My experience of going to games in Tiger Stadium throughout my life has pretty much been this:
1. Sitting in the stands with my teetotaler relatives.
I’ve never really understood the idea of going to a game so smashed out of my gourd that I can’t remember how it turned out the next day.
Not that I’m against imbibing an adult beverage, mind you. And there was a time when I bellied up to the open bar they had for the press in the Purple Lounge in the old west upper deck after LSU home games.
My feeling is, it’s a choice. It should be a choice for the individual to have a drink at the game if they want, though drinking so much that you become belligerent crosses the line. And it should be a choice for individual Southeastern Conference schools to sell alcohol if they so choose.
Wednesday, LSU announced it was turning the 1,500 seats above the south end zone suites and club sections into new premium seating. Fans sitting in the new “Skyline Club” will be able to purchase beer and wine and have access to an all-you-can-eat food menu — at a premium price, of course. I have little doubt those hard-to-sell seats will prove popular.
For LSU, which has lobbied unsuccessfully to eliminate the SEC rule banning alcohol sales in its general seating areas, it’s an imaginative approach. Sort of turning water into wine, if you will.
But it’s also sort of ridiculous that LSU should have to resort to such measures. The school wanted to build a beer garden beneath its south end zone stands, where it cleared out long-disused dormitories. That area will stand vacant, at least through the 2017 season.
The SEC rule on alcohol sales is hypocritical and archaic. Alcohol sales are allowed in premium seating areas, but not in the rest of the stands? Why? Rich people deserve a privilege that the slightly less rich (you have to have put aside quite a few dollars to take in a game anywhere these days) are denied?
According to an article by The Advocate's Ross Dellenger published in Thursday’s editions, at least 40 NCAA schools allowed beer sales in their stadiums last season. Beer taps flow at the College World Series and at College Football Playoff games. If you go to the Sugar Bowl for one of the CFP semifinals on New Year’s Day, you can have a beer just like you can if you go to a Saints game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Tulane, the dome’s former tenant, allows alcohol sales throughout its recently built on-campus facility, Yulman Stadium.
The SEC rule has contributed to some bizarre situations. At Ole Miss and Mississippi State, they can’t sell you an adult beverage even in premium seats per state law, but you can BYOB. At Ole Miss baseball games, there’s a one-hour period before games when suite owners are allowed to stock their lockers while school officials cover their eyes and whistle. If the SEC rule were changed, Ole Miss and Mississippi State would likely go to their state legislature to allow stadium-wide alcohol sales.
But changing the SEC rule has to be the catalyst.
“I would hope in the near future each SEC school will have the autonomy to decide how they want to handle alcohol in their venues,” LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said.
Alleva, like other SEC athletic directors, is eager to expand what is currently a thin revenue stream from alcohol — a small pour, if you will. That's their job. He also contends that in-stadium alcohol sales would cut down on pregame binge drinking, that fans who can drink in the stadium might not get so tanked before kickoff at the tailgate party.
I happen to agree with that premise. You may not. Again, it’s a choice. It’s a choice schools and their fans should be entrusted to make. No school would be forced to sell alcohol if it thinks it doesn’t fit the wants and needs of its fans, though I haven’t been to an SEC campus yet where people aren’t doing serious pregame partying.
Yes, even at Vanderbilt.
SEC schools are allowed to set their own policy on such important, competition-altering issues as drug testing. If they are allowed such leeway on the field, why not in the stands?
The 18th Amendment enacted prohibition nationwide in 1920. It was practically unenforceable. Once, at a restaurant in West Lafayette, Indiana — home of the Purdue Boilermakers and their namesake cocktail — I was shown the trap door near the bar of the decades-old establishment that once led to a prohibition-era speakeasy in the basement.
The 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment in 1933, the same year the SEC was born.
So, SEC schools, when you get together in Destin, Florida, in May for your annual business meeting, loosen up. Get with the times. Repeal your 18th Amendment.
Then, have a toast to cash — and common sense.