MULE': All the Makings of a Good Book

Drama, suspense, and an unexpected twist at the end: All those elements, essential for a good book, were part of LSU's 2007 football season.

And they will be relived, time and time again – probably for years and years – in a stream of tomes for Tiger fans.

Out of the blue, LSU football has become the center of literary attention for a couple of years now, with John Ed Bradley's release of "It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium" last season and Bud Johnson's magnificent "The Perfect Season: LSU's Magical Year of 1958," about all the incongruous elements that went into the forging of the Tigers' undefeated, untied team of a half-century ago.

Now, brace for another onslaught. Keeping in mind the old bromide of "timing is everything," the next in-depth study of LSU football will come out in August. The (Baton Rouge) Advocate's Scott Rabalais, one of Louisiana's most accomplished sportswriters, will pick up where Pete Finney's masterpiece, "The Fightin' Tigers," left off in 1993.

A project in which work began long before the 2007 season, and commissioned by the LSU Press, Rabalais' book, "Let the Valley Shake: The Fightin' Tigers into the 21st Century," will have the greatest ending any true-life sports opus could – with the national championship after a topsy-turvy campaign of comebacks, setbacks and, mostly, victories.

Also, Paul Dietzel, who coached the 1958 Bayou Bengals to the '58 title, will also release a book for the 50th anniversary of that memorable season. From the exploits of Billy Cannon, to the creation of the Chinese Bandits, to an in-depth background of how a team – picked ninth in the Southeastern Conference – went from a 5-5-0 season in 1957 to 11-0-0 and acclaimed the best in the land a year later, Dietzel's book has it.

For those who can't wait that long, Sports Illustrated's commemorative national championship issue is out – though not nearly as in-depth as the one it put together four years ago. (And have you noticed the lack of TV ads S-I usually runs for these types of editions? Louisiana must not count for much with the magazine.)

Still, the major newspapers in the state all have their commemorative magazines for sale, either on-line or in book stores. Gannett News Service (the papers in Shreveport, Monroe, Alexandria and Lafayette) will produce "Bayou Bliss," The Advocate put together "Thrill Ride," and the Times-Picayune has "Back on Top."

If you can get a copy of the T-P's issue in book stores, it may be a souvenir for the ages. The numbers of the score (which serves as the headline for each game) is transposed for the BCS national championship game against Ohio State. The score, of course, was LSU 38, Ohio State 24. What the Times-Picayune has is "Tigers 34, Buckeyes 28."

The error is not in the story, and it has been corrected in later and on-line editions. It's still worth having, complete with the game stories of James Varney for all 14 games and Finney's insights sprinkled throughout.

The efforts already out are all recommended. "It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium" was recently selected the best sports book of the year by Sports Illustrated, to which Bradley frequently contributes pieces. It is described thusly: "Bradley … often found himself reflecting on his days at LSU – drawing comfort from them, even. He finally confronts the question most often asked of him … (with) his disarmingly honest and bittersweet memoir about his life as an ex-athlete."

It's not about football, but also honored as Sports Illustrated's best sports biography of 2007 was Mark Kriegel's "Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich." Kriegel "peels back the legend, revealing the complex man behind the floppy-haired LSU star," said the magazine.

But the hot subject of the moment is – and will be for some months –Tiger football, 2007-style.

Get those books while you can. Your grandkids will enjoy reading them some day.


Marty Mule' can be reached at

Editor's Note: Tiger Rag's BCS National Championship issue is currently in production and is set for release in mid-February. Details for pre-orders will be made available soon.

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