MULE': LSU atmosphere much different

What a difference 364 days make. Saturday night, one day short of a calendar year, was a pleasant, mild night, at just 35 percent humidity and clear at the 7 p.m. kickoff time. And on Sept. 2, a game was played. The things we learn to be grateful for.

Remember Sept. 3, 2005?  Hot and muggy Tiger Stadium was empty. The opening tune-up against North Texas was postponed.  Baton Rouge (and LSU) was filling with refugees from coastal Louisiana and New Orleans who were fleeing the ravages of the


Nearly Perfect Storm that wrecked the structures, homes—and lives—of an entire region.

Then, what was supposed to be the second home game, against Arizona State, was moved from Baton Rouge to Tempe, Ariz.


When LSU finally did suit up in Baton Rouge on Sept. 26, the latest home opener at LSU in 44 years, it was so hot there the sidelines resembled a triage with a cluster of Tigers needing liquid transfusions. LSU really did melt, falling apart in the second half and transforming a 21-0 lead at intermission into a 30-27 overtime defeat to Tennessee.


There will be no such torturous memories about Louisiana-Lafayette after the 45-3 beating the Tigers put on their neighboring cousins, the at-the-moment not so Ragin' Cajuns. The only way this particular game would be remembered after this year is if ULL had found a way to win—much like the only real way we remember North Texas of last year is that the game wasn't played when it was scheduled.


The first weeks of the 2005 season were hard to remember … and yet unforgettable.

Other than the remarkable recovery Les Miles' team made after Tennessee, two of the most enduring memories of LSU's Season of Katrina were: (1) "Daaant, daaant, DANT!'' the blaring sound of a recording of the Tiger fanfare coming from the area of the old Pentagon Barracks on an otherwise almost deserted campus after the postponement of the North Texas meeting. Some fans, refusing to give up their football rituals, were tailgating, complete with spicy food, cold drinks and heart-pumping music; and (2) Driving around Mandeville, after 16 days in stifling heat without electricity and the almost non-stop drone of bad news sounding worse and worse on the car radio, and hitting a couple of buttons, hearing all of a sudden Buddy Songy on WSKR-AM.


It was an audible oasis, not only hearing something different all of a sudden, but that the conversation was on football. The call-ins were upset, all right, but not with the tattered state or the inhabitants who were struggling to stay alive in dire conditions. They were angry and spewing venom about Miles and LSU's melt-down against the Vols.


We were back in the real world. Or at least the world Louisiana inhabits.


A Fox documentary, "Eye of the Storm," provided a glimpse into that mindset for the rest of the world to digest. It is priceless.


Mike Serio, owner of Serio's Deli, a landmark eatery in downtown New Orleans and a virtual shrine to LSU athletics, says in the program: "You know the best thing about Katrina? It came at the start of football season. If it had come at some other time, I don't know if I could have handled it. I might have gone off a bridge."


Mike's first marriage ended in divorce years ago, falling victim to what he admits is his obsession with LSU. He had attended every LSU football game, at home and on the road, for the last 25 years. That string, which does seem pretty small in the scope of what was going around Louisiana, was in jeopardy.


"When they moved the Arizona State game from Tiger Stadium to Tempe," Serio said, "I not only felt my streak was over, but the hurricane had me in a deep depression. So what happens? My ex winds up giving me some of her frequent flyer miles. Suddenly I'm flying to Houston. I'm flying to Arizona, and I'm watching JaMarcus Russell throw the winning touchdown pass in a great comeback victory."


Memories, even in the midst of the heartache brought on by the Near-Perfect Storm, are made of this.  




Marty Mule' can be reached at

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