In the recently released movie "The Blind Side" about former Ole Miss left tackle Michael Oher, his guardian explains to him that “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Lord Alfred Tennyson's classic poem is in reality about the Rebels' rivalry game against LSU, now known as the Magnolia Bowl.
The guardian explains that the cavalry, in a display of courage and unity, charges into a heavily fortified valley at the behest of their flawed but courageous and patriotic leader.
Oher then writes an essay relating this story to his own life and wins over a skeptical teacher who was the final obstacle in his path to NCAA eligibility and being able to accept a scholarship offer to play at Ole Miss—or virtually any other university of his choosing.
I must admit, I have followed LSU athletics my entire life and I have always been slightly embarrassed by not having an answer to the question, “Why is Tiger Stadium called Death Valley?”
Of course there is the Wikipedia version—allegedly posted by a Clemson University grad—which is popular with Clemson fans, who claim that their stadium was the first to be dubbed in honor of the Valley of Death.
I’ve also heard explanations related to Mike the Tiger our ‘man eating’ mascot.
Sean Tuohy’s (Oher's guardian) version—however far from being historically accurate—works for me.
More importantly, a cursory look at the story of the Light Brigade draws some fascinating comparisons—in a creative and literary sense—to the current plight of LSU’s Tiger Nation.
The Light Brigade, led by it’s (insert d word) strong and patriotic (loyal) Major General, the Earl of Cardigan found themselves charging into the valley based on misdirected order’s from an underling. Unprotected at their flanks, they faced an insurmountable enemy.
The valley would become known as "the Valley of Death."
Cardigan and his 600 charged into the onslaught of Russian artillery expecting to have back up from the Heavy Brigade, led by the Earl of Lucan, who coincidentally was Cardigan’s predecessor as commander of the Light Brigade and his estranged Brother in Law.
Perhaps it was enmity or distrust, but the Heavy Brigade watched from on high as Cardigan's men were slaughtered.
A national controversy ensued and Cardigan was questioned; surely he was the villain. Why oh why would he charge so outmanned—surely his troops deserved better leadership, perhaps a better man.
Yet, the men of the brigade, those who survived the charge, would rally around their leader: courageous, loyal, flawed and strong.
Lord Tennyson would memorialize their charge and pen the battle psalm:
When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder’d.
Honour the charge they Made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!
Last Saturday, LSU had been out-played physically statistically and on the scoreboard against Ole Miss, but made a wild and valiant charge in the last two minutes and had victory in their sight.
Inexplicably, the Tiger’s through a series of misses (calls, communication, game/clock management, etc…) or a tragedy of errors , if you will, retreated from victory’s view.
Yet, as if fate had deemed it necessary the admittedly flawed yet courageous and loyal leader—head coach Les Miles—still had one last ditched attempt to gain victory yet watched it slip from his grasp.
Like the Earl of Cardigan, the Hat of LSU leads from the front. And like Cardigan, all of the disdain, vitriol and chagrin of the nation (Tiger Nation) has been aimed squarely at him. "If only he’d been more like the former great commander, Lucan our old friend."
In the aftermath, with calls for his head, one thing has been missed and his case must be pled. Those men that charged with him, all aware of each other’s flaws have come to his side and here is what they have said.
“It makes you earn so much more respect for a man who comes out and says something like that,” senior tight end Richard Dickson said.
“Coach Miles has done great things here, been a great coach. The way he comes out and says that means a lot to you as a player and as a man. I earned a lot of respect for our coach for the way he talked to us.”
RB Stevan Ridley added, “I respect him. Any head coach that does that in front of the team and in front of the assistants, that comes up there and says, ‘This was my fault,’ it takes a lot for somebody to swallow their pride and say, ‘I messed something up.’
“He did what he needed to do. There’s nothing else that needs to be said. It says a lot about the person he is, and not just the coach. The team, that was something we needed to hear.”
“He tried to take the blame for the whole game, but I don’t think that’s fair,” LSU guard Lyle Hitt said. “There’s more to the game than just the last 30 seconds. That loss is on everybody’s shoulders.”
Added linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, “People are trying to say the end of the game is the big reason we lost, but the game could’ve been won at any time during the game. He’s taking all the pressure, and it’s really not his fault.”
The men, or soldiers if you will, have taken this leader’s left flank (the ‘blind side’) and the nation (Tiger Fans) needs to take up arms on the right.
This brigade, the mighty Bengal Tigers and its phenomenal senior class, have one more chance for victory in the valley and it comes this Saturday night against the Arkansas Razorbacks!
When the Sun sets and night falls on Death Valley may ALL you Tigers roar.
Do not let their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
The entire world did wonder.
But honor the charge they made!
Honor the Senior Class and the leader whom they choose!
Honor them for courage, loyalty and the Victory we shall come to know!
Sources: Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, LSUsports.net, Lord Tennyson, Microsoft Images
By Henry Ball (aka Southern Man, CFB Czar) Featured Columnist, Syndicated Writer
Another Must Read: Is Les Miles on the Hot Seat ?