FEINSWOG: Baton Rouge, LSU lost a good one

The LSU community and the Baton Rouge area lost a good one last week.

When Gus Piazza died at just 55, he left behind a ton of great memories, happy sports viewers and more full bellies than you could imagine.

Most people around here knew him as the guy who owned Phi's Oyster Bar.

But sports fans the nation over knew him as the man to call for tickets. Not just LSU tickets, but tickets to just about any major sporting event in the land, especially the Final Four.

Gus always had a supply of tickets to the Final Four and would annually hold court in the coaches hotel as well-wishers and buyers came past to pay respects, and, hopefully, upgrade from the nose-bleed section.

Gus fought far too many health battles the past decade. Diabetes cost him an eye and half a leg. And had his sister not donated him a kidney, we would have lost him long before this.

But none of that stopped the former LSU football equipment manager from feeding hungry LSU athletes, which he did without question, without expectation, just because that's what he did.

When the NCAA investigated LSU in the 1990s for basketball infractions, one of the issues that came up was that athletes ate at Phil's for free. Gus was defiant and never apologized for taking care of the kids.

His longtime friend, Frank Mauberret, said about a gathering Friday at Gus's house after the funeral that everyone told stories but ultimately they were all the same: Gus was a guy who gave so much to so many and loved making people smile.

At the old Phil's restaurant on

Government Street
, there was a back room that catered to, well, only who Gus wanted to cater to. Many of the regulars there were big-time area movers and shakers. There were card games, a few bets might have been placed, and some of the best food Louisiana had to offer was served up.

"The mistake we made was never finding a writer from Hollywood to sit down in the back room for a year and get all the stories," Mauberret said. "It would have been better than any sitcom."

Gus decided to move Phil's to a

College Drive
location. It didn't work out and last summer he went out of business after a 32-year run. Gone was the place where every visiting network TV announcer and crew ate at Phil's, where a hungry Tiger could catch a meal and know that appreciation and respect was the only payment.

"I never knew anybody who would give you everything and leave himself with nothing," Mauberret said. "If Gus had 500 dollars on him and you needed something, he wouldn't say let's take 250 each. He would just give you the 500."


A few rambling thoughts on LSU as we head into Thanksgiving …

Watching Sylvia Fowles last Thursday when the senior All-American ate up Michigan State with 21 first-half points left you wondering how such a great player got so much better. She's added a face-up 10-footer to her repertoire and when she's making that shot, Big Syl is unstoppable …

The LSU men's basketball team is in Hawaii. That's a long way to go not to play defense or box out for a rebound. If the Tigers don't show improvement in Maui and come back a better team, this is going to be one long season …

The LSU football team was really fun to watch against Ole Miss. That game had a little bit of everything, including all the LSU penalties any flag-throwing official could ask for.

This was LSU's fourth time on CBS. Maybe the familiarity has made them relax, but broadcasters Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson continue to struggle while watching the Tigers …

With one game left, things are starting to clear up. It looks like LSU will play Tennessee in the SEC Championship Game now that Kentucky has fallen completely apart since beating LSU, losing three of four. If Tennessee doesn't beat Kentucky, shame on the Vols, which means LSU would play Georgia.

And speaking of playing badly after playing LSU, Alabama followed its breakdown to the Tigers by losing to Mississippi State and Louisiana-Monroe. Mississippi State and Louisiana-Monroe!

So, since it's Thanksgiving, if you're an LSU fan, give thanks for where your team has been, where it is and where it's going.


Baton Rouge sportswriter Lee Feinswog is the host of the weekly television show Sports Monday. He's covered LSU athletics since 1984. His book HoopDaddy is available at www.HoopDaddy.net. Contact Lee at sportsmonday@aol.com or (225) 926-3256.

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