Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a past president and member of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
LIKE IT IS:
LSU fans love their team, even at 11 a.m.
LITTLE ROCK As a rule, sports writers don’t get to spend a lot of Saturdays leisurely watching football games.
Usually there’s travel and pregame prep, tons of note taking during the game and then the writing - too often on deadline.
Saturday, though, was an open date for the Arkansas Razorbacks and yours truly was in New Orleans for a wedding.
The wedding was Saturday night, so I decided to watch the LSU at Texas A&M game from a few locations and see what the atmosphere was like. There is no shortage of sports cafes in the Big Easy.
Pregame was when loud opinions were given, and they ranged from John Chavis being the best D coordinator in all of college football to how the refs are always against LSU to Steve Spurrier is overrated to John L. Smith was a mistake for the Razorbacks.
There were plenty more, too.
And no, no one knew me, where I was from or what I do for a living.
There was plenty of talk about Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama, but it wasn’t as interesting as their comments about football, and the occasional scream of “Who Dat,” for no apparent reason.
Minutes before kickoff, the executive decision was made to go watch the game somewhere a little less loud and rowdy.
Did I mention the kickoff was at 11 a.m. and that the bar already was covered with empties? Or that it was obviously a neighborhood bar and I wasn’t a neighbor?
The next place was louder and had more purple people eaters who believed yelling at the TV really made a difference, but I made it through most of the first quarter.
It was obvious that LSU still has quarterback issues.
And that Chavis is a great coordinator, making an adjustment after the Aggies’ first possession.
The third place was a little more upscale, with a burger going for $8.95 with a bag of chips. To substitute fries cost extra.
More purple and gold shirts, and the Mardi Gras beads were almost weapon size.
Granted, I might encounter a similar red atmosphere watching a Hogs game at a sports cafe in Fayetteville, but in this place people yelled at each other like they were arguing and didn’t realize they were agreeing.
I was getting a mild headache.
Might have been the boring football I was watching. More likely, it was that when LSU actually scored a touchdown the whole joint, save one (me), jumped to their feet and started screaming.
The bartenders, already on their feet, led the cheers, pumping their arms in the air.
I left at halftime to try and find my son-in-law, who was watching the game with friends who also were down for the wedding.
Being a little older, I tried to give them their space, so I didn’t look too hard.
The fourth spot was in a hotel, which meant the desk clerk would run into the sports cafe to watch replays if the crowd roared, which it did often, sometimes for no apparent reason.
During timeouts, the fans would talk about past games or future games.
At every stop there was more than one who voiced concern about the last game of the year, about how the Arkansas game is magical and cannot be counted as a victory until it is accomplished on the field.
Not one voice was heard in support of switching Texas A&M to the final game of the season.
They all like playing Arkansas and one woman went so far as to say, “That’s the only SEC tradition the Razorbacks really have.”
LSU fans are passionate and thirsty, which is probably why no one wants to play in Death Valley, especially at night.
Sports, Pages 15 on 10/23/2012