This series is sponsored by Muscle Milk…
To most, Football is a simple enough sport. It’s a power struggle over an oblong ball that takes place on a 100 yard war zone filled with massive men who move with balletic grace. These men throw the ball, catch the ball, run the ball and kick the ball, and then scoreboard tells us who did it the best. For most people in most places that’s the whole experience.
Not in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
In that city, which is the Capitol of that state, Football is a living breathing entity. It’s a cultural behemoth, a common and unifying bond between people whose backgrounds and histories might otherwise put them at odds. It’s the one place that color, class and struggle get pushed into the background, all to see how that little oblong ball will bounce. It’s bigger than sport, its religion.
Like any religion, this one has a cathedral. A gargantuan mass of steel and concrete where a congregation of over 92,000 can come and fellowship with each other, sharing the highs and lows of that particular day’s gridiron sermon. That cathedral is officially called Tiger Stadium, but it’s Death Valley if you’re wearing the wrong colors. It’s also the epicenter of the pageantry, passion and tradition that is LSU Football. Just imagine Thanksgiving, Mardi Gras, and sometimes Christmas (thanks Coach Dooley) all rolled into one, and that might start to describe how we do it in the Red Stick when the Tigers are in Town. To attempt to capture it, DeathValleyVoice.com made the long trip from Los Angeles to show the nation just how electric the atmosphere is in my hometown on those Saturday afternoons.
Every school has its rituals. There’s always a team walk out, a band playing, or a mascot cutting up. There’s also the old tried and true experience of the Tailgate. Tailgating usually consists of a couple of people and a grill, telling stories of past warriors and past conquests. They huddle around a little TV, toss a football, then as the game begins they matriculate into the stadium or make their way back to the comfort of their Lay-Z-Boys to enjoy. Well in Tigerland we take the tailgate to a new level. South Louisiana is all about cultural excess; big food, big fun, big memories. Inject that into Tiger Tailgating and what you have is a food and drink experience that rivals the football game itself in terms of Saturday afternoon significance. Our world famous cuisine and one of a kind disposition is always on display before kickoff, as even a stranger wearing opposing colors could find himself a couple pounds heavier from the smorgasbord of Cajun vittles being thrust in his face at every turn. On our Game Day adventure, we caught up with Chris (The Tailgate) King, who in addition to being a dedicated Tiger fan and all around awesome guy, is a master of the pre game cookout.
Our trip to LSU came at a very interesting time for the LSU Fan Base. Going into Saturday’s game with Mcneese State the team sat undefeated at 6-0, but with no answered questions. Some close victories and questionable time management had put the 2010 LSU Tigers under the microscope, and the psyche of the team and coach Les Miles was being debated all over the college football universe. Not to say that spirits were down, more to the point, spirits were concerned. As we made our way through the tailgaters to the stadium, we ran into something of a local celebrity. Jay Ducote, webmaster of the food and drink Blog BiteandBooze.com and LSU alum was kind enough to give us his insights into the Saturday on campus experience, as well as his opinion of the current state of LSU Football. As luck would have it, during our interview we also got a visit from the Tigers themselves, as they made the Saturday trek down the hill into the stadium in what’s come to be known as “The Tiger Walk.”
In addition to the tradition and rituals of Game Day, there’s another not to be discounted aspect of the experience, the stories. Not the ones told to you (although you’ll get plenty of those) but the ones showed to you. Our journey saw us colliding with a group of youthful Chalmette natives who were celebrating the 30th anniversary of their inaugural “Toga Party” while tailgating for LSU. Not only did they give us the entire history of the Toga tradition (The whole history, folks from Chalmette are VERY outgoing.) They took the time to demonstrate the “Chalmette Shuffle for us, which in it of itself was worth a trip back to Baton Rouge for me.
We also met up with one tailgater who surrounded himself with the some eye candy while he was grilling, and I had time to pose with some current students who are just beginning their life long tradition LSU Game Day.
In all, that’s what you have on Saturday at LSU, food, football, and a lot of love. No time for disagreements or worry, no democrats, no republicans, just Tigers grooving to the same beat. It’s an experience like no other, as the colors and soul of my home state are on full display. We’ll be back tomorrow for the second part of our game day coverage, which will include fan interviews on the man that is Coach Les Miles, and the LSU Vs. Mcneese match up, which was the first time the two schools had ever got together on the football field.