Put some mustard on it

Published 8:22 am Wednesday, November 6, 2013

One of my favorite sports assignments in my journalism career had me traveling to Baton Rouge, La. to take photos on the sideline at the LSU and Alabama game three years ago.

For those of you confused, that was the year in recent memory that the Crimson Tide didn’t take the crystal football back to Tuscaloosa. That other Alabama school took home the hardware instead.

The Tide had lost to South Carolina , but a win in Death Valley and a win against that aforementioned other school would still mean a berth in the SEC title game.

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It didn’t happen. In fact, the Bayou Bengals controlled most of the game, but I was just happy to be there snapping away, eager to get a good shot to use in The Alexander City Outlook.

My happiness at being on the sideline would melt away after a halftime flub would lead to ridicule from the LSU faithful.

Let me start off by saying that I make no apologies for my college allegiance. I love Tuscaloosa. I love The University of Alabama and I love watching the football team’s (at least recent) success.

I remember thinking that it would be cold that particular day and I decided (inadvertently) to wear a long-sleeved T-shirt from one of my favorite college eateries (the now shuttered) Papa’s College Custard. With a shirt like that it was unmistakable that I had at least spent some time in T-town and I had heard tales of blood-thirty Tigers’ fans gunning for anyone not wearing purple and gold (or whatever their official school colors are.)

I wasn’t worried, though, because I pulled a light blue and gray sweater over it with no plans of removing it during the game. However; a famous Death Valley sausage dog ruined my plans.

Halftime came and the media “handlers” led us off the field to a nearby concession stand. I chose my meal and fatefully added mustard to the mix. I headed back to the sideline, dog in hand.

I took two man-sized bites before the front of my sweater became half mustard. Now I had a problem. Do I take my sweater off, freeze and risk showing my true colors? Or walk around the entire second-half with a mustard stain the size of Alaska on my chest?

I chose the former and it was a mistake. With my sweater wrapped around my waist, LSU fans could clearly make out the giant letters spelling out “Tuscaloosa, Alabama” on my back. I immediately got bowled over with screams of “Tiger-bait” as it became apparent the Tide would lose the game.

At first, I assumed they weren’t targeting me, but were instead just saying the words like from their own ancient language. I continued to comfort myself with that belief, until the closing seconds of the game when I began to shuffle out of the stadium and toward a former sports editor and friend attending school at LSU.

Fans began to point at me and scream it. I quickened my pace, but I didn’t relieve myself of the mania until I had completely exited the stadium.

If nothing else, that story highlights the intensity of the LSU-Alabama rivalry. To me, it’s a more important game than the Iron Bowl and I can’t really explain why. Maybe it’s because both of the fan bases are ruthless. Maybe it’s because there are many, many, many LSU fans down in this portion of Alabama and I grew up with them. Maybe it’s because both teams have been very good recently and have played more memorable games.

I don’t know, but I do know that Saturday will be another classic. It has to be. LSU won’t let me relax and enjoy a victory. The two teams have to play to the final whistle and sometimes longer than that.

I’m 29 years old and my heart can’t take this game, but I’ll be watching, like everybody else. I’ll need a nurturing, Alabama-friendly environment in which to watch, but I’ll be watching.

I hope it goes smoothly, but I know it won’t. With two SEC losses already the Tigers will be looking to pounce on the Tide to salvage their season. Alabama has started to look like the team I thought they’d be at the start of the season, but I’m not sure they’ve really been tested yet.

Win, or lose, the Tide has a mine field to navigate with the other Tigers on the schedule and an SEC title game that could still include South Carolina. Not to mention, the Tide will have to battle its closest rival in Starkville in-between.

When you’re No. 1 like ‘Bama, everyone wants a piece of you and LSU will be no different.

I love this game. I hate this game.


Dale Liesch is a news reporter for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at dale.liesch@atmoreadvance.com