When trying to figure out what is keeping someone or something from making the next step in development, it has to be examined from all angles. Some of the time, you come across something you never wanted to come across in the process. I wrote earlier today that Mississippi State baseball is not at an elite level, though you could easily make the argument the team should be. We draw in more fans than most other programs, and Mississippi State was the first to prove that baseball could be a revenue generating sport. So why haven’t we been able to progress to an elite level?
As much as we might not want to admit it, one of the culprits holding our program back is the Left Field Lounge. Feel free to hate me and ridicule me for this, but at least listen to my argument before you cast it to the side. The Left Field Lounge is one of the most unique college athletics experiences in the country. It has been chronicled and well documented. There is nothing else like it, and there likely never will be anything like it again. It’s the primary reason there has been backlash to the proposed new stadium that Scott Stricklin unveiled. So how can the Left Field Lounge be holding us back as a program?
The problem is simply because it makes Mississippi State baseball into a social event. When people go to the Left Field Lounge, they don’t need Mississippi State Baseball to get a win to have a good time. It makes it a little nicer, but it doesn’t mean we have to win to have fun. And since winning is not part of the equation for enjoying the game, we as fans will accept lesser results.
With the resources Mississippi State has in baseball, and with the number of fans that are drawn to the sport, there isn’t any excuse for the Bulldogs to not have won a national title. But because the baseball games have become so much about the experience, we let our program off the hook when they don’t perform as well as they should. Alabama fans don’t accept inferior results from their football team because they don’t have an experience to satisfy them like the Left Field Lounge. LSU fans don’t accept inferior results from their football team because they don’t have an experience to satisfy them like the Left Field Lounge. There is one place that does though.
Ole Miss football fans.
Ole Miss fans love the Grove just like Mississippi State baseball fans love the Left Field Lounge. The problem they have is similar to the problem Mississippi State has when it comes to baseball. Because they love the Grove so much and are likely to have a good time regardless of the outcome of the game, it’s easy to accept inferior results from your team. With the level that both Houston Nutt and Hugh Freeze have recruited, you would think the fans of the team would have liked to have had at least one SEC West title in that time. But they haven’t gotten there. The question for Ole Miss fans is would a string of 8 and 9 win seasons be good enough for them over the course of the next ten years if Freeze continues to recruit the way he has thus far. If they are satisfied, the Grove would be a primary culprit. And Ole Miss fans will say that this isn’t true, but when Romaro Miller called Ole Miss fans out about it a few years ago, there has to be some truth to it.
And maybe Mississippi State fans don’t want to be like Alabama football fans and expect a national championship every year. I can certainly understand that. But at some point, we have to start requiring more from our program. And as long as everyone is having a good time in the Left Field Lounge, I don’t know that we ever will.