In most years, the topic of conversation in late January pertains to either LSU basketball or the upcoming approach of the first pitch in Alex Box Stadium. We won't mess with baseball this week, since Tiger Rag's baseball preview will hit the streets in two weeks. And honestly, who really wants to talk Tiger hoops right now anyway?
Besides, LSU fans got the opportunity to witness possibly the grandest moment in the history of Baton Rouge last Saturday when an estimated 100,000 fans flocked downtown for a Parade of Champions.
Honoring LSU and its' first national title in 45 years, along with the Southern Jaguars and their Black College Football national title, the streets of Baton Rouge's financial district was filled with joy despite nasty weather to enjoy a parade honoring these two greats ball clubs.
The parade was literally a site to see.
With dignitaries from each university riding in an array of antique cars, each school's band marched with pride as the respective football teams were chauffeured to the state capitol atop area fire trucks. The smiles on the players' faces were priceless. Southern quarterback Quincy Richard waived to admiring fans while LSU defensive lineman Torran Williams, wearing a fireman's helmet, dangled from the bucket on the end of an East Baton Rouge fire truck's ladder.
The sight on the grounds of the capitol is one many will hold dear for years to come. LSU fans cheering wildly as Southern's legendary band performed. And let's just say there were plenty of Blue and Gold pom-poms shaking to the tune of LSU's famous Pregame Anthem as well.
As each school's respective officials stepped to the podium, the moment almost mirrored an event, which took place on that very spot just weeks earlier. Gov. Kathleen Blanco was sworn in as Louisiana's new governor just two weeks prior to the parade. (More on that later.) Each speech made by Southern or LSU's president, chancellor or athletic director had a governmental…. er… State of the Union address feel to it.
"Baton Rouge!" LSU athletics director Skip Bertman said, which brought thunderous applause.
"A City of Champions!" Southern head coach Pete Richardson declared. (Cue the roar of the crowd.)
But LSU chancellor Mark Emmert stole the show with one simple statement.
"They're not having a celebration like this in Southern California," said Emmert, making reference to USC, the team with whom LSU shared the national title.
Following the state capitol extravaganza, LSU fans proceeded to Tiger Stadium for the official national championship celebration.
The Tigers were presented to a rain-soaked faithful crowd 25,000 as the 2003 BCS National Champions. The ADT National Championship Trophy was presented, as well as the spoils of the Nokia Sugar Bowl.
One of the day's more comical moments was when lieutenant governor Mitch Landrieu stepped to the podium, where he was greeted with a rousing chorus of boos. Landrieu announced he was speaking on behalf of Gov. Blanco, who was attending the wedding of her husband's nephew in Atlanta.
Of course, the spirited Tiger fans broke into a Saturday Night in Death Valley cheer.
Is that good politics? The newly elected governor chose a wedding of a relative in another state rather than attend the largest celebratory gathering in the history of the Louisiana Capitol. Let's just say, her honor probably would have made other plans had the event been held prior to Election Day.
And Blanco wasn't the only recipient of abuse from the partisan gathering. Poor Mary Foster, who is an outstanding lady, had the unenviable duty of presenting Saban with the Associated Press National Coach of the Year Award. The AP, of course, named Southern Cal its national champion. So one can imagine the welcome Foster received. It sounded a great deal like halftime of the 2001 LSU/Ole Miss game.
Saban must have been grinning inside. For once, it was neither he nor his team getting booed in Tiger Stadium, but a member of the media.
At any rate, what a glorious end to an outstanding season of Tiger football. One must wonder will Baton Rouge ever have the opportunity to experience anything quite like what thousands saw last weekend.
Oh why not.
We said we would not talk Tiger hoops, but since football is now officially over, who isn't talking LSU Basketball.
As in two previous seasons, head coach John Brady's team has hit the January skids. Three straight SEC losses have begun turning (take your pick) "Jaime's Homies," "Brady's Bunch," etc. against the home team.
Brady has preached home important January losing streaks are to avoid, make reference to the prior two seasons. Yet, LSU finds itself mired in another midseason minefield as the walls are beginning to close in on the offensively challenged Tigers.
A loss to Mississippi State at home and a very good South Carolina team on the road were somewhat acceptable, but a road loss to a not-so-good Ole Miss team and upcoming games against a stronger-than-expected Georgia squad, a surging Tennessee club and a road date at Florida…. Uh-oh!
However, while the Tigers seem to slump in January, February has been good to Brady's teams as LSU has a tendency to turn it on down the stretch. There is ALWAYS that big win lurking out there against a very good team. Kentucky on February 29?
Who knows, but the one difference in this season and those of recent years – Collis Temple, Torris Bright and Ronald Dupree. LSU does not possess the gamers of years past and time will tell if Brady can motivate his band of freshmen studs to suck it up and get this going.