Distracted…joyously so! GEAUX TIGERS!

I’m writing this about 11 hours before the kickoff of this years BCS Championship football game between LSU and alabama. I should be doing lots of other things this morning. I have lots of work related writing to do. I have 3 books that need to be read as research for the previously mentioned writing. It’s almost futile to try to concentrate on that “important” stuff. I mean this is LSU football!

My love of the LSU Tigers came very early. The story goes that my dad jumped up and punched a hole in the ceiling of our family’s small house while cheering for the Tigers as they defeated bear bryant and the alabama crimson tide (its very difficult for me to capitalize those particular “proper” nouns. I’ve never been able to concede the status of “proper” for those particular words in the context of college football.) I honestly don’t know if it was the tide we beat that evening or not. I really don’t even know if I was yet born. But the story is part of my story; part of my heritage. In my mind, we are gathered around the “hi-fi” in the living room of our home on Atomic Lane, Cut Off, Louisiana (now West 59th Street) listening to the voice of John Ferguson broadcast on AM870, WWL, New Orleans. (for a taste, check out Ferguson’s call of the classic 1971 LSU vs. Notre Dame game from Tiger Stadium.)  That’s what happened just about every Saturday night in the fall.

Sometime in the early 1970s, my dad began to occasionally receive tickets to the games and we would make the pilgrimage to Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, LA. It was there we would hear stories of dad living in the North Stadium dormitory…of my mom and my aunt and their buddies cruising around downtown Baton Rouge back in the 1950s. Walking across the campus toward the glow of the stadium lights is still magical in my memory. Somewhere in a closet at mom and dad’s house is a cheap purple felt cowboy hat purchased on such a night from one of the venders outside the stadium. Tucked into the gaudy “Urban Cowboyfeather hat band are dozens of ticket stubs I kept as scalps from the games I witnessed in person at that sacred stadium.

One of the ticket stubs will be from the September 29, 1979 game vs. Southern Cal (USC is University of South Carolina…everybody in the south knows that.) That Trojan team was absolutely loaded: 12 future NFL first round draft picks including future Hall-of-Famers Anthony Munoz, Ronnie Lott and Marcus Allen. Their tailback, Charles White would go on to win the 1979 Heisman Trophy. LSU was an average team finishing that year at 7-5. John Ed Bradley, was the captain of that team. (I recommend very highly his book, It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium.) But on this night, Tiger Stadium truly unleashed it’s magic.

I believe my dad was in South Africa during that game. My mom (God bless her!) packed us boys up and drove us up to Baton Rouge. My older brother was finishing up his Engineering degree at LSU. We all piled into he and his wife’s small upstairs apartment in a home on Glendale Street, across the University Lakes near the campus.

We had fantastic seats…40 yard line, halfway up the west side stands in the shadows of the press box. I screamed until I was hoarse. I remember turning around and raising my arms urging the Tiger faithful to their feet. It was the loudest and most incredible atmosphere I’ve ever been privileged to be a part of. LSU lost that game 17-12 but it remains a vivid and cherished memory.

Another stub that would be found in that hat would be from November 10 of that year, the ‘bama crimson tide came to Baton Rouge. My dad had acquired 2 tickets in the “Purple Section” which was located under the west side upper deck just to the left side of the press box overlooking the student section. Somehow, my older brother and I ended up with those 2 seats while the rest of our party sat in the lower bowl. That’s significant because it rained that night. More accurately…it was a monsoon…sheets of rain falling constantly…an old fashioned “gulley washer” as they say. My brother and I felt a twinge of guilt knowing my mom and dad were sitting out in the weather…but we would walk back to the buffet line to grab some food to ease our pain and return to our dry, very comfortable seats. It was a miserable game. LSU lost 3-0 that night.

The rain had stopped as we walked dejectedly back to our cars. As always, I wore my purple cowboy hat proudly. I was glad it had been spared the rain as I compared it to the soggy and drooping counterparts all around me. At some point on this walk, I noticed a rain drenched ‘bammer fan staring at my brother and me. ‘bammer finally couldn’t stand it any longer…he came over and asked, “How in the world did you come out of that game completely dry after all that rain?!”

I replied as any true Tiger fan would: “It never rains on Tiger fans in Tiger stadium.” And we walked on…with grins on our faces…content and happy we were Tiger fans. The score really didn’t matter anymore. Sure we were disappointed in the loss. But more than anything else we were so happy to be LSU Tigers.

