Monday, November 19, 2007

Michael's Travels: Louisiana

Der Wife and I took a mini-vacation last week to Louisiana. We took in Baton Rouge on Saturday and then New Orleans on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday morning. I had been to New Orleans on a number of previous occasions, but my blessed Yankee wife had not yet seen the City that Law Forgot. I give you photographic evidence:

Baton Rouge

I liked Tiger Stadium a lot, mainly because it still has a traditional feel on the exterior. Der Wife and I both had flashbacks to see a game at the Nou Camp when we walked it, probably because of the concrete structure and all of the internal ramps in the end zones. The game was fairly loud early, which I suppose is what you would expect for the team about to be elevated to #1 in the polls. The crowd petered out in the third quarter, as the game was uncompetitive. Strangely, LSU didn't look overly impressive, despite winning 58-10. The hallmark of this LSU team appears to be that they never look that great (except against Virginia Tech), but they keep winning (often big) and they are at or near the top of most statistical rankings.

The crowd probably also petered out because they had been drinking since noon and had more slabs of grilled meat to consume. I've been to a bunch of different college football venues and I've never seen anything like the tailgating scene at Baton Rouge. In terms of sheer volume, the entire campus was covered with tailgaters, as well as several massive parking lots near the stadium. There is a definite emphasis on tailgating at LSU, as opposed to going to restaurants or bars before the games. Some of the memorable sights:

1. An RV with a ceiling fan rigged out over the side to cover the sitting area.

2. A dance floor with a mixed-race crowd doing country line dancing.

3. A buffet set-up outside an RV complete with silver covered trays for the food.

4. A dog dressed up like a tiger:

New Orleans

I can't get enough of New Orleans. Between the eating, the drinking, the architecture, and the people, it's one of the great cities in the country (despite the best efforts of the federal government to the contrary). I had forgotten how friendly the natives are, but just about everyone wanted to talk to us and they almost invariably brought up Katrina. It certainly is not a "suffer in silence" culture.

The pride that natives have in New Orleans comes out in their love for the Saints. Just about every man, woman, and child on the streets on Sunday had a Saints jersey on his/her back. They have the same losing tradition as the Falcons. They have a love for college football that predates the arrival of the NFL, just as Georgians do. They have a domed stadium in a good climate, just like the Falcons do. And with all that context, they certainly love their team more than Atlantans do. Here are my best explanations:

1. Atlanta, unlike New Orleans, has a major transplant factor. People in Louisiana often stay in Louisiana and there isn't an influx of business and resettled Yankees like there is in Atlanta. Thus, it's much more likely that people in New Orleans will pull in the same direction, sports-wise.

2. People in New Orleans have a major esprit de corps right now because of Katrina.

3. The Saints went to the NFC Championship Game last year, while the Falcons are at a nadir after Vickkampf.

I suppose the moral of the story is that I'm very good a justifying the fact that fan support waxes and wanes in this town for the pro sports collectives.

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