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From the Editor

Nick Saban and me

My timing was bad. I was driving from New Orleans to Marksville one November Saturday last year. Heading west along Interstate 10, the traffic was moving smoothly but began to build up around Gramercy.

I was aware that this was the day that LSU would be playing Alabama in Baton Rouge and, even if I had not been, certainly all the passing SUVs with tiger tails attached to their antennas would have been a reminder. I just had not expected the traffic to be building up so early. I thought I would be going through Baton Rouge within the window of time between the tailgaters, who had probably been on the road by dawn, and the non-tailgaters, who had no reason to sit in the sun for an extra two hours before kickoff. But my estimation was wrong. Seemingly everyone was in a hurry to get to Baton Rouge that day as though they needed to stand in the shadow of Tiger Stadium while getting their game faces ready.

By the time I crossed into East Baton Rouge Parish, traffic had slowed to a creep. By the Bluebonnet exit, other arteries were feeding traffic to the already-clogged interstate.

For the next 20 minutes or so, I inched along. If the vehicles on the interstate had been on an IQ test, I would have been the one that did not belong in the group. Here I was heading for Marksville on the day when everyone else was gong to Baton Rouge.

But then something extraordinary happened. Suddenly I could hear approaching police sirens forcing traffic from the left lane into the middle lane where I was. Moments later a police escort whizzed by, followed by buses moving at high speed. What was this prized cargo given the prerogative of having a lane to itself? It was, I realized, the Alabama football team.

As the team buses rumbled by, I had an impish thought. What if I maintained my pace in the middle lane until the last bus passed and then swung into the left lane to follow the fast-moving buses through town?

That’s what I did, and it worked perfectly. Way up front in this caravan I envisioned Alabama-via-LSU coach Nick Saban sitting in the first seat not realizing the opportunities he was creating behind the caboose.

I sped behind the team buses across Baton Rouge as far as the Dalrymple Drive exit where the buses turned off, but so too did the game traffic. From there on, I was facing an open field.

So pleased with myself was I that I called the sports talk show I had been listening to and told the radio guys what I had just done. One of them summarized it concisely: “You were like a fullback with the Alabama line blocking for you down the field!” Exactly. And Nick Saban was leading the way.

By the time I was driving back that evening, the game was being played, so traffic was no problem. From the high-rise that crosses the river, Tiger Stadium could be seen glowing to the right.

Beneath those lights, a thriller was taking place. There was already an edge to the game because of Saban’s return to Baton Rouge as a visiting coach. Through four quarters, two longtime rival schools battled it out, only to go into overtime. The Tigers were valiant against the favored Crimson Tide but lost a heartbreaker, 27-21.

By the time the game ended, I was past Gramercy, heading east. Soon the Alabama buses would be back on the interstate. I owed Nick Saban a favor … but, no, he would have to find his own blocking.

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