ERROL LABORDE STEVE FRANZ Photograph/Courtesy LSU SPORTS INFORMATIONFootball in Louisiana was just not the same in 2005. Games were played, bands performed, cheerleaders did their acrobatics and occasionally the crowd would roar. Nevertheless, the season must have been what it was like when boys tried to play soccer on the streets of Berlin right after the war. Buildings had fallen, the landscape was cluttered with debris and some of the players were gone.
Katrina and Rita had made solemn Louisiana’s best season of the year – a time of crispy weather, steaming gumbo and tailgate parties. “Hot boudin, cold cuush, cuush, allons Tigers puush, puush, puush;” an only-in-Louisiana cheer echoes from stadiums during this season.
In 2005, however, many high school teams, particularly in the New Orleans area, never took the field. Tulane University went through a grueling schedule without playing one home game. LSU might have won its overtime opener against Tennessee, had the players not been distracted by the real life battles for survival happening all around them. The Saints played in San Antonio and San Antonio made a play for the Saints. New Orleans, already down, was kicked a little harder.
For New Orleans, season’s end, a time when teams, like Olympians going to Athens, travel to the dome in pursuit of the gold, was painfully barren. The high school championship games were played elsewhere, the New Orleans Bowl was in Lafayette, and, the biggest slap to urban pride, the Sugar Bowl was held in Atlanta.
Football season in Louisiana was at its most merciful when it simply came to an end, no longer underscoring each weekend with more evidence of the state’s fallen condition.
Now we feel the glory of a new season that seems even better in comparison to the immediate past. All teams are playing where they should be, the Superdome is a resurrected symbol of recovery.
Boys are again in armor facing the game of life within the context of a hundred-yard long rectangle; girls swoon; parents gloat; from the back of a nearby SUV, the fragrance of barbecue wafts through the autumn air.
We Louisianians have felt life level us like a crazed linebacker, and we know what it is to lose where it hurts the most.
Now though, the glory has returned – if only for a few hours each week.
Enjoy the season. More than any other people we deserve to do so. Winning is important, and so too is how the games are played. Most important though, is that the games are being played at all.