The most recent stop on my ‘Inside the Environment’ series was Mississippi Valley State in Itta Bena.
The Mississippi Delta is an almost ineffable place. No matter how many times you’ve been, or how many years you’ve lived there for that matter, the beauty of the place never ceases to amaze me. The swamps, the kudzu, the farmland on both sides of the road as far as the eye can see—there’s not too many experiences like driving down a Delta highway.
As I made my way from Ocean Springs to Itta Bena, I was slapped in the face many a time by that little thing called nostalgia. Being from a family that partially derives from Cleveland, I have a lot of fond childhood memories that took place in the Mississippi Delta.
While I had just missed the homecoming parade that went through downtown Itta Bena, I did get a chance to drive through the town before going to campus. Like most Delta towns that were once thriving, there are a lot of empty storefronts, yet you can still feel the history and soul exuding from one of the most interesting regions in the nation.t
Even with the degradation that has struck over time, there are two things that can never be taken away from the Delta—the beauty of the land and the hospitality of the people. If that sounds cliché to you, I’ll point you towards an excerpt from William Gibson’s Neuromancer: “Clichés became clichés for a reason; that they usually hold at least a modicum of truth.”
This rings true with Mississippi Valley State. The campus was pretty as it had a whole lot of green space over its 450-acres as well as two ponds you split when coming through the main entrance. And the people were exceptionally nice.
My trip to Itta Bena was two Saturdays ago, so at the time, Valley was on a 10-game losing streak that dated back to the 2019 season. Nevertheless, the Delta Devil faithful showed up and showed out. I’m sure it being homecoming helped, but it doesn’t matter. I was impressed with both the tailgating scene and the in-stadium environment.
The music is always great too. There’s no question in my mind that the SWAC has the best marching bands in the country. If you don’t believe me, just go to any of our three SWAC schools here in Mississippi and your mind will quickly be changed.
On the note of the game itself, the Delta Devils broke the streak! In a stunning way, too. With two seconds left in the game, quarterback Jelani Eason hit All-SWAC running back Caleb Johnson on a two-yard shoot to defeat North Carolina Central 17-16.
Then, this past Saturday, Valley ousted Bethune-Cookman 20-14. That’s two wins in a row for the Delta Devils, making for their first winning streak since 2012.
You know Jerry Rice has got to be smiling.