My Dad, Tom Lawrence, took me to my first Mississippi State football game in 1968. I was four years old, and I don’t remember much about it—only that State lost. Today, I know it was our season opener against an out of conference patsy, Louisiana Tech. I know this because I am still in possession of the game program. Terry Bradshaw and the visiting Bulldogs beat us 20–13 to start a no-win 0–8–2 season. I can’t actually remember this, but I imagine Dad and his buddies standing under Scott Field dog cussing the whole MSU coaching staff. Their only consolation would be that one of the ties was Ole Miss, 17–17.
It just happens that the 1968 season proved to be the low watermark of Mississippi State football fortunes. For Dad, that season seemed like the final humiliation of an ordeal that started in 1947. To the State fans of my generation, it was a hard and difficult birthright. Mississippi State’s overall record from 1947 through 1968 was 86–116–10, for a winning percentage of just 40.5%. Not only did we lose more than we won, it was the heartbreaking manner in which we often lost that broke the spirit of Dad’s generation.
Time after time, our Bulldogs would find a way to lose, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory—including a field goal against Ole Miss that God blocked. The years from 1968 through 2009 were marginally better. We won 210 out of 458 games, for a winning percentage of 45.8—a little better—and at least we were beating Ole Miss as much as they were beating us. I saw this as an improvement and reason for hope. Dad saw it as “the same old, same old.”
It was against this background that My Magic Year was written. I encouraged Dad to write the book because so many of the younger Mississippi State fans cannot understand why some of those old men at the games are so damned negative. They see it as a lack of loyalty to the University, and bitterness about not being part of a hip generation. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. Dad and his cohorts bleed maroon and white, and have given their support, both emotionally and financially to an effort that has yielded scant results over the years.
My Magic Year gives us an insight into the psyche of Dad’s generation of MSU fans, as well as a chronical of SEC football over a sixty year period. It is difficult to sit in the monster stadiums of today, with gigantic jumbotrons and massive speakers, and try to imagine how it must have been when you could park just outside the stadium and the kids could play on the track during the game. Dad and his buddies were there when 10,000 fans showed up for a non-conference game, and a sellout meant 35,000 on hand.
Most college football fans, especially those in the SEC, will enjoy My Magic Year, and if your Dad is of the same generation as mine, then I can guarantee you he’ll enjoy it.