DEVILLE: A different perspective

On a typical game weekend, the routine is pretty much the same for me.

Get up around 9 a.m., switch on ESPN Gameday, watch football until about 2:30 p.m. and head down to campus to search out perspective tailgate parties for our weekly tailgate feature.

 

By 5:30, it is off the west side elevators and into the press box to settle in for an evening of football and work. A plate of beef brisket, a room-temperature salad and an endless pile of paper possessing every possible stat you can imagine.

 

When the game ends, it is off to the locker room for Les Miles' postgame interview session, then about 11 p.m. or so, it's time to head home to update the website and prepare for a Sunday filled with magazine preparations for the week.

 

This past weekend I had the opportunity to take a break from my routine and view an LSU football game from a different perspective – from the stands.

 

These eyes have not seen a football game from the bleachers of Tiger Stadium in quite some time. Actually, it was Nov. 13, 1999. I am sure you all remember that day, maybe not the date itself, but no doubt what went on in Death Valley that night.

 

Houston 20, LSU 7.

 

That's right, it was Gerry D's last game ion purple and gold; the time I ever sat in the stands.

 

Every game since then (I moved to Baton Rouge just prior to the 2001 season), I have watched from either the sideline or the press box. Six years later, I figured it was time to revisit the perspective of the fan.

 

LSU was blessed with a pretty impressive home slate – Tennessee, Auburn, Florida - Tiger Stadium has seen some pretty exciting games this season. So I chose a game that wasn't one of the headliners, a game that meant little as the target date.

 

To get the full perspective, I hooked up with some friends of mine, Alan and Beth Freeman (Alan is the chief of police in my hometown of Bastrop), who tailgate weekly in the motor home lot across from the vet school at the corner of Skip Bertman Dr. and River Road.

 

My parents, who still live in Bastrop, had not been to a game in Baton Rouge since LSU beat Middle Tennessee State in 2001. So I invited my folks – Billy and Beth Deville – to join my fiancé, Beth, and I for the weekend.

 

Our Saturday morning began with breakfast at home. Around noon, we ventured out to the motor home lot, which I was told usually served as a designated area for free parking, but has since been converted to a temporary parking area for motor homes since the hurricanes.

 

From what the Freemans had told me, the lot had been rather crowded for conference games with Florida and Auburn, but on this Saturday, the roughly estimated 12-acre lot featured no more than 40 or so motor homes and travel trailers and was barely one-fourth full. It was pretty much a sea of grey limestone gravel standing unused.

 

I was told Beth and I could park in the lot near the motor homes, but met resistance at the gate by a rather uninformed security guard, who after some muffled communication on a radio, let us proceed into the near-vacant lot. Upon arriving at the motor home, another security guard said I would not be permitted to park near the motor home but could move to the rear area of the gravel parking lot, which I did with little hassle.

 

Approximately 10 minutes later, a Baton Rouge police officer approached and began notifying several tailgaters in the lot that if their vehicle had not towed a travel trailer into the lot, they would be towed immediately. (He wasn't joking as he was accompanied with a tow truck). Luckily I was able to find a rare remaining parking spot at the vet school across the street.

 

Upon returning to the lot, I approached the officer and asked why the remainder of the lot was being unused since there was almost 10 acres of space left vacant. The officer replied rules are rules and he was just doing what he was told to do. He said they are to treat every weekend as if it were a big game. While that seemed to be a reasonable response, the troubling thing was that when I asked which university official was in charge parking and motor home accommodations, he could not respond.

 

He actually said to me, "if you ask me, there are too many chiefs around here and not enough natives."

 

It made me appreciate the media parking pass I have near Tiger Stadium. Also I have a greater respect and understanding of fans who spend half of their Saturdays struggling to find parking and the aggravation that goes along with it.

 

At any rate, we enjoyed a grand afternoon of visiting with family and friends, even caught several good games on the television via satellite.

 

Around 6 p.m. we headed down to Tiger Stadium. We expect to find our seats, (which were in the east chairback section, nice new seats), watch a half of football or so, let my mother and fiancé enjoy the homecoming festivities at halftime then return to the motor home for a postgame wrap-up before retiring for the evening.

 

It didn't go quite the smoothly.

 

LSU didn't play badly, but merely went though the motions in carrying a 14-0 halftime lead into the locker room. The Tigers were no doubt playing everything close to the vest, worked out of a lot of sets and formations in prepping for the showdown coming up at Alabama.

 

In the meantime though, fans sat restlessly as a "better-than- some-people-expected" Appalachian State team moved the ball up and down the field and actually had a chance to cut it to 14-7 late in the third quarter.

 

But a missed field goal squandered the Mountaineers only real scoring chance and by the time JaMarcus Russell hit Keith Zinger on a nine-yard touchdown pass for a 21-0 lead with 13:22 left in the fourth quarter, we made our way to the exits.

 

Some observations I made during my rare visit to the stands, first and foremost, can you say "Holy Cold Pizza Batman!!??"

 

I thought the $4.00 tub of popcorn at the movies was expensive. Try a $6.00 slab of cold pizza tossed to you from 20 feet away. Not to mention the $4.00 bottle of "Tiger Water." I mean it's hydrogen and oxygen for crying out loud!

 

The pregame show is always enjoyable from wherever I sit, especially when I get to watch my "sports enthusiast" mother dance to the LSU fight song.

 

One of the more comical things I noticed was a middle-aged couple sitting a few rows in front of me. Both had dressed up in their gaudiest of Tiger garb, equipped with Tiger print outfits, hats, etc. Plus, the always important radio headset. Throughout the game, they sat screaming at one another because they could not hear each other because to the headset.

 

Then there was the obligatory guy who insisted on standing up every time someone moved on the field. You know the guy, the one that leaps up and feels the need to inform everyone of his opinion on everything from the type of cleats the team wears to who should be lining up under center. I'm just glad it wasn't the big, sweaty guy that feels it is a requirement to remove his shirt after a full day of tailgating.

 

It was definitely an educational experience for me. After so many years of sitting behind the scenes, it was nice to get out and interact with the people who make LSU football and my job worthwhile – the fans.

 

Plus, anytime I get to spend with the two best parents in the world is always a bonus.

 

One thing I did learn, though, by night's end, I collapsed into the bed snoring before I hit the pillow. I thought the players were exhausted after a Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. The old cliché says the teams leaves it all out on the field, but in this case, I am beginning to think that could be said of the fans.

 

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 Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag Magazine. Reach him at matt@tigerrag.com.

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