For the longest time, autumn harmony prevailed on the Louisiana Workforce Commission’s fourth floor, where workers either supported LSU or kept other allegiances mostly to themselves.
Until two years ago, when Kisa Johnson started displaying her fondness for Alabama, and decorated her cubicle accordingly. One cubicle over, fellow tax analyst Beth Ledoux, shall we say, took umbrage.
“We already did the LSU, and she put up Alabama, and, ‘Oh, it’s on,’” Ledoux said. “It’s on.”
It’s on, all right, as in a giant, inflatable LSU Tiger. As in a large Alabama flag hanging from the ceiling.
It has become an annual ritual that brings in workers from elsewhere in the LWC complex on North 22nd Street. They decorate for many holidays and events, but the week of the LSU-Alabama game is something else.
“I guess LSU-Alabama is the big rivalry because Nick Saban used to be the coach, and LSU wants to beat him every year,” Johnson said.
Of course, Alabama’s historical success plays a role, but Saban’s departure to the NFL a year after leading the Tigers to the 2003 BCS national championship — followed by his stunning return to college football with the Crimson Tide in 2007 — has LSU fans circling the Alabama game date on their calendars.
Though she didn’t attend LSU, Ledoux, 50, who lives in Brusly, is a lifelong Tiger supporter.
“The stadium is directly across (the Mississippi River), so sometimes we can actually hear it if it’s really rowdy game and the wind is coming this way,” she said.
Johnson’s loyalty to Alabama is more recent, and is almost all about Saban. She didn’t pay much attention to him when he coached at LSU from 2000-04, but something clicked after he arrived in Tuscaloosa.
“All of a sudden I started watching his coaching style with Alabama,” said Johnson, 37, who otherwise is a fan of Southern University and the New Orleans Saints. “I started liking the way he coaches, on the sidelines how he keeps his cool sometimes, then all of a sudden he just starts getting wound up.
“I was wondering if he was going to take the job in Texas, and I was going to become a Texas Longhorn fan.”
That would create a whole different color scheme at the workplace, but it wouldn’t create the same passion with her co-workers. Since Saban rejected the Texas job and appears settled in at Alabama, Johnson is looking to upgrade her arsenal of Crimson Tide accoutrements, including an inflatable Big Al, the school’s mascot.
“He’s been sold out,” Johnson said. “I can’t buy one.”
“He’d get deflated,” Ledoux replied.