Two Days Later

I’m still obsessing about the LSU-Oklahoma game, reading everything I can get my hands (or my mouse) on, and generally relishing the little glow that comes with seeing your — well, I’m not going to go so far as to call it an “alma mater,” as that (a) seems to dignify the relationship I hold thereto a bit too much, and (b) is entirely the wrong gender for this particular issue — your undergraduate institution, in any event, taken seriously for a change.

There’s been a tremendous amount of whining here in SoCal about the season’s final results; no sooner had the post-game award ceremony ended Sunday night, than our local ABC affiliate cut to various USC-types complaining about how half of that crystal football should have been theirs. Oh, and how LSU didn’t deserve to be there in the first place, because the SEC is a weaker conference than the PAC-10.

To which I’d just like to say: Please. USC beat UCLA? Big deal. They beat Stanford? They beat Cal?

Oh wait. No they didn’t.

The SEC ends the season with 5 teams in the top 25; the PAC-10 with 2. I can’t be convinced that, by any reasonable standards, USC’s schedule was “tougher” than LSU’s. There’s a certain bias, I think, amongst the left(-coast) media [insert proper emoticon indicating dripping irony here] against taking SEC teams seriously.

A few writers seem to have gotten it, though. My favorite assessment of the team, as DN rightly points out in the comments below, is that of Wayne Drehs, over at ESPN.com. He gets it right in multiple regards, not least of which is understanding the perennial pain of being a long-term Tiger fan (and thus the joy of seeing things work out for once), and the thing that made this team so different:

Playing for LSU, you see, is sorta like playing for the Chicago Cubs or the Boston Red Sox. Over time, they’ve always seemed to mess things up in the end. But on this night, there was no Steve Bartman. No Grady Little.

Sure, things went wrong. A botched snap on the 2-yard line, a blocked punt in front of their own end zone, a pair of penalties that nullified a field goal, a costly pass interference on third down late in the game. But nobody ever freaked. They took the bad bounces, tightened their chin straps and, unlike Mark Prior and Pedro Martinez, bounced back.

Even late in the fourth quarter, while everyone else was holding their breath, while the folks in Norman were waiting for the Tigers to collapse and the folks in New Orleans were waiting for Oklahoma to conquer, the guys in the white jerseys didn’t flinch.

LSU quarterback Matt Mauck threw an interception, the Sooners pulled within one touchdown, then had the ball again deep in LSU territory, and everybody on the LSU sideline just sorta said, “Oh well.”

“It’s nothing new,” Lavalais said. “That stuff’s happened all year long. The offense would turn the ball over on our side of the field, and the defense would have to step up.”

That “oh well” quality — the ability to keep hammering away in the face of setbacks — really set this team apart from every other LSU football (and basketball, but let me not get ahead of myself) team I’ve ever seen play.

And it’s a quality I could stand a little more of myself.

4 thoughts on “Two Days Later

  1. Hey K,

    I loved reading your play-by-play from Sunday night – it mirrors my evening in so many respects. At the beginning my 7-mo-old was all decked out in his LSU gear, sitting on my lap watching the game (he LOVES watching football; it’s kinda scary, actually). Anyway, it was late for him, so he pretty much fell asleep right after kickoff. But then on LSU’s first play from scrimmage, Vincent made that 64-yard run, and well, I, uh, woke him up with a bit of a start, to say the least, poor little guy.

    Then in the fourth quarter I thought I was going to have a heart attack. It was just as your sportswriter’s post said – I was thinking that they had done themselves in AGAIN. Oh well, I thought. Glad to be wrong for a change!

    My favorite play, though, was Marcus Spears’ touchdown. I LOVE it when defensive linemen make touchdowns. It’s so rare, and kind of absurd, in a way; it’s delicious, really. I’ve always loved defense to begin with… it’s a bit of an affliction, I suppose. At an LSU game a couple of years ago, I would growl whenever the Tigers would sack the Arkansas quarterback. My wife leaned over to my sister and told her “Trent growls after sacks,” to which my sister responded “I know we’re supposed to be like sisters now, but that’s a little more information than I needed.”

