Tuesday, January 08, 2008

What It Was, Was Football ...

I'm not much of a football fan (American or soccer); we watch the Super Bowl each year, and root for the underdogs, whoever they are. That's pretty much the extent of my football viewing.

However, we did watch the college championship game last night, featuring Ohio State and LSU. My wife is a graduate alum, and before I dropped out to move to L.A., first to study martial arts and eventually, become a hippie, I attended for a couple years Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College.

This is was in the mid-sixties, and a lot has changed since then.

As a boy, the Tiger football games were the hottest tickets in town. Deaf Valley, they called Tiger stadium -- still call it that -- and you could hear the roars of the fans miles away. So loud it once registered as an earthquake at the geology department's sensors. Before the games, streets close to the campus were one-wayed heading in; after the game, the streets were one-wayed heading out.

You could hear the roar of the tiger, too. Mike the Tiger -- there have been, I think six Mikes -- attended the games in his portable cage, and in those days, lived in a larger enclosure right next to the stadium. Mike the II was stuffed and in a museum on-campus when I attended the school. You stepped on a plate in front of the display, and got a recording of his roar.

Mike got out of his cage a few times; fortunately, he never bothered anybody. And woe to anybody fool enough to offer that cat harm when he did get out -- I'd hate to be the guy who shot the school mascot -- he'd have been run out of town covered in tar and feathers.

At the games, the Tiger marching band would come out onto the field, and before they played the National Anthem (and Dixie), they'd play Tiger Rag. If Mike roared, it was considered a good omen.

As a Boy Scout, I was an usher at the home games, and thus on Halloween in 1959, saw Billy Cannon make his famous Heisman-trophy winning eighty-nine yard run against Mississippi, LSU's traditional rival. Everybody on the Ole Miss team who could tackle tried, Cannon broke them all, and you never heard a crowd make so much noise. (Cannon went on to play pro ball, retired, became an orthodontist, and was eventually busted and sent to a federal pen for his part in -- of all things -- a counterfeiting scheme. The joke at the time was, they reason he got caught was that, instead of "In God We Trust," on the bills, it said, "Go to Hell Ole Miss ...)

As a teenager, I sold hot dogs and unflavored snow cones (left unflavored for those patrons who needed ice for their illegally-smuggled in liquor. I sold a lot of those.)

There were no black players on the team back then, and I can recall the wonderful racist chants when a team that had black players ran out onto the field: "Leroy, Leroy, Leroy ..."

A far cry from last night's game, after which, a cheerleader ran over to hug one of the Tiger linemen -- she was white and he was black.

Things change slowly back home, but they sometimes do change ...

Oh, and the Tigers won, thus becoming national champions.

Go, tigers!

The vid is Chet Atkins playing Jelly Roll Morton's Tiger Rag.


Dave Huss said...

Man, what a bad ass!
Thanks for digging that one up, Steve. Haven't heard any Chet Atkins in years. Might need to dig around more often. So many distractions....

Dan Moran said...

Congrats to your boys. Another of my buddies is a big Ohio state fan -- he's had two bad years running with that game.

Steve Perry said...

Yeah, people think ole Chet was just a country picker, but he was a great player. Somewhere, I saw a recording of him playing Recuerdos de la Alhambra, a tremolo piece, on a nylon string guitar, and he could do bebop or swing when the mood struck him.

Kind reminds me of Kris Kristofferson, who just a good, ole Rhodes Scholar ...