church, then you often hear them talk about how hundreds of people a night were making decisions to turn their life over to Christ. This wasn’t one of those types of mission trips.

I was 25 and went with my college and career class. The trip was to Toronto, ON and there was a pastor trying to start a church in one of the suburbs in the Toronto area. I thoroughly enjoyed going and doing the work that we did. The youth group at my church was going back in the summer for a week and a half, so I checked with our youth minister if it would be okay if I went as an adult leader. He was, so I headed back in late June of 2004.

Once I got there, I made a habit of getting up earlier than most because if you want to actually have something to eat when there are over 100 teenagers who will be descending upon the food, you better get there early. Another person on the trip who had the same idea was a beautiful red head named Allison. We were always the first ones down to breakfast each day and always struck up a conversation.

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I found out she was from Arkansas and attended Ole Miss after graduating from high school. She had just started attending church where I went a few months prior to the trip we were on. There were about 20 adults on the trip and 10 of us were responsible for driving vans to get the kids around. I was not one of those driving, but she was. The last two days of the trip, we had completed all of our work, so we had some fun activities planned for the kids those two days. We went to a water park on the next to last day. At the end of the day, Allison realized that she had thrown the keys on the seat of the van and locked it because she always did that with her own vehicle because it had a keypad on the door. So we couldn’t have a bunch of kids sitting around waiting on the locksmith to show up and pop the van open, so the youth minister asked me to wait with her and everyone else would take the kids to lunch. That turned out to be a key moment in the development of our relationship, and a little over a year later, the Strawn house was born.

Living in a house divided

Some people who are married to a grad of the same school wonder how can graduates from rival schools can get along and be married. I’ve often told people that I am pretty indifferent about Ole Miss like I am all teams. My wife doesn’t really agree with that assessment, but I don’t like any team that isn’t named Mississippi State. So not getting too worked up about Ole Miss on my part helps, and she isn’t a die hard sports fan, so that helps as well.

It has also made me put the rivalry in perspective. I used to have much stronger feelings about Ole Miss, but those have passed. A lot of it has to do with the fact I fell in love with a graduate from there. It gave me a little better perspective on how serious I should take the whole rivalry thing. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think I am a better person for it.

We have two children, a son who will be 8 in February and a daughter that is 2 1/2. My son has taken up a love for Mississippi State just like his dad, which is to be expected. But he also says that he likes Ole Miss, just not as much as he does Mississippi State. I don’t know if he will continue to have those feelings as he gets older, but if you have ever heard people say they always cheer for both schools until they play one another and couldn’t figure out how, that is one way it is possible. Like I said, I don’t know if he continues like that later on, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he does.

People often ask how can you be married to someone when there is a part of them you don’t like. The problem is people who take the rivalry beyond the athletic teams. Ole Miss is just as good of a school as Mississippi State. I don’t like their athletic teams, I don’t have any problems with the school itself. I have written in the past that people who start trying to talk smack talk about the educational institutions is silly. Both Mississippi State and Ole Miss have the exact same academic standards and admission requirements. No one has to be any more intelligent to get in one school or the other. If you run down the quality of the academic institution, you are saying the same thing about the one you attended as well since they have the same standards. We may cheer for different teams, but I don’t have a problem with the school she decided to attend.

I say all that to say if you are on the outside looking in, and have wondered how people can make a marriage work when they come from rival schools, it’s not nearly as hard as you think. We’ve done it for almost ten years, and there are other couples who have done it a lot longer.

I love everything about my wife, even the fact that she went to Ole Miss. It is a part of her, and if she had gone to some other school, she might be a little bit of a different person. And I wouldn’t want her to be anything but what she is today.