    But I digress – I was also proud of how many of the LSU players are from Louisiana – there were two from towns in MS and TX that border LA, and Mauck is from IN, but most of those players are from right here in our poor, too-often-maligned, humble state.

    One last thought – it’s not LSU’s fault that they didn’t meet USC on the field. The BCS is obviously a flawed system designed by Bowl folks to keep the money flowing to them (why they think a playoff wouldn’t bring them as much [or more] dough [think “Final Four”], I cannot answer), but it’s the system we have, and like it or hate it, one has to agree that it is a tad more objective than a simple poll of the nation’s sportswriters. I would imagine, given demographics, that there are more of them on the “left coast” than in the Southeast?????

    Well, I have spent far too much time on this; I have work to do! GEAUX TIGERS!

  2. Hi, Trent! So good to have you around these parts. And so good to have a fellow alum around, someone who really gets the emotional travails of watching LSU play.

    Here’s my thought on the BCS — the money angle, as you rightly point out, makes no sense whatsoever. A “final four” situation would produce big bucks. The only real argument against a playoff-style season ending that has made any sense to me whatsoever is the number-of-games problem: in order to accommodate a playoff, even just of the final four, one extra week would have be added to the season (because no college seems to want to give up a week of the regular season). In order to do that, the season would have to roll over into the second semester. And the college presidents are all virtuously suggesting that this would amount to an abuse of the players.

    Um. An abuse? Of the players?

    What I think this means is — and where the real money problem comes in — is if the season stretches out even one week longer, folks are going to start realizing that the players are (and I hope you’ll pardon the term) slave labor, that their bodies and their educations and sometimes even their lives are being put out there on the line week after week for what amounts to no remuneration whatsoever. And the result might be a demand that the players get paid. And no college football program can afford that.

    So we’ll see some tweaks to the BCS rules next year (like “you have to win your conference in order to win the BCS”), but I think that’s about it. As to the nation’s sportswriters — there’s not a one of them that’s impartial. They’re fans — which is why they got into the business in the first place. So if we’re going to be polling fans and making national champion-type decisions based upon the results, I think we need a more carefully selected sample…

  3. Was rooting for the Bayou Bengals myself over on this coast, and had you in mind (as well as a longstanding dislike of Oklahoma, but never mind that). Much joy here, for you and all of us!

    That said: polls and rankings do appear to many of us to be biased in favor of the SEC. There’s no doubt the PAC-10 was weaker than the SEC this year, but saying that the greater number of SEC teams in the top 25 demonstrates the conference’s strength doesn’t quite hold water, I think. It’s akin to a college saying, “Obviously we provide the best education, as demonstrated by the fact that 50% of our grads end up millionaires,” while ignoring the fact that 45% of their student body comes into college millionares already.

    I am not trying to take anything away from the Tigers, who were nothing but an exceptional team this year, and who deserve that trophy, as far as I’m concerned. However: SEC teams end up with top rankings because they start there and because, well, that’s where everyone expects them to end up: For maybe 9 of the teams in the SEC, a top-20 ranking is theirs to lose. (That said, LSU is not one of those anointed 9. They do not, in general, reap the benefits of the SEC privileged-class status. They were picked to lose every big game they played, and all they did was roll over opponents, and they still got picked to lose. LSU had as much to prove to the SEC as to the rest of the country, and they sure did it.)

    I imagine you can guess which large friend of ours sent me the following BCS top-10 predictions last year:

    1. Florida State: Good thing Jeb struck down Affirmative Action in this state or you might have underqualified criminals hanging around college campuses. Oh, wait.

    2. Florida: Steve Spurrier said it and you’d better believe it. Best place to play football and get an education. Compared with the rest of the SEC I guess he has a point.

    3. Miami: When will the violations be found?

    4. Florida Atlantic: Reminds us that no team with the word “Pacific” in its school or conference name may play for or dream of playing for that big glass football.

    5. Florida Southern: Southern. I like the sound of that.

    6. Florida A&T: The Rattlers are simply due!

    7. Jeb

    8. Texas Tech & M: From these three squads will emerge one bonifide runner up in the Big 12

    9. The Lady Vols of Tennessee. They always win something

    10. Va Tech: Now firmly established as Penn State’s replacement as TKP (Token Yankee Program). Oh, wait.

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