(B-Roll of Meridian, Miss.)
(Forlorn music with a glimpse of hope)
Ron: It's a bit of a crossroads in Eastern Mississippi. Highway 45 and 11 run north and south while Interstate 20 and 59 barrel through as well. Growing up in that town, one student realized during high school that she sat on a crossroad in life. All that she had ever known told her to follow I-20 to the east and head to Tuscaloosa, but her heart told her to take US 45 and head north. All of her life, she had heard "Roll Tide," but deep inside, Sally Zahner knew she wanted more.
Sally: My mom's side of the family is from South Alabama and my dad's side of the family is from Huntsville, so I was doomed from the beginning. They have a joke that when you are born here you either pick Alabama or Auburn or one will be assigned to you, and they are pretty serious about it.
(B-Roll of Auburn, LSU, and Mississippi State)
Ron: Hoping to go into architecture, Sally checked out several schools: Auburn, LSU and Mississippi State. In the end, she chose Starkville, Mississippi to pursue architecture, and in learning to build for others, she built herself a bridge of hope. She also began to build her Bulldog family.
(B-Roll of Mississippi State Students and Starkville)
Sally: As soon as I stepped on campus, it was "Hey! Are you going to be coming here next year?" "Hey! Can I show you around?" It was very friendly, almost like family. I loved the atmosphere of a small town. That was my junior year of high school. From then I knew right away, and I hoped that I would get in and do what I wanted to do.
Ron: Being an architecture student is not always easy. Long nights at work, and being part of a department that does not look at the football schedule can take its toll, but through the hard work, there was a silver lining.
(B-roll of loss to Maine)
Sally: During the Maine game, I was on my way back from an architecture school field trip. They had a nasty habit of scheduling field trips when we had football games.
(B-roll of parking, architecture school at Mississippi State)
Sally: There is a love/hate relationship there. The architecture school is right across the street from the stadium. Before my time, they used to go up on the roof and watch the games. They got in trouble for that. There have always been squabbles with the parking attendants because there is always a group of us that is in the building working if not during the game, up to the last minute before the game and have to come back after to finish whatever we were working on. I was part of the group that said, "Hey this can wait," and went to as many football and basketball games as I could as a student.
(B-roll of blacksmiths forging metal)
Ron: Through the fires of the Sylvester Croom Era, Sally saw her fandom forged as strong as steel.
(B-roll of Mississippi State games)
Sally: My family is split down the family between Alabama and Auburn. My dad was on campus when the Bear was coaching, so there's a lot of diehard fandom there. I don't get it the way they do, I guess. I went to Mississippi State, was on campus there, and experienced being a college student there, and you can't trade that for winning some games. I don't think I could be a fan because they are winning right now. They are a great team, and I have friends and family that cheer for them, but I think it has to run deeper than that. Mississippi State is family for me, win or lose.
(B-roll of majestic mountains, mighty streams, and Mississippi State highlights)
(Music: The Great Gates of Kiev)
Ron: Now, the effort and energy that went into forging that steel has been rewarded. The Bulldogs, now led by Dan Mullen, have reached heights not commonly reached in Starkville.
Sally: It is night and day. I love how much the fandom has embraced this new direction. We were driving back from the Arkansas game talking about how impressed we were and how much of a great senior day it was. So many seniors had great games, and it was amazing how the invested and behind the team everyone has been. It is wonderful that we expect 8-, 9- and ten- win seasons. We went to Tuscaloosa for that game, and on the way there, I thought, we can win this. It wasn't "Hey lets go and watch the Bulldogs lose," it was "Hey let's go and watch the Bulldogs fight." The expectations and mentality of everyone has changed. I like that. I am very happy with nine and ten wins and hopefully more. I don't want to add any pressure, but we like it. We expect it. Let's keep going.
(B-roll of MSU vs. Arkansas 2010)
Ron: But perhaps nothing shows Sally's fandom more than her choice of a favorite Mississippi State football game, a gut-wrenching loss to Arkansas.
Sally: Hands down, it has to be the Arkansas game two years ago that went into double overtime. Everyone in my section was standing on his or her seat, cowbell in the air, and no one could hear anything when we walked out of the stadium. It was the kind of game that even though we didn't win, we walked out of the stadium and we were talking to everyone around us about how great of a game that was. That was the best college football game we had witnessed in a very long time, and even though we didn't win it was awesome.
(B-roll of sunset over Davis-Wade Stadium)
Ron: A crossroads. A challenge. Finding joy in the tough times. Wondering what it is like watching others see their adopted teams win. This is fandom at Mississippi State.
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