Families take bowl games to new level

Published 6:00 am Monday, January 4, 2010

The New Year’s holiday marks a time of celebration andresolution, of reveling and reflection for a lot of people, but forsome faithful fans, it’s a time of anticipation and anxiety.

Ole Miss fans all over the area are loading up in the next twodays, and some have already left for Arlington, Texas, where theOle Miss Rebels will take on Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl onSaturday.

Neil and Lynn Bozeman said they will head to Dallas early Fridaymorning, and last year, only their sons Jeffrey, 18, and Jacob, 12,went with them when Ole Miss played in the 2009 Cotton Bowl. Thisyear, they’re taking their daughters Abby, 11, and Meredith, 10,with them for the fun.

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“We’re big Ole Miss fans, we do everything Ole Miss whether it’sfootball, baseball, basketball, tennis, we’re in Oxford when anygame is going on,” said Lynn Bozeman. “It’s just good to have ourteam going to a bowl game two years in a row.”

Bozeman said the family’s willingness to travel for a good Rebelsporting event means they’ve made some long-lasting sportsmemories, and they’re looking forward to more.

“I’m a big sports person, and Neil is too,” she said. “We bothgraduated from Ole Miss, and our kids get into it too. It’s notjust about winning, it’s about the experience, and being withfamily makes it better when you win. Neil and I went to the bowlgame when Eli (Manning) quarterbacked, and that was a really goodexperience.”

Meanwhile, for the kids, there’s other fun to be had.

“I think they’re just excited about the trip,” Bozeman said ofher girls. “And the hotel we’re staying in has an ice skating rink.I think they’re excited about that more than anything.”

Dennis and Amy Valentine are Texas-bound as well. DennisValentine said they will reunite with a former roommate fromcollege while they’re in town for the game, which makes for a funtime besides the thrill, hopefully, of victory.

“We’re excited about seeing old friends, and we’ll meet up witha college roommate and his wife while we’re there,” he said. “We’vehad so much fun in Dallas during the last two Cotton Bowls.”

And win or lose, he said, he’s just happy his Rebels made a goodyear of it.

“Well, it’s not what we wanted, but certainly an eight-winseason is nothing to be ashamed of or be sad over, and a New Year’sbowl? I’ll take it,” he said.

Jason Todd, of Summit, and Sam Jackson, of Terry, will make thelong trip Friday morning. Todd and Jackson were roommates at OleMiss during the NCAA probation in the 1990’s, and said they don’tmiss a chance to revel in any Ole Miss success.

“I remember when we could only give 13 scholarships to recruitsand how frustrating it was listening to the radio that day becauseyou knew it was going to be a tough few years,” Todd said. “Evenback then when nobody really came to the games, we were the oneswith the air horns and body paint.”

So the success of recent years has somewhat made up for the sadmemories of the college years, Todd said. But knowing he is not abandwagon fan is a pride issue.

“I know, whether anyone else in that whole stadium does, that Iloved my Rebels when nobody else did,” he said. “When we beatOklahoma State, I’ll be just as happy as if I’d been on thatfield.”

And that seems to be the charm of the bowl games. Besides theangst of the competition, part of the fun is the camaraderie.Whether the trip is made with family or friends or businessassociates, it is a chance to cut loose and take part in the joy offanhood.

“I just feel really fortunate we can do this as a family,”Bozeman said. “That we can load up and experience the drive there… it’s more than just the football. It’s a familyexperience.”