Welcome to the jungle
So, as a favor to the neighboring Aggies, and with the Tigers taking the week off, I took the opportunity and made the sacrifice to embark on a fact finding mission and perform some reconnaissance on this new found land called the SEC.
Former Rockdale standout Leigh Shepard is an LSU letterman, having played there in the late 1970s and he has been trying to get us to join him at a game for a while, so another former Tiger great and good friend, Randy J. Morgan and I, headed for Death Valley.
Kickoff for the No. 1 team in the nation against Kentucky was at 11:30, so that meant tailgating got underway in the wee hours of the morning.
For those of you who do not know, LSU invented tailgating and they have it down to a science.
In Cajun Country, if it comes down to paying the rent or throwing a party—it’s party time.
Arriving before the crack of dawn allowed us plenty of time to take in plenty of atmosphere.
There are miles and miles of tents, trailers and RVs. Every tent has a television, a barbecue pit and a full bar.
Bloody Marys for breakfast? No problem. Jambalaya and gumbo instead of bacon and eggs? You bet you.
We of course had to work some basketball into the mix, checking out the statue of Shaquille O’Neal and the memorabilia of one of my childhood heroes, Pete Maravich, at the basketball arena which is almost flush up against the football stadium.
To show how old and uncool we have become, after I snapped a picture of a couch that a fraternity had hauled outside and set down in the dirt to sit on, their president— Tank—confronted Randy and I and asked us if we were cops. Me, a cop? We were completely insulted.
President Tank—who was a very nice young man from Baton Rouge who was planning to join the army—apologized, offered us some red beans and rice, and all was good.
Now Leigh is a most cordial host and introduced us to everyone including LSU athletic director Joe Alleva, assistant athletic director Verge Ausberry and his old coach, the legendary Jerry Stovall.
Leigh was accompanied by his son Shep who has joined us before during our yearly sojourn to the state tournament.
Shep—who as an eighth grader stands 6-foot-6—is a seemingly nice kid, although he did eat all my popcorn and when I offered him a cigar, he declined, saying he preferred a maduro blend.
There were recruits everywhere, it was alumni band day and they were recognizing two Orange Bowl team champions, a gymnastics team and a golf medalist.
I was most impressed with the Tiger Band. If they’re not the hardest working band in show business, I don’t know who is.
They put on a spectacular show via music and marching that had the 95,000 in attendance on their feet.
Speaking of on their feet, the band stands the entire game and they have a routine for every down and every time out including one explicit chant that has to be heard to be believed.
That was the only downer of the trip.
Kentucky is awful and LSU’s defense is down and dirty, led by sophomore home grown defensive backs Tyrann Matheiu and Tharold Simon.
The Tigers allowed 140 yards in their 35-7 sleepwalking victory.
There was more tailgating after the game of course and although the game ended by 3 o’clock, the good times lasted into the wee hours of the night.
Now, Texas A&M can hang when it comes to fan support and the Aggie band is good but will be ridiculed throughout the south for its rigid but impressive halftime shows after having to follow the Grambling esque type of show the SEC bands employ.
But considering the colossal meltdowns of the past two weekends, the Aggies are probably more concerned with their defense than their band.
The total atmosphere was like I had never seen before. With the hospitality, the food, the perpetual partying and the rabid fan support, the Southeastern Conference is a different kind of animal—like a Bayou Bengal.