I could go on. There are so many stories…mom’s cold fried chicken on the parade grounds…my Uncle Hart dressed in purple with a big grin anticipating watching his beloved Tigers…waking up early on game day in my Hatcher Hall dorm room to move my car before it was towed away…attending games dressed in togas…post game parties at Plantation Trace apartments…meeting my wife for the first time in those Plantation Trace apartments…

Regardless of the outcome tonight, I bleed purple and gold. I’m proud of Louisiana State University on so many levels beyond it’s accomplishments in athletics. I’m proud of my daughter as she makes her own memories in Baton Rouge as she pursues her degree in coastal biology. I love the family of Tiger fans I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of through the ministry of Frank Horton and the LSU BSU. It’s a part of who I am. Always will be.

Ok…enough! I’ve got important work to do and this distraction has taken too much time!

First…you make a roux! (you didn’t think I was going to work on a day like this did you?!…its game day! There is gumbo to make!)

Go to Hell alabama! Go to Hell!!

Roll tide roll…around the bowl and down the hole! Roll tide roll!

‘bama…bama…bama won’t you bite my…uh…well…I’ll not complete that (those of you that know it can sing it amongst yourselves)

GEAUX TIGERS!!!

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(‘bama) FANS

It was rather surreal for all of us to hear the story of the poisoning of the 130 year old Toomer’s Corner oak trees at Auburn University.  It’s sort of mind boggling that someone would come to think that would be the thing to do.

Full disclosure…I’m a zealot of the southern brand of college football.  My particular denomination is LSU.  However, I do expand my allegiance grudgingly to other Southeastern Conference schools when they are playing outside the conference…well, most SEC schools.  I mean really, I can’t pull for ‘bama ever with that whole Nick Satan…uh…Satan…sorry…Sabin…thing.  Of course now we have the poisoning of 130 year old trees where Auburn fans TP themselves…after every win?  really? Is that a tradition you want to kill?  And then Florida…who really likes Florida except, well…Florida fans.  Of course South Carolina has Spurrier…that’s a HUGE strike against them…(read the previous sentence re: Florida).  Auburn is questionable at the very least…I mean the Tubberville era…that cigar incident in Tiger stadium in 1999 (enjoy the championship for a few months by the way WAR(read PROBATION) EAGLE).  So, I pull for the SEC…oh yeah…GO TO HELL OLE MISS!!!!!!!!  (sorry…couldn’t help that…sort of slipped out).  So while I’m in Mississippi…I’m still bitter about the beat downs we got consistently by Mississippi State of all people back in the ’80s when I was a poor struggling college student.  I mean, who wouldn’t be bitter braving a trip all the way to Starkville, sitting on splintery wooden bleachers and losing!  To Mississippi State?!?SERIOUSLY!? (and I received a speeding ticket from a FOREST RANGER while driving my Chevy Chevette through the back woods on that trip…VERY embarrassing).  Then there’s Georgia…they whine ALL the time…(I mean, win your “half” of the SEC before you start whining about the BCS).  Arkansas…well, they aren’t REALLY an SEC team…they are a SouthWEST conference team that doesn’t matter in the whole scheme of things.  Vandy…they’re harmless.  Tennessee…”dreamsicle” shouldn’t really be someone’s school color.  That’s never a good choice.  Then their’s Kentucky…I mean they are basically harmless too when it comes to football.  And they really don’t get it that the rest of us don’t really care that much about basketball…it gets us through to baseball season and spring football but…that’s about it…

So…uh…what was I talking about…oh yeah…crazy ‘bama fans…uh…

Maybe we are all taking this a bit too seriously…mmmm

PS: here’s a nice piece about some of the response by ‘bama fans following the poisoning of the trees:

Poisoned Trees Bring Truce to a Civil War in Alabama Football

PSS: These aforementioned universities do have a few other things going for them other than football:

University of AlabamaUniversity of ArkansasAuburn University, University of Florida, University of Georgia, University of Kentucky, Louisiana State University, Mississippi State University, University of Mississippi, University of South Carolina, University of Tennessee, Vanderbilt University

…Saints and Super Bowl…

…so we’re all living in this brave new world for just over 2 weeks now…The Saints are the Super Bowl champions! Repeat that again, slowly:

The…Saints…are…Super…Bowl…Champions!

There are so many levels of surreal wrapped up in that statement. Now I fully recognize that in the whole scheme of things, this would seem to be rather insignificant. There are wars, hunger, poverty, disasters, etc. So “a football game…come on…move on already” is a perfectly justifiable response. But, it’s been hard to move on for us die-hard-life-long Who Dats. All of these world problems linger in our consciousness in varying degrees and a big football game can obviously provide some much needed distraction. Being so serious all the time eats at the soul. But this is bigger than a mere distraction.

