Callin’ Baton Rouge

I have decided, at long last, to throw away my ratty old LSU sweatshirt.

This sweatshirt, for the record, predates Paul, that’s how old it is. It’s either thirty or twenty-nine; I cannot really remember one way or the other. It was, however, my very first LSU sweatshirt–the first of many–and I bought it at the bookstore on the LSU campus. I don’t remember which drive from Houston to Tampa it was when I stopped on campus and bought it–it was either a time when I was driving my new car from Houston back to Tampa, or when I was riding with a friend who was driving from Phoenix to Tampa–I flew into Houston, he met me at the airport and we drove on to Tampa from there, but for a very long time it was my only LSU sweatshirt, and I’ve always had a deep fondness for it. It’s been worn and washed so many times that it’s incredibly thin and threadbare; the neckline is fraying and so are the sleeves at the wrist. It’s stained and ratty and messy, so much so that I won’t even wear it to run errands. I only wear it around the house and usually only when all the other sweatshirts are dirty (I live in sweats when I am at home), and the other day as I was putting it on I realized not only how old it was but how bad of shape it was in. Why are you holding on to this sweatshirt? I asked myself, and then Saturday morning as I was folding it out of the dryer I thought throw it away, why are you keeping this? Sentiment? You pride yourself on your lack of that emotion, so I decided to take a photo of it, write a farewell blog entry to it, and put it in the trash–which I should have done years ago, really.

I don’t even remember why I decided to stop on campus and buy it, to be honest. I have no memory of that at all. Even now, when we are on campus for games and go by the store, it doesn’t look familiar at all from back then. Maybe they’ve built or redesigned the campus store, I don’t know; it’s certainly possible. But I don’t remember it being right by the stadium, either; it’s possible there are two stores on campus. I couldn’t say for sure.

Despite growing up as an Auburn and Alabama fan (in that order; the rule was you always rooted for Alabama unless they were playing Auburn), I’ve always kind of been partial to LSU, even though I had no connection to either the school or the state until much later in life. I’ve tried to remember why I always liked LSU, even as a kid–I think it was two things: purple has always been a favorite color of mine, especially when paired with gold, and the live tiger on campus (which I am now on the fence about–I see the arguments both for and against keeping a live tiger on campus as a mascot, but I love that tiger). My cousin actually was on the Auburn team that lost the Earthquake Game back in 1988–my family is still bitter about that 7-6 last minute loss–and when we moved to Louisiana, I got Paul into college football and he became an LSU fan because we lived here. I still rooted for Auburn and Alabama and LSU, in that order. I was still rooting for Auburn and Alabama when they played LSU, though; even in 2003 when LSU won its first national championship since 1958. It was 2005 when everything shifted for me on the college football landscape; that horrible 2005 season after Katrina, when LSU’s football team was about the only positive thing Louisiana had going for it that season, that was when I went full-on bleed purple-and-gold LSU fan, and have never looked back since. Paul of course had already gone full tilt LSU fan, and his enthusiasm was catching. I used to only care about college football; now I pay attention to almost every sport, from basketball to gymnastics to baseball to track so I can root for the Tigers.

Even before LSU moved to the front of the list, I was writing about LSU. Chanse played scholarship football for LSU, and would have possibly played pro had he not suffered a career-ending knee injury in the Sugar Bowl his last season of eligibility. Chanse was a tight end; and I had always intended for Chanse to go back to LSU and solve a murder on the campus, at his fraternity house. That story, “Once a Tiger,” is about four thousand words in; I’ve debated turning it into both a novel or a novella rather than a short story. Scotty is an LSU fan–I wrote about Mike the Tiger in Baton Rouge Bingo–and of course, in A Streetcar Named Murder Valerie’s twin sons are in their first semester up there.

Looks pretty bad, doesn’t it? It served me well for nearly three four decades!

Paul and I went to our first LSU game in Tiger Stadium in November of 2010. It was the Mississippi game, the Magnolia Bowl; there’s not much love lost between LSU and Mississippi–their fans still can’t get over Billy Cannon’s Run back in 1959. LSU has ruined many a season for the Rebels, and vice versa, but I do think they hate us more than we hate them. The game was amazing, and we had a great time. We went to several games in 2011, and it wasn’t until the COVID year of 2020 that we went the entire season without going to a game; the only game we went to in 2021 was the first time the Tigers ever lost when we were at the game (Auburn, ironically; it was also Auburn’s first win in Baton Rouge this century). We didn’t go to any games this year, either; not sure if we will be going to any more in the future, either; but one never knows, and I would like to go to at least one more Saturday night game in Death Valley. We’ve been to some great games over the years, and I am very happy to say that we got to see that great 2019 team play twice–and we were at the Florida game, which was amazing and exciting and I couldn’t talk for at least three days afterwards.

And of course, this season was all over the place, but the team did something never done before in LSU football history: won at both Florida and Auburn…so obviously, the team has never won in Gainesville and Auburn and beat Alabama in Baton Rouge. Not even Joe Burrow could do that; in his first year as a Tiger he was 1-2 in those three games. So, if nothing else, Jayden Daniels has won a place in LSU history for that, and Brian Kelly did something in his first year in Baton Rouge that no LSU coach had ever done before–including Nick Saban (even the year Saban led LSU to a national title, that team lost to Florida in Tiger Stadium).

And so it’s goodbye to my old sweatshirt at long last. I don’t know why I didn’t throw it away sooner–it’s been ratty and stained and threadbare for years–unless it was an unconscious kind of sentimentality. I haven’t preserved much of my pre-Paul life–I’ve always viewed those years as a prologue to the rest of my life–but this was one of the few things left from that time.

But its time has passed, so farewell to you, old LSU sweatshirt. You served me well…and now I get to buy a new one to replace it. YES!

And here’s my Christmas gift from Paul this year:

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