Watching highlights of big moments and plays in sports is, obviously, a popular thing. It’s why shows like SportsCenter on ESPN are so popular, why 10 second clips spread like wildfire on Twitter and why two minute videos showing a game’s best plays are more popular than a 15 minute feature on the life of a player or coach.
Highlights are fun, and they’re either confirmation that what you just witnessed was really that impressive, or they’re confirmation that what you didn’t see really was as impressive as everyone made it out to be.
But my favorite way to watch a highlight isn’t with fancy edits or dramatic songs. When done right, when the play is great and the call is good, there is no other way I’d rather watch a play than with the radio call behind it. How many years did I spend in Mississippi seeing every play through the lens of Jack Cristil’s voice?
“Bulldogs recover! Bulldogs recover!”
I was asked if I would be interested in writing a story about Maroon Memories, a program Mississippi State started a couple years ago and is now making an emphasis to expand. The point of the program is to offer unique experiences to MSU fans surrounding the MSU events they attend. I’m fully aware of the program and its existence (and I actually grew up with its director, who I will quote later in the story), but I asked them to send me some more information on the types of things they have done, as well as the types of things they are going to do.
And all of that brought me to my favorite way to watch a highlight – with the voice of the radio announcers calling the play behind it. It brought me there because that’s one of the experiences the previously mentioned director included in the list she sent me. It’s probably not the one she wanted me to single out (the option where fans can stand down on the field for the pre-game ceremonies and be by the tunnel high-fiving the team as they come out is likely the one she’d have preferred for me to highlight). But it’s the one that stood out to me. For a full quarter, a few fans on Saturday for MSU’s game against Auburn (and at other games in the future) will be able to sit in the press box with Jim Ellis and Matt Wyatt as they call the plays.
Imagine if that had been possible in this game two years ago, when MSU, then the No. 3 team in the country, jumped out to a 21-point lead against Auburn, then the No. 2 team in the country? The result, of course, was possibly the biggest win in the history of MSU football as Dak Prescott and Dan Mullen and the entire team lifted the program to No. 1 in the country.
That would have been quite the experience, and that’s what MSU is trying to create here.
“The point of Maroon Memories is to give fans an experience that they wouldn’t get just by standing in the stadium,” said Hannah Smith, childhood friend, and director of Maroon Memories. “This is something we can offer them that no one else will get to experience.”
This is the part where I share that, yeah, MSU is offering exactly that: things you can do now, that you couldn’t do before, and most will never get to do. Some of them likely sound cool to everyone – the pre-game access to the tunnel certainly makes the list – while others – like the option to spend all of pre-game with MSU’s marketing director and get a tour of the control room, be taken to the field, get a walk-through of the press box and a free meal – may appeal more specifically to those interested in the behind-the-scenes workings of a college football game. There is, surprisingly or not, a lot more happening at games than two teams trying to get the ball into each other’s endzones.
(If you do happen to redeem the behind-the-scenes memory this weekend – it costs $100 and there are two spots open – feel free to come say hi on the sideline or in the press box. I could always use a friend.)
There are all kinds of options though. You can take pictures with the live Bully, named Jak, on the field during the game. You could be taken to the sideline in in the south end zone before the start of the fourth quarter when the stadium sings Don’t Stop Believin’. If you’ve got a child who wants to be a cheerleader or pom squad dancer or a mascot one day, you can get pictures of them with the spirit squads on the sideline. Or maybe you just want a picture for yourself. Whatever you like.
The games themselves are a good time, particularly one like this weekend against an SEC opponent when it’s the first home game in nearly a month. Saturday will be fun either way, and Friday with Bulldog Bash should be plenty enjoyable on its own. But these really are some pretty neat things MSU is doing. I’m sure, at this point, they’d like me to say you can visit www.hailstate.com/memories if you have more interest, and they’re right. That is how you can do that, and the experiences will continue for the rest of this season and will go even further as basketball, baseball, softball and so many of MSU’s sports begin over the course of the year. So, yeah, check it out, if you like.
I think what I like about watching highlights with the radio call is that you hear the reaction and description in real time. You see the play as it happens, and you hear the reaction at the exact same time. There’s no talking head who had a few hours or days to think about it. There’s no music to add fake drama. It’s real, and it’s memorable.
And that’s what MSU is trying to create.