Brittany, Lisa, Liz and a lot of other people, whether they be from Buffalo Wild Wings, western Kansas or Louisiana, have told me tmie and time and time again to be careful about what I post, because someone will take me seriously and it will end up having negative consequences.
I should have learned that one fateful week in October 1997 when I was attending LSU.
Today marks the 17th anniversary of LSU’s 28-21 victory over then-No. 1 Florida, the 1996 national champion, in Tiger Stadium. It was the first time LSU had ever beaten Steve Spurrier, whether when he was the Gators’ quarterback or coach. Unruly students tore down the goalposts and did damage to the field.
I should have been watching the game from the press box. Instead, I was alone at my home in New Orleans, crying, not watching the game. Why?
I was working in the sports information office, a wonderful opportunity, and one I was maybe not ready for. I just did not have the social skills in that era to handle working anywhere, let alone the sports information office of a Southeastern Conference, but a lot of people, especially Herb Vincent, then LSU’s sports information director and now the associate commissioner for media relations at the SEC office.
How much did Herb believe in me? He hired me as a first semester student to work in the sports information office back in the fall of 1994, but he had to fire me at the end of the semester because I wasn’t getting the work done. Frankly, I wasn’t ready for it. I was 18 years old, but my social skills were way, way behind; far more so than they are today.
Even though I wasn’t working in the office during the spring semester in 1995, he pulled my butt out of a huge fire. I got into some serious trouble, and it looked like I would face suspension if not banishment from the university. However, Herb went to the LSU police and Dean of Students office and asked them not to do that. He told them I could be redeemed. His stepping up to the plate allowed me to at least save some dignity when I left LSU at the end of the spring 1995 semester and eventually return at the beginning of 1997.
Herb didn’t bring me back full time when I returned to school, but he let me work LSU baseball games. The Bayou Bengals won the 1997 national championship, and even though I wasn’t in Omaha, it was quite a ride.
I was very unhappy in the fall semester of 1997. My father was on an assignment in Brazil, and that added to my loneliness. I had terrible times working the home football games, and I felt my work in the sports information office was hurting my academic work, which was total bull; it was just a crutch to try and get out of work in sports information.
On the first Sunday of October, I hastily drafted a letter to Michael Bonnette, who was then Herb’s chief lieutenant for football publicity. I told Michael I was sick and tired of all the work invovled, and I was quitting.
At first, I thought it would blow over and I would be back Tuesday. I didn’t work on Mondays that semester because I was seeing a counselor for my problem, which I didn’t know was Aperger’s.
I didn’t think Michael would give the letter to Herb, but when I came back that Tuesday, he asked me what the heck I was doing there. He thought I had quit. Herb did, too, and he reassigned my duties to quite a few different people, none of whom were happy. I called my mother from the office crying hysterically, and Michael took the phone from me and talked to her. He then went to talk to Herb, and the decision was made: one-week suspension. I would miss the LSU-Florida football game.
It was torture that week. I stayed in Baton Rouge to go to my classes and cover a high school football game that Friday night, and then I drove back to New Orleans Saturday to stay alone.
The next day, I was driving on I-10 over the Bonnet Carre Spillway in St. Charles Parish when I heard a terryfying sound. FLAT TIRE. And the Spillway is the worst possible place to have one, since it is a 12-mile elevated stretch over a swamp with no exits, no services, no nothing. Fortunately, a state trooper came by to help me change my tire, and I drove it to a service station in Kenner, where my mother met me. She drove behind me back to Baton Rouge, and she spent that Monday, my 21st birthday, with me, except for when I went to class.
The Tuesday after the Florida game, I returned to the sports information office. Herb was still disappointed in me–as he should have been–but he welcomed me back. Everyone who had inherited my duties all breathed a sigh of relief.
I should have learned my lesson that day. Alas, I kept doing the same thing over and over. I see where the ladies of Buffalo Wild Wings are coming from when they tell me not to post stuff like that. It can get ugly…or worse, downright scary.