My hat goes off to LSU fans for making my friends and I feel so welcome during our stay in Baton Rouge. With few laid out plans for our pre-game festivities except to attend the Arizona Alumni tailgate at 3:30, we set out for campus early because I was to have my big radio debut Saturday morning on a local sports talk show. The Geaux Show went off without a hitch and I confidently predicted that UA would upset LSU 22-17, even though I did say that it wouldn't surprise me if we lost 45-7. Looking back, I've never been so wrong and so right in a single breath.
The adrenaline of being interviewed live was an awesome feeling but paled in comparison to the rest of my Saturday. Before the show aired, Barry, Troy and I were walking aimlessly through the quad just east of Memorial Tower when the fate of our day finally took shape. Chants of tiger bait roared out from a shadowy tree grove and hit us harder then that first wave of humidity did two days earlier. "Tiger bait, tiger bait, tiger bait, tiger bait," the tailgaters wouldn't stop. Not knowing what else to do, the three of us started singing Bear Down, Arizona. Impressed, the LSU fans invited us over for a beer and a bit of football talk. Four beers and a deer burger later, it became obvious that we weren't moving for the rest of the day.
Our hosts were a tailgaiting bunch called the Krewe of Mamou. Recognized as the Cajun music capital of the world, Mamou is a quiet town about 50 miles outside of Baton Rouge. For as quiet a town as Mamou may be, the Krewe was anything but quiet and every bit as hospitable as we could have ever imagined. So much so that the Krewe was a major reason why this weekend trip is and always will be one of my most memorable football weekenders. On a day when there was to be a football game between the Pac 10 and the SEC, you'd be hard pressed to know it during the first few hours of our tailgate. Between eating Tur Ducken, Tasso and sausage white beans, deer dirty rice and a smorgasbord of other local delicacies such as blackened gator I didn't know what made me feel better, the steady stream of Bourbon party host Brian LeJeune kept serving me or watching Troy and Barry absolutely dominate our new friends in a regional "hand toss" game called Washerboard a.k.a. Hillbilly Horseshoes, where a team must score exactly 21 points by tossing round metal washers into one of three holes carved out of boards that are placed 10 feet apart. In the end, the food, the drinking and the games were outstanding, but for me, it was the people we met that gave me the greatest joy.
Brian, A.B., Dustin, Rob the Rebel, Ted and Jason, to name a few, took us in and treated us like family. What's more, the other fans we met and with whom no names were exchanged, just good conversation about football, Tucson, Baton Rouge, and food, were equally welcoming. Of course, as the game drew closer, the atmosphere did begin to intensify as more and more Arizona fans could be seen roaming the quad, chased by the more frequently heard chants of tiger bait. And if that wasn't enough, the real excitement of game day became official when Brian pulled a Clarke Kent and changed from shorts and a t-shirt to his usual game attire – a purple suit, yellow shirt, LSU themed college tie, LSU cowboy hat and, of all things, white sneakers. I have to admit, Brian looked great.
We parted with the Krewe shortly thereafter as nearly everyone we had met that day told us that we had to make it to the stadium for the band show just outside the stadium gates. Our walk through campus was mostly uneventful. However, once we got to the stadium and saw the spectacle outside of it, we were awestruck. Rolling hills were dotted with towering trees that provided shade to the thousands of LSU fans who lined the band's parade route leading into the stadium. As Barry, Troy, me and my other friends RVC and Matt made our way through the crowd the chants of TIGER BAIT were deafening and in one word, awesome. In fact, we were so energized at that point I think if coach Stoops had told us to strap on helmets and hit someone, we would've gang tackled their band's conductor as he danced his way down Stadium Way.
Once inside Tiger Stadium, our team also seemed fired up to play in such a hostile environment. We looked inspired during warm-ups and appeared ready to go. Unfortunately, Willie Tuitama took a helmet to helmet hit on the first play and never recovered, our offensive line looked downright offensive, and B.J. Dennard's early fumble enabled LSU to jump out to a quick 10-0 lead. Within five minutes the game was over and has since been forgotten, but the memories of a fantastic day will last forever thanks to the hospitality of a group of strangers incessantly chanting tiger bait that reeled us in early Saturday morning. So, cheers to southern hospitality, cheers to LSU, and cheers to my many new friends from the Krewe of Mamou.