The time Katy Perry went full SEC: Flashlight & A Biscuit, No. 27

In which a pilgrimage to Oxford creates a monster.

Welcome to Flashlight & A Biscuit, my Southern sports/culture/food offshoot of my work at Yahoo Sports. Thanks for reading, and if you’re new around here, why not subscribe? It’s free and all.

This fall, while we’re in the middle of an unprecedented, all-killer-no-filler SEC season, I’m telling stories based on the matchups ahead for each week. Alabama plays Ole Miss at 7:30 Saturday night, which reminds me of another time the Tide came to Oxford…and they weren’t the only ones.

Imagine the perfect college football weekend. (Pre-COVID, of course.) What’s your checklist? Let’s see: magnificent autumn day, beautiful leafy campus, aromatic tailgates, quaint college town, fired-up student body, hated opponent, huge upset victory, field-rushing, goalpost-seizing, and plastic-cup victory parties rolling on until late in the night. That about covers it, right?

I’d put the gameday experience of Ole Miss and Oxford up against any in the country. The Grove, one of the most magnificent expanses on any campus anywhere, fills with tents and tailgates. The band plays, the bourbon flows, the spirit soars. It’s intoxicating, no matter whether you’re a wide-eyed freshman or an international pop superstar.

Back in 2014, Oxford hosted ESPN’s College GameDay, the must-watch Saturday morning pregame show that treats every college football Saturday like Super Bowl Sunday. College GameDay is enough of an institution that it can draw A-list celebrities as “guest pickers.” Everyone from Bill Murray to LeBron James to Stone Cold Steve Austin has done a stint on GameDay, but none ever had a day quite like Katy Perry.

At that moment, Perry had a legitimate claim to be the most famous pop star on the planet. Just a few months before her triumphant “Left Shark” Super Bowl halftime show, she was packing arenas, and a fortuitous empty October Saturday before a Sunday show in Memphis meant she had enough time to spend an entire day in a little town in northern Mississippi.

Her appearance wasn’t exactly a secret. Here she is arriving for her GameDay appearance; I love the second half of this video, where beefy Mississippi state troopers surround her and escort her with the kind of stern expressions usually reserved for wondering what you’re doing speeding so fast through this nice lil’ quiet county:

And then she made her picks — ending up a respectable 7-2! — and playing to the Oxford crowd as the GameDay crew looked alternately bemused and terrified.

Here’s her pick of Ole Miss over Alabama, trashing the set as she does. I love the way she effortlessly riles up the Grove crowd; when you’re used to filling stadiums, it’s no trouble at all to have a couple thousand people eating corndogs out of your hand.

Most celebrities do their turn onstage, hawk their new album or movie, and then roll on out of town. Not our KP, no. She was determined to get the full SEC football experience, and why the hell wouldn’t you?

She attended the game in a skybox, but, correctly recognizing that’s an utterly lame way to experience a college ballgame, she worked her way down to the sideline. Then, to the horror of her security staff, she joined the throngs of students rushing the field when — this really happened — Ole Miss beat Bama.

Oh, but Katy’s Big SEC Adventure didn’t end there. No, she headed over to Oxford proper and tore it up at Funky’s Pizza, right around the corner from the square and a few blocks from William Faulkner’s grave. She ended her night, at least the captured-on-cell-phones part of it, by devouring pizza, pounding bottles of beer and stage-diving off the bar:

Now that, my friends, is how you do a college football Saturday right. Bravo, ma’am.

One sidelight from that insane night: Ole Miss students carried the goalposts through the streets of Oxford like conquering Vikings. One ended up in the apartment of a dude with the none-more-Ole-Miss name of Buckner Corso:

… and from there, the goalposts were carved up into slices, where they no doubt adorn Mississippi offices, bookshelves and man caves to this day. (In the NFL, this kind of thievery would get you shot; in Oxford, Ole Miss’s athletic director asked the liberators to save him a slice.)

We’ll leave you with one last enduring image of Katy Perry’s visit to Oxford … one that mascot damn sure will never forget:

That’ll do it for this week, friends. Stay safe, be well and we’ll catch you in a bit with more. Hotty toddy, if that’s how you roll.

-Jay


This has been issue #27 of Flashlight & A Biscuit. Check out all the past issues right here. And if you dug this, share it with your friends. Social media truth: Facebook shows it to about 5 percent of my friends (seriously), and on Twitter, it’s visible in any given timeline for about 15 seconds. So word-of-mouth is how we’re gonna grow this bad boy. Invite others to the party, everybody’s welcome.

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