I’ll admit that I’m kind of politicked out today. It’s been a bear of a week, tons of stuff going on with taking this site to the next level and while the new Congress is interesting so far all we’re really seeing is bitching from the Democrats about the Republican majority paying homage to the Tea Party and whining from the Tea Party about the Republican majority being too nice to the Democrats.
And that’s already old.
So instead, today on the Hayride we’re going to focus on what’s really important here in Louisiana. And that’s LSU playing Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl tonight and – in this entry, what it means for me.
Texas A&M is a good school. They’ve had a good football team in the past, and I suppose they’re pretty good this year if they managed to make it to Jerry World for that bowl.
I have a hard time summoning up much respect for A&M, though, because I’ve been to College Station. A couple of times, actually. But the last time I went was the trip I won’t forget – and it’s the reason I don’t see much use in Aggies.
This was 1995 we’re talking about. It was, if I’m not mistaken, the first game Gerry DiNardo coached at LSU. And A&M was ranked that year with a pretty good team. A&M won the game, but it was competitive.
I don’t remember much about the football part of the game. As I recall, it was a little boring. But everything surrounding the game stands out.
First was the drive to College Station. It’s pretty similar to the drive to Starkville; you take the interstate to a big city, then you get off on a state highway and you go a LONG way before you get to a crappy little town with a big college in it.
The difference is that to get to College Station, instead of Starkville, you actually have to drive through the ‘hood. Prairie View A&M is on the way to College Station as you come out of Houston, and that area, at least in 1995, was pretty seedy. It’s surprising; you’d expect the area around a college would be at least somewhat upscale. Nope. You go from desolation to a slum, then back to desolation as you drive through there.
When we got to College Station, things didn’t improve a lot. Checked in at a motel which would have been a perfect fit on Airline Highway in Metairie circa 1979, and two of the four rooms we had booked were no longer available. So eight of us had to sleep in two rooms. The one I was in, the A/C had conked out. Four people in a room with no A/C, first weekend in September in The Middle Of Nowhere, Texas.
Luckily we had an ice chest which still had cold beer in it and we were able to guzzle ourselves to sleep. We got the ice chest; the guys in the other room got the working A/C. That’s the kind of deal a bunch of law students will make.
It was OK by morning. No hot water in the shower. So I wasn’t hot anymore, see.
Now it’s game day. And right across the street from the hotel, which they said was walking distance from Kyle Field (I’ll get to that later), was this world-famous diner you’re supposed to go to when you go to College Station. It’s not that famous; I can’t remember the name of the place.
What I do remember is getting the stinkeye from the obese lady working the register as we walked in, because we all had LSU stuff on. Some cat in maroon overalls sitting at a table by the door hollered “Git them Cajuns outta here!” He wasn’t smiling.
A couple of us said “Fair enough” and started to leave, but the obese lady changed her attitude really quickly and convinced us to stick around. We got hustled to a table all the way in the corner, mostly out of eyeshot of the gathering locals.
And then it took two hours to get a pulled pork sandwich.
At this point we’re maybe a half-hour to game time, so after two hours of waiting we’re scarfing down bad food and cursing under our breath. Following that came about a two-mile sprint in 95-degree heat to get to the stadium complete with a confrontation with a sword-wielding Aggie student.
Yeah, you read that right.
We cut across a good-sized field maybe a quarter-mile from Kyle Field, and when we got to the other side there was a kid about 5’7″ and 140 pounds waiting for us who said we had to go back and walk on the sidewalks to get where we were going. He was all gussied up in a military uniform. Apparently it’s a big no-no to walk on the grass at A&M.
Our group was in no mood for that. One of us, I’ll call him Ted to protect his identity, went about 6’5″ and 270 pounds and had played college football at Southern Miss. Ted got in this kid’s face and told him something unrepeatable about a highly improbable feat of anatomy.
Upon which the kid actually drew his sword on us.
That didn’t work too well, as we proceeded to scatter and dash past him, leaving him yelling something nasty about people from Louisiana.
Now it’s 10 minutes from game time and we’re finally at the stadium. And if they’ve got an architecture school at Texas A&M, don’t send your kid to it. Because if architects from A&M designed that thing, well…let’s move on.
They had like four gates for the whole stadium, at least in 1995. I think they had like four bathrooms. And four concession stands.
It’s, at this point, 97 degrees. It’s 1 in the afternoon. And you can’t get water anywhere without waiting in line and missing about a quarter of football. I didn’t draw the short straw on that assignment, but instead I managed to pay $5 to a vendor guy for a lukewarm Coke.
At that point it became a more normal football experience, other than the fact that at A&M they apparently like to put their cheerleaders directly in front of the visiting fans. And since we’re on the second row, we’ve got these clowns basically blocking the view of the game. And we’ve got to watch a bunch of unintelligible gorilla sign language from a bunch of goofballs dressed up almost exactly like the prisoners from Hunt Correctional Center who handle the grounds of the Louisiana state capitol – with the exception that those inmates wouldn’t be caught dead wearing Pumas like the Aggie cheerleaders do.
And as the game went along, those of us who got beer instead of air conditioning in that room the night before began to feel somewhat less than optimal. By this point it’s 102 degrees, the line for the concession stands is halfway to Houston, the vendors have more or less given up for the day and LSU is getting beat. Not just by A&M, but by the refs. As I recall there were three inexplicable calls in a row, and by that point another guy in our group – let’s call him Paul – has lost it.
Paul was the smallest of our number and perhaps the most eager consumer of the refreshments we had brought with us from Houston the previous evening. And the toll his experiences had taken on him by this point was a bit more than he could pay.
So when the bad fortunes on the football field were coupled by the rather obnoxious hand signals and puzzling cheers of the Aggie cheerleaders, midway through the third quarter Paul had reached the limit of his civility.
What really set him off was when he caught one of the Aggie Yell Crew (or whatever they called themselves before they actually allowed females in the cheerleading squad) uttering “Go Army!” after A&M made a big play.
Paul’s older brother had been a tank commander in Desert Storm, see. HE was in the Army. None of these folks, to Paul’s mind, matched up to that status.
So when Paul began voicing these concerns, in a modulation which would impress your finest operatic or Shakespearian performers and with a vocabulary at once breathtaking in its creativity and scandalous in its discourtesy, it wasn’t long before he got exactly what he wanted – which was for the cops to arrive forthwith and escort him from the stadium to a chorus of boos from a thoroughly entertained LSU section.
“See y’all at the car,” he said, smiling as they dragged him away.
What I remember about the ride back was the Slurpees from the 7-11 we hit on the way out of town. And that I would never, ever go to College Station again.
Some people contend LSU and Texas A&M should rekindle that series. As for me, no thanks. We already play Mississippi State and Alabama. To me, A&M is like Mississippi State. Except their fans think they’re Alabama. And instead of cowbells, they carry swords.
I’ll pass on that experience. I’m watching the Cotton Bowl in high definition.