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 Cowboy” feather 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)