The Jackson, Miss., Clarion Ledger is reporting a fan was removed from Mississippi State's opening game of the NCAA Baseball Tournament with Austin Peay for ringing a cowbell. The Ledger assumed this noteworthy enough to pair the mention with coverage of State's actual baseball game. Despite this earth shattering drama, the Bulldogs managed to press on and upend not only the Governors, but host Georgia Tech as well en route to a Super Regional date with Florida. BUT, THE COWBELLS!
An unnamed cowbell-ringing Mississippi State fan was ejected from the MSU-Austin Peay game in the first inning by uniformed and armed stadium security.
The fan apparently got his bell back, but was not allowed to return.
"My understanding is he got ejected for smarting off to the officer, not for ringing the bell," Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin said.
Georgia Tech officials told Stricklin that artificial noisemakers are banned from NCAA Tournament games.
ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA! For those of you unfamiliar with State's cowbell situation, perception is everything. Outsiders are convinced it's just a laughable mincing of accepted noisemaker policies to protect a self-parodying tradition, while the freedom fighters of Starkville believe they're struggling to break the bonds of Proletarianization shackled upon The People's University. It's tough to adopt just one viewpoint on such an intricately layered political issue. (hint: no it's not, it's the mincing)
Also, you might find it notable that the university's athletic director publicly commented on a single fan being ejected from a single sporting event largely without incident - after all, that kind of workload would cripple your average NFC East general manager - but that's just the kind of handshake service the Bulldog community prides itself on... if you're a sudden martyr to their favorite cause.
The cowbell issue began when the "progressive" (read: not a 62-year-old Tupelo banker) Greg Byrne broke up Starkville's good-ol'-boy reign in the MSU athletic department to much fan delight, but then suddenly bolted for Arizona. Stricklin, his young successor, needed a campaign point to own, and he found one in cowbells.
Stricklin first fed fears of State fans that the SEC was plotting to outlaw cowbells, then triumphantly brokered a fantastically jackass compromise at last year's Destin meetings, a self-imposed sanction on when MSU fans could ring cowbells at regular season home sporting events that became known as the "Ring Responsibly" campaign. Stricklin's winning argument? That cowbells - artificial noisemakers sometimes used as weapons inside the stadium - were the same as the hedges in Athens or the white home jerseys of LSU, as they are all (wait for it) GREAT SEC TRADITIONS.
Shockingly, what with college sports fans being so compliant when gathered in mobs and pumped with alcohol, State failed to ring responsibly, and MSU was fined $30,000 last week while simultaneously being allowed to keep cowbells for the 2011 season.
Which, honestly, is awesome for the rest of us: Amidst heated debates over potential sea change type regulations coming out of Destin in the last two years - conference realignment, paying players, capping signees - the cowbell saga has been refreshingly stupid. MSU head football coach Dan Mullen likened the restrictions to the Toomer's tree poisoning, which, in college football terms, is the tactless gaffe of likening any personal struggle to the Holocaust, while State fans have given over to grand conspiracy theories.
As long as the fibers of college football's moral fabric threaten to fray from misconduct, we'll gladly welcome a slice of this kind of old fashioned dumbass controversy anytime.