A class act
On Jan. 7, 2008, Louisiana State University became the first college football team in the history of the BCS National Championship to victoriously raise the crystal football as national champs twice. Belonging to arguably the strongest football conference in the nation, as Southeastern Conference champions, the Tigers took their school all the way to the top of the collegiate ranking. In the midst of the turmoil caused by media speculation regarding head coach Les Miles’ supposed impending departure to Michigan, the team lost to Arkansas –– in three overtime periods. Les Miles himself would show the fine mettle he was made of when he called a press conference to announce his commitment to LSU on Dec. 1 just before the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta after an erroneous ESPN report announced he had accepted the job as Michigan’s coach.
Skip Bertman, LSU athletic director and former baseball coach of the Tiger College World Series Championship team, describes Miles in glowing terms: “A guy that unflappable has got to have some success with his people. … He’s very underrated as a football coach, and I think he likes that.“
Bertman says Miles’ anger over the Michigan story was largely due to the doubt and confusion it caused for the Tigers, a team, according to Bertman, that likes playing for Miles. Miles had told the Tigers at breakfast he was staying, and then a report to the contrary was issued by ESPN.
Unlike his predecessor, Nick Saban, who interviewed for a head coach position with the Miami Dolphins in 2005 while the Tigers were in the midst of preparing for a bowl game they eventually lost, Miles stayed loyal to LSU and his young men and let the world know it in no uncertain terms.
It was a season of gutsy fourth-down calls, magnificent trick plays, last-minute touchdown wins, Olympian sprints by Trindon Holliday, workhorse heroics by Jacob Hester, the clearheaded skill of Matt Flynn and a defense that held in spite of Glenn Dorsey’s injuries. It was a season that will join the mystical, storied legacy of LSU that is carried deeply in each heart of the Tiger faithful.
As spring arrives and the prospect of outdoor work on your home fills you with beneficent anticipation, you might consider a droll tradition that’s rooted in the Old South that will add character to your home’s curb appeal. If you sit in a rocker or dangle in a swing on one of the wide-galleried porches of antebellum homes or private dwellings throughout Louisiana, you’ll no doubt observe that the ceiling usually spreads above you in a beautiful painted canopy of azure. Window shutters, porch railings and furniture painted shades of blue that range from pale blue to teal peek through twisted oak branches, framed by blooming azalea bushes. But if you think that Southerners are just lovers of the sea and sky and blue is everyone’s favorite color south of the Mason-Dixon line, history will tell you differently.
This shade of blue has long been called “haint [haunt] blue,” and the tradition of using it in America began with the Gullah/Geechee slaves who inhabited the sea islands of South Carolina, Florida and Georgia. Once enslaved in America, they continued their African tradition of painting haint blue around the entrances or window openings of their homes. To the slaves, haint blue represented the color of water, and because evil spirits, ghosts and other wicked little spiritual mischief-makers can’t cross water, blue was painted on porches as protection that would keep them from disturbing a happy home. Some antebellum homes as far north as Ohio still have walls that were painted haint blue by slaves.
Several shades of blue fit the haint blue guidelines. Beginning with a pale and delicate baby blue, this enchanted hue graduates with additions of green until it becomes downright turquoise or teal. Some paint companies even offer a historic collection of colors that accommodates the requirements of haint blue. Buy a can, and spend one fine spring weekend painting yourself into a quirky and protected little corner somewhere on your property.
Readers have indicated interest in James Hlavac’s book about Czechs in Louisiana, A Hidden Impact. To obtain a copy of the book, go to Amazon.com or contact its author at firstname.lastname@example.org.