My kingdom for an enemy

I'm foaming at the mouth. I'm mad-dog crazy, I tell ya. I'm so over the top, I might rip some tags off mattresses.<br><br>I can't rest another day until The Boot is returned to its rightful place - the splendor of... wherever LSU keeps it.<br><br>Oh wait, it's already there.<br><br> Whatever.

Yeah, I'll be watching along with all the other Tigers and Hogs fans Friday to see who'll represent the West in Atlanta. But this business about The Boot leaves something to be desired.


Despite seven years since former Razorback player David Bazzel created the trophy -- a weird boot shape formed by a golden outline of the conjoined Arkansas and Louisiana borders -- I'm afraid it's just a little too manufactured and, well, hokey to be much of an attraction.


I don't blame Bazzel or the league for trying. In fact, it was a good idea. Arkansas hasn't really had a big rival since joining the SEC, so it makes sense to find one.


But the 175-pound behemoth is yet to inspire Arkansas players and coaches to vow that, come hell or high water, The Boot is coming home to Fayetteville. Likewise, their counterparts in Baton Rouge don't spend a lot of time saying that there's more than pride on the line, there's The Boot.


Let's face it: LSU just doesn't have a bona fide Hatfield to our McCoy. Not yet anyway.


And that's too bad.


I covet the passion evoked in classic matchups like Michigan-Ohio State, Oregon-Oregon State, Oklahoma-Nebraska and college football's greatest rivalry between Auburn and Alabama. The SEC has some great feuds between Ole Miss and Mississippi State, as well as Tennessee and Vanderbilt.


Even the remaining SEC schools who don't have big intra-league rivals still have teams their fans love to hate. Florida has Florida State. South Carolina has Clemson. Georgia has Georgia Tech.


There is, of course, the Tigers' storied rivalry with Tulane, but ever since the Green Wave took a powder on the SEC in 1966, LSU has sort of morphed into the team that other schools also hate.


And besides, playing Tulane for something inherently distasteful as a thing called The Rag just doesn't get my competitive juices flowing.


On the contrary, other teams know how to name trophies and games. The Iron Bowl. The Egg Bowl. Indiana and Purdue's Oaken Bucket. Can it get more insane than Cal and Stanford's beloved Axe? Now that's the stuff of college football.


What do we get? The Boot.


Granted, with the West Division title at stake, there is a truckload on the line Friday. But the prospect of losing The Boot doesn't get me any more interested.


I would hate LSU losing to Arkansas. But I hate LSU losing any game. I'm sure Arkansas fans feel the same. The fact that Friday's outcome also determines which of two trophy cases The Boot gathers dust in for the next year is of little consequence.


I'm not suggesting we give the boot to The Boot. Who knows? The prize may actually live up to its billing one day. But for now, it represents a concocted rivalry that's nearly as thin as the sheet of metal that adorns it.


If league instigators want to conjure up a real trophy, why not use something that genuinely matters? Maybe a relic from the teams' legendary meeting in the 1966 Cotton Bowl. A bronzed game ball. How about a bronzed cleat worn during that game?


Then perhaps we really could call it The Boot.


The Last Word Hurts...


There's been a lot of e-mail traffic since my last column took issue with Alabama student-writer Creg Stephenson's "exposé" of the Tiger Stadium mystique.


In an electronic conversation with Creg himself, he insisted he wasn't taking a cheap shot. He simply was writing about the next team on Alabama's schedule.


Fair enough.


But it was in that conversation I learned the real basis for Creg's unprovoked attack. He contends the Death Valley mystique, the only LSU tradition -- his words not mine -- means nothing since the Tigers have shown over the years they are mortal at home.


The only LSU tradition...


Despite his insults, I was willing to take Stephenson for a serious writer until I digested that sentence, which confirms his ignorance.


My last column also dealt with the arrogance of many Bama fans who still proclaim the team's innocence in the wake of egregious NCAA violations.


I received some quite earnest appeals from Bama fans who said they had accepted the severity of the transgressions. The program and its fans have moved on, a few fans wrote; now it's time for the rest of us as well.


I congratulate those Tide supporters for accepting the Tide's fate. But there are many, many more who still amazingly profess the team's innocence and complain about the harshness of its punishment.


If the program has "moved on," why then has Dennis Franchione disgraced an honored program and the entire SEC by scheduling this ludicrous faux-bowl game with Hawaii? Why do Tide fans, including Stephenson himself, become so defensive whenever the point of the Hawaii game is raised?


Tide fans cannot or will not recognize that Franchione and the players should have upheld tradition by ending their season with Auburn. Accept the NCAA's punishment and take it like men.


Am I saying Franchione is less than a man? His actions, highlighted by his mid-field tantrum after the LSU blowout, speak for themselves.


Since he and the rest of the Alabama faithful insist on being poor representatives of the SEC with this farce in Honolulu, I'll close this week with a suggestion.


Part of the post-season glamour for players is receiving all the goodies handed out by bowl-game sponsors. Obviously, Tide players aren't getting any loot Nov. 30, since this is not a real bowl game.


Therefore, I invite fans of the SEC and all of college football to show how much we pity Alabama by sending fruit baskets to the team's hotel.


I think the gesture is the (very) least we can do to show what this weekend's Fruit Bowl means to college football.


Chet Rollis, ripened with hearty goodness, is an SEC sports freelance writer and LSU graduate based in Baton Rouge.  

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