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The Hotty Toddy: A Cultural Commodity

 Football is something synonymous with Mississippi; really, with the South in general. Families are born and bred by it, friendships are formed by it, and sometimes even broken up by it.
 
Football, in its essence, is something far more than a game. To explain the use of this term: It is a violent game filled with great risks. Players are injured every day, yet the public still comes back each season, buying their tickets, and preparing themselves for another season of wins or losses: All in the name of the game.
 
People come to watch physically powerful men fight for an oval-shaped ball made of pigskin (or maybe it’s synthetic now), risking their necks, literally, for a win. The spectators cheer, jeer, and consume large quantities of beer; they base entire weekends around the event.
 
Hell, they plan entire seasons around them. And yet whether they win or lose, it doesn’t really matter. It is something more than a ball that rules the emotions of thousands of crowds. It is the game itself that holds that seduction, and there is something innately admirable about that. 
 
Yes, it is the famed tradition that Ole Miss “never loses a party,” but this delightful idea has its origins in far more than revelry. Fans return year after year to support “their” team, even if said team has not won a game in years. It is far more than successes that ignite this sort of inexplicable appetite; it’s a combination of a special type of bond that is formed between man and team, the feeling of involvement and the social implications of becoming invested in something as mercurial as American football.
 
“Originating on northern college campuses in the 1870s and 1880s, football spread southward during the 1890s,” said Matthew Bailey, who recently received a Ph.D in history at The University of Mississippi. “The first collegiate football game in the Deep South was played in 1892 at the University of Georgia campus.”
 
Apparently, the following year, Ole Miss gained a team as well. Due to the poverty that existed at this time in the South, football teams were a struggle to support financially.
 
“Due the funding issues, and the dearth of high school football programs, Southern teams lagged woefully behind the counterparts in the Northeast, Midwest and West and were routinely trounced in intersectional contests,” Bailey said.
 
He continued, explaining, “A turning a point in the evolution of football to today’s big-time spectacle occurred when presidents and chancellors at Southern universities embraced football as a means to promote their institutions. Football became a ‘public relations weapon’ to secure financial support from alumni and government officials.”
 
He elucidates that by bringing alumni to campuses, officials could persuade alumni to make substantial financial donations, which included the building of new stadiums on the various campuses. In the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, following the example of their Northern counterparts, Southern colleges began constructing their own stadiums.
 
Surprisingly enough, The University of Alabama beat the University of Washington in the 1926 Rose Bowl which engendered a good amount of respect for southern football.
 
But the term “football,” in modern times, means many different things to a great many people. Yes, they come back year after year, and while the good majority is dedicated the team and its eventual and future successes, some attend for different reasons entirely. It depends wholly on the individual involved, and that’s part of the magic.
 
“I went to my first college game when I was four months old,” senior political science major Suzanne Floyd said. “Because my dad is a college athletics administrator, football is the big money earner for his program. My family’s life is dictated by the college football schedule beginning in August and ending with the bowl game season in the New Year.”
 
Obviously when someone has literally grown up surrounded by football fanfare, they form a deep connection that is not just familiarity, but something even more: a sense of home and security. People who grow up around football, who see their parents respond to football, are conditioned to make it an important aspect of their lives, too.
 
“One of the big reasons football and especially college ball is culturally relevant is that we know people who go to and graduated from the schools we play,” senior political science major Daniel Harden said.
 
Harden also said that there is the element of bragging rights, but what football means to people doesn’t end there.
 
“It’s also like its own miniature holiday, with the certain group of people you may only regularly see or talk to when your teams are going to play.”
 
There, again, is that sense of community. The majority of us are drawn to events where familiar faces are present because we are social creatures. Add into the mix a bunch of booze, traditional Southern food and a loud chant to shout at any available opportunity, and it’s golden.
Take for instance the famed “Hotty Toddy” chant. It is silly, downright nonsensical, really, but Ole Miss fans are infamous for chanting it wherever and whenever possible, be it airports, bathrooms, shopping centers, or, for the large majority of the time, the Grove.
 
“You never say the chant alone; a group always joins,” junior English major Ashley Locke said. “It builds a bond between you and whoever is around you, whether you know them or not. Hearing everyone chant together makes it easy to feel the spirit and excitement of the game.
 
The reported origins of the chant vary, save that it was created sometime around the 1930s. Many claim that it originated from Ole Miss students being deemed “hoity toity” because Ole Miss was known for having a large amount of wealthy students in attendance. When having chants became the fad for schools, “Hotty Toddy” was invented as a way to poke fun at the other schools’ opinions of Ole Miss.
 
Senior nursing major Melissa Blasingame said people enjoy the chant because it is “an obnoxiously entertaining form of school spirit and crowd participation.”
 
No matter the true origins or meaning, Ole Miss fans have a knack for embodying fun, in every aspect of their game day. A sense of humor and bravado are something is what is strived for at the end of the day.
 
Former sports editor of The DM, Paul Katool, explained football’s aura in these terms: “The South cares about football because we’ve had our hard times in the South. It’s something to rally behind and feel good about.”
 
Katool went on to reminisce on when he was four years old at his grandfather’s house in Jackson.
 
“My grandfather would yell when Ole Miss was playing,” he said. “And I’d sit there Indian-style in front of the T.V. and couldn’t quite understand what was going on. When I got older, I realized it’s just kind of a family thing. It’s ingrained in me. Part of my DNA.”
 
Bailey posits, “I would argue that the absence of professional teams below the Mason-Dixon Line prior to 1966 explains the passion Southerners have for college football today. Unlike the Northeast and Midwest, the South lacked professional franchises until 1966 when the NFL established the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons.
 
“As a result, the college game and not the pro game is what links generations of Southerners.”
 
One could argue that football was meant to be played in the South. With our warm weather and long summer seasons, penchant for  finger foods, flair for the dramatic and the ability to make just about anyone feel if not at home then at least surrounded by some pretty hospitable strangers, most anyone can find something worthwhile to enjoy whilst at a football game. It’s a game that teaches people loyalty from an early age. It provides Southerners with a sense of unity that transpires far beyond the barbecues and mint juleps. Underdogs or winners, every team has a devoted fan, and isn’t that just nice to think about?