Recallin' Baton Rouge, and the Greatest Sports Experience Ever
I spent last Saturday night in the company of friends in a stadium in Louisiana, and although I have returned home, my thoughts are still with them. A replay of the night's events still roll through my mind, except a play or two, erased by sweet red wine.
I'm recallin' Baton Rouge.
Of course, this is not the libretto belted out from Albita-and-bourbon-soaked vocal chords of a record-setting crowd, singing along to the Golden Band from Tigerland's first public rendition of the popular song made famous by Garth Brooks during a memorable fourth quarter. But it's where my mind has been since I departed Baton Rouge following another classic Saturday night in Tiger Stadium nearly a week ago.
The football gods had surely been overly kind to us early on, much like most of the fans we came into contact with, extending to us a beautiful blue-tinged sky and a warmth not likely found at any other football locale on the first weekend in November.
I know it never rains in Tiger Stadium, but this was absolutely ridiculous.
The towering stately oaks and the broad magnolias were absolutely striking and provided a little protection from the sun we had been so blessed with. Just as beautiful were the southern belles, impeccably clad in their purple and gold sun dresses gently being kissed on the lips by similar colored Bud Light cans.
Perfectly set tailgate parties established in seemingly engineered hamlets with smells and sounds rarely found at other sporting events. With enormous cast iron pots of jambalaya and actual pigs roasting, it looked as if some of these parties would be welcoming the entire Louisiana State University student body and doing so in celebration, well into the early hours of the Sunday morning.
Was this Heaven?
No, it was simply Baton Rouge on game day. (Well, a big game day)
After hearing the marching band perform the opening strains of "Pregame Salute" and "Touchdown for LSU" on Victory Hill, a tradition prior to entering the stadium, I knew that the day had nearly been complete and no matter what the outcome of the game may be, the day would go down as one of my favorites and most memorable ever.
And I was feeling great about everything, as were nearly 150,000 other revved up fans on campus. Some were feeling the euphoria from eight plus hours of alcohol consumption, some just in the mood for revenge after their beloved Tigers got steam-rolled by the Tide in last season's BCS National Championship Game in their own back yard.
Zach Mettenberger's touchdown pass to Jarvis Landry with 12:58 left in the fourth quarter ignited a frenzy at Tiger Stadium and gave the Tigers a 17-14 lead on the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide.
So how does something feel so right, end up so wrong?
After a very impressive 13 play drive that had initiated at the their own 19 yard line with 7:20 left had been halted at the Alabama 28 with only 1:39 left, all seemed well.
But that was not to be the case.
Hearing the words "no good" from public address announcer Dan Borne, referring to kicker Drew Alleman's 45 yards field goal attempt was very disappointing but not devastating.
Not at the time anyway.
Of course, Alabama needed to cover a lot of ground and had very little time to do it in (1:34) with out a single time-out remaining.
And they had to do it against one of the nation's toughest defenses who had held Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron to less than 100 yards passing to this point in the game.
And wait for it...
All of this had to be done in Death Valley.
The place where opponent's dreams come to die.
There is no wonder that I was not feeling worried. There was going to be so much chaos following the final whistle that some Tiger fans may mistake it for a Les Miles two-minute drill, only much more enjoyable.
In a few minutes this place would be registering on the Richter Scale, I thought to myself.
Alabama took over at the 28 yard line and before you had enough time to google Garth Brooks' alter ego, the Tide was celebrating A.J. McCarron's touchdown toss to T.J. Yeldon and their miraculous comeback.
And just like that...Tiger Stadium had now become the place where the home team's dreams die.
How in the name of Billy Cannon do you recover from something like this?
If there is anything that Louisianians do better than party, it is persevere. We are all very familiar with Hurricane Katrina and what has transpired to the state of Louisiana and its residents in the years following that horrific occurrence.
They recovered...completely. And everyone in that stadium will do the same, it may just take time.
However, it tugs at your heart strings.
I had to put this story through and send my love down to Baton Rouge.
Sweet Baton Rouge.
Many thanks go out to those of you who went out of your way to show us the time of our life. Brandon and Erica Michel, Karl and Happy Zeller, Todd Stein, PJ, Ron and many others.
Joe Rogers is a college football writer and operates the website The College Football Bowl Report.
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