LSU and Other Things I Don’t Lose Sleep Over

John W. Pinkerton

I went in for my quarterly blood test for my thyroid problem today.  It was the usual chitchat with the nurse and a little pain obviously prescribed by my Indian doctor.  While chitchatting with the nurse, I spotted an LSU mug on a table in the room.  One does not see many of these in the middle of Texas.  I inquired if it was hers: no, it belonged to the receptionist.  On my way out, I asked the receptionist why she had an LSU mug.  It turns out that she was originally from New Orleans and is a big fan of LSU sports; in Louisiana this translates to football.  I guess Tulane wasn’t doing it for her.  She had left New Orleans after Katrina.  I’m sorry about Katrina, but College Station got a good receptionist with a good receptionist’s personality and good taste in football teams.

Although I got a degree in English in January of 1965 from LSU, I seldom think about my alma mater.  It seemed odd to me to run into someone who hadn’t even gone to LSU who was a bigger fan of their sports program than I am.  Now don’t get me wrong.  If there is one school I’d love to see win another national championship in football, it would be LSU.  I’m a fan and pay attention to their seasons when they are winning, but I don’t pay much attention nor do I grieve when they have a less than stellar season.  I’m just not that kind of fan.

But I do know a number of people who live and die with their teams.  My friend Bill, who graduated from the University of Texas many years ago and was a member of the Longhorn band, lives and dies according to the fate of his team.  Personally, it seems like a waste of energy to be so emotionally involved.  Besides, LSU is not paying my bills, and Texas is not paying Bill’s, but many others like Bill can’t seem to separate themselves from their alma maters.  Sad, very sad.

I lost my warm and fuzzy feelings for LSU during my first year in the service.  That season they scored more points than they ever had in their history.  That season they had more points scored against them than they ever had in their history.  This was not the LSU I had come to love when I went to school there.  Big victories came in small packages then: 10-7, 14-13, 3-0, you know, defensive battles.  Paul Dietsel, coach from 1954-1961, introduced the Chinese Bandits to the LSU program.  In fact Paul’s defense plus a little offense, Billy Cannon, earned the program a national championship in 1958.  Paul left in 1961 and went on to have a mediocre  coaching career at Army and South Carolina.  Paul was followed by Charlie McClendon who served as the head coach for 18 seasons: fans hated him for 18 seasons.

Paul was the head coach the first year I attended LSU: 10-1, won the Orange Bowl; McClendon was the head coach the remainder of my time at LSU: 9-1-1, won the Cotton Bowl: 7-4, lost the Bluebonnet Bowl:  8-2-1, won the Sugar Bowl:  8-3, won the Cotton Bowl.  I know, I know: that’s five seasons.  I had to attend LSU for an extra semester because Mr. Wildman, my advisor, allowed me to take too many English courses and not enough electives; thus, an added semester.

LSU was patient about winning another national title, almost a half century.  Fans of Texas University, for example, are bitterly disappointed every year they don’t win the national championship.  They really make themselves miserable without just cause.  LSU and their fans waited until 2003 to beat Oklahoma 21-14 in the Sugar Bowl for the BCS championship.  They seemed to have enjoyed the experience, so they won it again over Ohio State 38-24 in 2007.  That reminds me: those folks from Ohio expect State to win a national title every year.  Ya’ll just keep playing SEC teams for the championship and you’re in for a very bitter existence.   As for Texas fans, in their 117 year history, they won the national title four times.  If you don’t want to make yourself miserable most years as your team falls a little short of the ultimate victory, check the record books which will give you a little perspective and the realization that national championships are rare jewels not easily attained.  If you win one, count your blessings and try to keep your team off probation.  Which brings to mind A&M (national champion 1939) which couldn’t even win a national championship the years they clearly cheated.

Now that we’re talking about college football, I’ve got to mention the delusional behavior of fans nationally.  Each part of the country thinks that their conference is the best: even when I was going to LSU in the early 60’s, it was pretty apparent that the SEC was superior. 

National poll championships by conference membership at the time since 1936 to the present: SEC, 19; Independents, 18; Big 10, 13; Big 8, 8; PAC 10, 9; ACC, 5; SWC, 5; Big 12, 3; Big East, 2; WAC, 1.

Since the inception of the BCS, which takes a lot of the subjective rah-rah of the East and West Coast sports writers and those who worship at the altar of Notre Dame, the story for conferences other than the SEC has gotten worse: SEC, 7; Big 12, 2;  ACC, 1; Big Ten, 1; Big East, 1; PAC 10, 0.  Even if my team has a bad year or half century, the chances are pretty good I’ll have a team to back in the big game.

Going to a football game at LSU is fun.  There’s no denying that.  I said even when I was going there that if they ever held a bowl game there, they would have to call it the Punch Bowl.  A young, relative to my age, friend of mine, Shelby, attended a game in Tiger Stadium a few years ago.  When he got back to Texas after the game, he told me that if he ever went to graduate school, he wanted to go to LSU.  Speaking of Tiger Stadium: I actually lived there one semester: North Stadium.  There was also a West Stadium, but it was much nicer than where I lived:  they actually had tile on the floors.  The concrete floors of North Stadium were a little basic, but they were handy for crushing cigarettes and the stairwells were a common area to burn trash.

I didn’t attend every football game while attending school on the main campus.  During my three seasons there, several times I worked parking cars during the games.  I actually caught a fellow trying to pop hub caps.  I’ve  never seen anyone run so fast.  It was zero to sixty in about half a second.

But the games I did attend were great: the student section was on the 50 yard line.  The crowds were half crocked and getting crockier with each quarter.  They loved drinking, but they also loved good football.  I don’t know how the fans are now, but back in the early 60’s, they did not hate teams who beat LSU: they were respectful of them.  Hell, we knew we were good; if they beat us, they must be great.  The quietest winning crowd I ever saw leaving Tiger Stadium was one evening LSU won a game against Ole Miss on a two-point conversion that ricocheted off a helmet and landed in the end zone in the hands of a surprised LSU receiver.  As we left the stadium all I could hear were people saying in awe, “Damn, that Ole Miss is great,” or “My Gawd, what a great team.”  I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t go that way today in the same circumstances.  A lot has changed about the nature of folks since the early 60’s.

I just hope the receptionist fan of LSU is not a fanatic in her idolization of her team.  She can save herself a lot of grief by being an interested observer.  However, I suspect she lives and dies with her team.  That’s too bad.


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