And we have heard ad nauseam about the lift the Saints have provided for New Orleans and the Gulf coast post Katrina. Often over looked in those observations are the people who have endured hurricanes before (Camille, Betsy) and since (Rita, Gustav, and Ike) but Katrina has become the archetypical image of disaster and doom. The profound symbol of the Saints overcoming their history and all odds no doubt buoys the spirits of a region that just few short years ago was thought to be hopelessly and irreparably destroyed.

However, there is more to this “mere football game” than a heart warming Life-Time-Movie-Network story. Lost among the Ritz Cracker/beer/Go-Daddy ads and the ex-player-talking-heads filling up hours of time prior to the kick off was a profound piece by Wynton Marsalis.

“You ever wait for something for so long that waiting for it becomes the something?” —Wynton Marsalis

Have you? For life long Saints fans, that question resonates deeply. There were years where thoughts of simply winning more games than we lost was unimaginable. It took 21 years for us to accomplish that. (By the way…with a Saints fan, its always “we”…plural possessive, never third person…its personal) There were other years—late 80s, early 90s—when we were actually pretty good. Bobby Hebert…bayou kid, “cajun canon”…leads us to our first winning season, first playoffs, first division championship. Those were the years the “Dome Patrol” roamed the field. Ricky Jackson, Sam Mills, Pat Swilling, and Vaughn Johnson…4 linebackers, 20 Pro Bowl appearances (in ’92 I think it was, all were selected the same year…first time in NFL history). In typical Saints karma…those years happened simultaneously the glory years of a little team called the San Francisco 49ers…Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, 5 Super Bowls…they happened to be in our division (why were the NEW ORLEANS Saints in the NFC West?). Remember the (once very rare) appearance on Monday Night Football when we jumped out to a 21 point half-time lead, only to lose the game in the end?

Enough. Way more of that than anyone wants to read. …so we find ourselves here in a strange new place. We’re not waiting for the Super Bowl anymore. I’m not sure what that means. It feels a little strange. I’m not sure I know how to do that. For so long, the waiting was the something. The hope and expectation. The anxiety of wondering how we would ultimately lose. That’s all different. (awkward way to end a post…but I’ve got to get to work)

On performance enhancing drugs in sports…

baseballI guess you all have heard that David Ortiz’s name has turned up on the infamous “secret list”…the same one that has brought down Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Manny Ramirez, etc.  As a Red Sox fan, of course I was disappointed…but by no means surprised.  It doesn’t take a drug test or an opportunist reporter to recognize the difference in production and the sudden breakdown health wise with Big Papi to know what’s going on.  In this day and age, when someone begins to do “super-human” things in the world of sports, my skeptical antennae get REAL sensitive.  I guess that’s a shame but its part of growing up…innocence lost…all that stuff.

Since I find myself on the road a lot with my job, I tend to listen to a lot of sports talk radio…that is until a steroid story breaks…then it’s time to hit XM Channel 45 (The Spectrum) for some good music and a break from the constant noise of this particular issue.  Here’s my take on it:

  • Baseball has a steroids era…deal with it.  You can talk about it “tainting the game/records/stats/etc.”  However there has always been cheating in baseball.
  • Every team was “enhanced” in some way by this particular drug induced epoch, so I don’t necessarily feel anyone’s titles are tarnished.  Heck, it was a pretty great feat to beat the other ‘roided up teams on their schedules.
  • Please spare me the I-WAS-CLEAN-I-NEVER-TOOK-IT-DON’T-BLAME-ME garbage.  If you were in a major league locker room during this time period, you either took it or you knew people were taking it.  If supposed “clean” players knew it was going on, they should have shouted about the integrity of the game then.   All this whining after the fact rings really hollow.
  • I’m sick of journalists making their careers one name at a time with a list that was supposed to be confidential.  Their “journalistic” integrity looks a lot more like opportunism to me.  (funny how the writer of the story about Ortiz is with the New York Times)
  • Now that some of the names have leaked…ALL the names should be made public.  A few guys should not take the fall for the whole league.
  • As to the Hall of Fame, I don’t really care…to repeat myself, we have a “steroid era” in baseball, and we all know it.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not trying to justify any of this.  I think it’s irresponsible, destructive, and a very poor reflection on the game.  It reinforces my belief that I don’t mind someone admiring an athelete’s athletic exploits on  the field…but there are much better (and safer) role models elsewhere.  The athletes have received WAY TOO MUCH money and WAY TOO MUCH exposure for WAY TOO LONG.