The infrequent spectator
I said I would be back in less than 24 hours after my last post. I kept my promise, although it’s because I’ve had a stream of consciousness moment, not anything dealing with LSU and Mizzou.
My memory is failing me.
When I went to Wentzville and Lake St. Louis earlier today, I forgot how bad traffic on Interstate 64 west is from Lake St. Louis to I-70. I witnessed it in May when I drove into Chesterfield for my week-long stay.
I shouldn’t be too worried. After all that’s happened between 11 May and 9 October, I should forgive myself for forgetting traffic patterns in western St. Charles County. It was my third trip that way in 13 months, more than I’ve been most places, but still not enough to rise to the status between tourist and resident.
Now if I had forgotten the traffic patterns on the other side of Missouri, I’d have to worry about the old brain.
I haven’t seen an LSU football game in person in almost 17 years.
Tomorrow will be the first time I will be observing an LSU football game as a regular spectator in 25 years.
Every LSU football game I witnessed from 1996 through 2003 was in a press box. Most of them were in the old press box of Tiger Stadium (Death Valley), which was torn down after the 2004 season to make way for a new upper deck on the west side of the stadium, as well as a new press box.
The old press box at LSU was an oven. No air conditioning, and worse, no circulation, period. Breezes barely blow in Louisiana on most nights, and even if it did, there was no way to get the air circulating in the press box, at least on the second level (print media) and third level (private booths). The first level, where the radio and television broadcasters worked, as did public address announcer Dan Borne, had air conditioning. I loved lingering in Dan’s booth as much as I could, because he turned the thermostat WAY down, the way I like it.
I also watched LSU play in the Sugar Bowl twice, defeating Illinois after the 2001 season, as well as the aforementioned game vs. Oklahoma two years later.
The last LSU football game I went to strictly as a fan was with my dad on 16 September 1995, when the Bayou Bengals defeated Auburn 12-6.
Our seats were terrible—ground level boxes at the southwest corner of the stadium. Naturally, most of the big plays occurred at the north end of the stadium, including James Gillyard’s sack of Patrick Nix for a safety and Troy Twillie’s interception on the game’s last play.
On the drive back to New Orleans, my dad remarked he could not hear LSU’s Golden Band from Tigerland because of the crowd noise. LSU’s band at the time was at the northwest corner of the stadium (now it’s near the top of the north end zone), but with so many members, the sound carried well across campus. Not that night.
Tiger Stadium was sold out (80,559), and the crowd had a big part in throwing Auburn off its game. That, and the revenge LSU sought after giving away the 1994 game in Auburn, made the Plainsmen’s task that much more difficult.
I’ve seen five games from the stands at Tiger Stadium—two in 1992 (Tennessee 20, LSU 0; LSU 24, Tulane 12), two in ‘93 (LSU 24, Tulane 10; Arkansas 42, LSU 24) and the aforementioned 1995 game. I also was in the Superdome stands for LSU’s wins vs. Tulane in 1991 (39-20) and ‘94 (49-25).
This will not be my first LSU road game.
That came 26 years ago, when I watched the Bayou Bengals get embarrassed 34-21 by a mediocre Ole Miss squad in Oxford. The game was nowhere near as close as the score; the Rebels led 31-0 before they relaxed and let the Tigers score a couple of cheap touchdowns.
I bought a ticket for $18 through LSU’s ticket office. I had a good seat, 40-yard line behind LSU’s bench about 15 rows up.
I had no idea how to get there and where I was going to stay. I had a car, but there was no way I was going to find a hotel room in Oxford. My dad’s original plan was for me to stay in Jackson, 360 km (170 miles) south of Oxford the night before the game, drive to the game, go back to Jackson, then return to Baton Rouge Sunday.
At this time, Baton Rouge was the farthest I had driven. I could drive back and forth on I-10 between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, but I had no confidence going out of state.
Lucky for me, LSU’s athletic photographer, Brad Messina, was going to drive to the game instead of flying with the team like he usually did. He and Steve Franz, who later became LSU’s athletic photographer, let me ride in the back seat of Brad’s Volvo and crash in their hotel room in Memphis where the team was staying.
The game was forgettable, but two incidents in the stands which stood out.
One was where I berated Adam Young, who I worked with in LSU’s sports information office. Adam told me at halftime the game was over, and I denounced him for not having faith in his school.
To be fair, Adam had to suffer through the first three seasons of Curley Hallman’s coaching tenure while working as a student in the sports information office. That, combined with the sudden freefall of LSU’s volleyball program (Adam was the volleyball team’s media relations director from 1992-94) had worn him thin.
Two female student assistants from the sports information office, Nikki Sontheimer (now Amberg) and Rebecca Borne (yes, that one) (now Brennan) found the exchange funny. Rebecca teased me about it quite a bit through the years before things went terribly south between us.
Adam and I patched things up. His wedding to former LSU volleyball standout Luciana Santana in July 1997 was the first I attended.
I had a crush on Nikki, who was four years older. I annoyed the hell out of her during the 1994-95 athletic season, but when I saw her again after the 1996 football season opener, she forgave me too.
Now if only Rebecca will…
The second incident in Oxford came after LSU scored its second touchdown on a blocked punt.
An inebriated Rebel rouser turned to the LSU fans cheering behind him and shot the finger. Lovely.
Oxford is my least favorite SEC location. If it isn’t, it’s in a dead heat with Gainesville and Tuscaloosa. I don’t have any desire to go back.
That’s it for tonight. No, really, it is.