Bulldog Bites: Sport meets food, and highlights from around MSU athletics

I’m not exactly sure what the connection is between sports and food, but it’s definitely there. Perhaps it’s that both are physical indulgences with varying degrees of punishment and pleasure. Maybe the excitement of sports just makes us hungry.

courtesy USA TodayWhatever drives it, the element of fellowship can’t be left out, the opportunity to gather with people of like mind and interest. As divided as cities, states and countries are these days, eating and watching sports are two universally agreed upon things. Left wing, right wing – doesn’t matter, ‘long as you got chicken wings. It’s part of why sports were so big a part of integration. It’s part of why food is often the gateway to new cultures and people around the country and world.

People can’t resist gathering together for the things they love and enjoy, even if they’d have never spoken to those around them under any other usual happenstance. Live music and church services draw crowds for much of the same reason. Jesus himself expressed the value in fellowship, and at least a few of his stories involve having something to eat.

We do a lot of things on our own now, independence being a quality with more and more necessity in the modern world. But sports and eating are inherently social activities. Whether it’s watching a game or eating a steak, few experiences are as good alone as they are when shared with others.

When you can combine the two? Heaven. Or, at least, Heaven on Earth. You can’t think of football without thinking of tailgating before the game. I can’t think of Mississippi State baseball without seeing smoke come off the grills in the Left Field Lounge. Football gets the glory, but the Super Bowl isn’t just the biggest day of the year for sports – it’s America’s biggest day for food.

Sport and food go together like peanut butter and jelly, or ball and glove, whichever analogy you prefer. And that’s the idea here in this column. It’s hard to keep track in the spring months when so many sports are going on, and it’s hard for me to do justice to so many of the good eats and good people in Starkville.

So, why not combine the two? Every week, I’ll post a column with a short little something about food and people around town, in addition to a rundown of every sport in action at MSU and the news of the week for that team. If you’re only interested in the culinary side, feel free to ignore the sports. If all you want is information on your favorite teams, have no guilt in skipping past the food. Based on experience, however, I get the feeling at least a few people have interest in both.

If we presume sport to fall under the category of “Cheer,” it seems that the great author J.R.R. Tolkien offered wise words to the means of our happiness.

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

Eat well, and cheer hard.

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Baseball: A few basebally-y nuggets of info as they’ve begun preseason scrimmages, now two weeks away from the season opener: John Cohen has a ton of two things – pitchers and outfielders. Sophomore Reid Humphreys has made the switch to outfield and has had one of the hottest bats on the team. Second only, perhaps, to newcomer Michael Smith, another speedy outfielder who has been on an absolute tear at the plate. As this rate, it’ll be hard to keep either out of the lineup.

On the mound, several arms have been impressive, but the most noteworthy may be Trevor Fitts. The senior has moved into a relief/closing role after spending the last couple years as a starter, and it seems to be a good fit. He looked impressive in one inning of work on Tuesday.

Jack-White-and-John-CohenSpeaking of Tuesday, as you likely saw, Jack White showed up at MSU’s baseball scrimmage a couple hours before his concert began at The Hump. White has been an outspoken baseball fan over the years, and several members of MSU’s team are fans of White, as well, even if not all of them were familiar with his work.

After presenting White with a game-worn MSU jersey, head coach John Cohen walked back to the dugout to see the pictures. He wanted to tweet one as soon as he could (“Got to get my followers up. I’m all about the retweets.”)

He then conceded, “I’m going to get so much street cred with my daughters and I don’t even know who he is.”

Men’s Basketball: Rick Ray’s team lost an entertaining game last night, Ole Miss winning 79-73. It was a streaky game for both teams, but the most impressive individual player on the court had to have been MSU’s Craig Sword. The junior guard, who has been recovering from back surgery, went off for 27 points in 32 minutes, shooting an impressive 10-of-13 from the field. Ray said Sword was actually almost a medical scratch at game time, making the performance even more impressive.

Next up, MSU hosts LSU on Saturday at 1 p.m. in a White-Out game where the first 500 people get free T-shirts.

Women’s Basketball: They’re dominatin’. Vic Schaefer’s team beat Auburn on Monday to move up to 21-2 on the season, now ranked No. 18. They host Vanderbilt tonight for a White-Out game. The first 500 students get free T-shirts, I hear. I’ll have more extensive goings-on about them tomorrow morning.

Track and Field: If you’re not keeping track (get it?), I’d recommend doing so. Steve Dudley’s teams have had a handful of National Champions the last few years, and this spring’s squads are as good as any he’s had. More here (http://www.hailstate.com/SportSelect.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=16800&SPID=11004&SPSID=90942&DB_OEM_ID=16800 ) but the 18th-ranked women’s team has already broken multiple records and the season has hardly begun. MSU is in New York this weekend for the quite-prestigious New Balance Invitational.

Men’s Tennis: At 3-1, MSU is 23rd in the country currently, just a hair into their first season with new head coach Matt Roberts. This weekend, the Bulldogs host three matches – a doubleheader on Friday against Rice (1 p.m.) and Jackson State (6 p.m.) and a Sunday match against No. 48 Texas Tech at 11 a.m.

Women’s Tennis: MSU’s women’s squad is doing well, too, sitting at 3-1 as they head into a light weekend back at home, hosting UAB on Saturday at 11 a.m.

Of note, head coach Daryl Greenan will get his first chance to see one of his best players in action. Jasmine Lee, a sophomore newcomer from Taiwan, is considered one of the top players on the team and makes her debut Saturday. She’s got the talent to be a star in the SEC.

Softball: By this time next week (roughly) Vann Stuedeman will have begun her fourth season at MSU. Time flies when you’re making NCAA Tournaments, it seems. The Bulldogs host Mississippi Valley State as Stuedeman puts her undefeated record against Mississippi schools on the line. They’re doing their final tune-ups and finishing preseason practices now.

Football: There’s a big game in the NFL this weekend called the Super Bowl and MSU has three representatives. KJ Wright has emerged as a defensive star for the Seahawks (recently signing a big new contract with Seattle) and fellow MSU linebackers Chris White and Deontae Skinner are both playing with the New England Patriots. Neat that all three were on the same team in 2010 when White won the Conerly Trophy as the best collegiate football player in the state of Mississippi.

Also of note, invites to the NFL Combine are slowly trickling out, so those are worth keeping track of. Preston Smith and Josh Robinson are both reportedly attending, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a couple more receive invites, too, especially Benardrick McKinney.

Finally, MSU announced their plans for football signing day activities, including a two-hour live show online in the morning and a two-hour party at DawgHouse Sports Grill in Starkville that night. Full details here: http://www.hailstate.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=16800&ATCLID=209866996

Oh, and Dan Mullen apparently spent most of yesterday hanging out with potential future Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Mullen is a big political junkie, so I imagine he got a kick out of that.

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