Calling Baton Rouge – A weekend at LSU

LSU students with Mike the Tiger

When it came to Saturday’s game against Alabama, some LSU were thinking revenge. Revenge for last season’s loss to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game. Revenge for Alabama being coached by Nick Saban who had previously been the coach at LSU. Even if fans weren’t seeking revenge, a common feeling was that last year’s National Championship Game should not have been played against Alabama because LSU had not only beaten the Crimson Tide during the regular season, but that they also had defeated the them in Tuscaloosa.

Other LSU fans were looking ahead. There seemed to be a feeling that if the Tigers could beat Alabama, and win the SEC Championship Game, that they would have the chance to again play for the National Championship. Others were looking to see the first defeat of a top-ranked team in Baton Rouge in 15 years.

Tailgating at LSU starts early.

But most fans were looking to have a good time and hoping for a great game. On gameday, the tailgating at LSU starts early. Ten hours before the game, the parking areas weren’t beginning to fill, they were almost full. Giant pots of jambalaya were being stirred, beer was everywhere and the smell of shrimp filled the air. Cocktailing was in full swing, and it seemed like he university allows fans to set up tailgate parties almost anyplace they want, and they do.
I’ve been to many stadiums and venues and have never seen anything like Baton Rouge. The number of tents, tailgates, and people just walking around with coolers and cases is more than any other stadium or game that I’ve been to.  According to ESPN Blogger Chris Low, there might have been 50,000 people outside the stadium that didn’t go to the game but just wanted to enjoy the tailgating. It is simply outstanding.
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This legendary tailgating draws people from all over the world. I met James and Andrew, two cousins who were visiting from Ireland on an American football tour. James coaches hurling, a sport huge in Ireland that has some similarities to lacrosse and cricket. Both cousins were impressed by the entire day-long celebration at Tiger Stadium, and thought they were treated really well by LSU fans. They’ll be in the states next weekend, and are planning to return to Baton Rouge to see LSU host Mississippi State.
The fans that leave tailgating to go into the stadium do so early. Most seats were filled 30 minutes before kickoff, and when I walked through the concourse about two minutes before kickoff, it was deserted. There was no line to get into the stadium — it seemed everyone was already in their seat.

Perhaps the coolest thing at Tiger Stadium was the crowd sing-a-long. At most stadiums, fans sing a long with traditional favorites like Sweet Caroline, Louie, Louie or Hang on Sloopy. At Tiger Stadium, the 93,000 fans sang-along to the Star Spangled Banner, it was powerful, and closed out with a fly over by a United States Coast Guard helicopter.

The game was intense and electric. LSU scored first, but Alabama took a 14-3 lead shortly before halftime. LSU scored late in the third quarter, and took the lead in the fourth. But revenge would have to wait. The Tigers missed a 45-yard field goal that would have given LSU a six-point lead with less than two minutes remaining, giving Alabama got the ball back on their own 28. The Crimson Tide had no timeouts, and only 49 yards of offense in the second half, but they proceeded to drive 72 yards in 42 seconds, scoring the winning touchdown with less than a minute left. Final score, Alabama 21, LSU 17.
A tough loss for the Tigers, but they did give the top-ranked team in the country their toughest fight of the season, and nearly came away with the win. Fans told me that they were proud of their team, that they believed their team had given its all, and left nothing on the field.  It seemed to me like the fans did too.  It says a lot about the fan experience when you take trip to see the game of the year, a re-match of the BCS National Championship Game from the year before, and the game, decided in the last minute, is about the fifth biggest thing that you think of when you think about gameday in Baton Rouge.
Written on the bus from Baton Rouge
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