by Will Hansen
Eagle Fever is the father-son connection that my father and I share.
We don't hunt or fish together, and I didn't follow his career path. Our connection has alwas been Southern Miss.
As a young child, even before I liked or understood football, my father would make the short drive from the Mississippi Gulf Coast to watch the Eagles play. In those days, tickets were hard to come by for us - -- not because there was a shortage of tickets, but because we didn't always have the money. But, somehow, we always found a way to sit in Roberts Stadium on those Saturdays. Eagle Fever is a grandfather, who never went to college and never attended any games with us, giving my dad money from time to time so he could bring me to games.
In 1986, Eagle Fever was a fourteen-year-old boy sitting in the end zone in Mississippi Memorial Stadium watching Mississippi State take lead with only four minutes left in the game. I remember watching the Black-and-Gold faithful deflate and feeling uterly helpless. But, Eagle Fever meant getting out of my seat and pleading with the crowd for support because I knew that my team needed their help more than ever.
And, Eagle Fever was the sheer ecstasy of watching Shelton Gandy score his fourth touchdown of the day leading Southern Miss to a 28-24 victory.
Eagle Fever is sitting in the stands for over twenty years in spite of weather like 110 degree heat and the horrid down pours of 1988. It is being struck with awe the first time as a student you walk across campus by The Rock.
Eagle Fever is completely understanding what it meant to be a student with Brett Favre and Clarence Weatherspoon. It is attending every single game because you know somewher in your soul that players and games like that my never happen again. It is making the drive to Alabama again and again in the hopes that you will walk out of that stadium with a victory. It is driving to Atlanta to watch the Sixers vs. the Hawks because the "Spoon" is playing. And it is driving to Baton Rouge to watch Courtney Blades thrust an infant softball program into the College World Series, again.
To sum up what Eagle Fever means to me in two hundred words is almost impossible. Simply put, it is a life style. It is an eleven year-old, fifth grader listening to games on the radio and updating my dad because he was too nervous to listen. It is a nineteen year-old, college sophomore holding my sister's hand as we watched Favre beat Auburn in 1990. It is the thrilling excitement that casued me to cry as I left Legion Field in 1995, and in 2000, laugh almost uncontrollably as we shut out the Tide. It is a fan who feels deep sorrow over the death of the coach's high school aged daughter. It is butterflies when two-a-days begin in August.
My wife says, "You get too upset during these games. You're going to have a heart attack one day." On the contrary, win or lose, I am at peace and the happiest I can be on those hot Saturday afternoons in The Rock watching my Eagles play.