Gov. John Bel Edwards will be sworn in today for a second term, but he won’t be getting the lion’s share of Louisiana’s attention. Instead, the biggest spotlight will be on LSU’s football team as it competes in a national championship game against Clemson at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
Edwards quickly acknowledged that reality when he scrapped plans for an inaugural ball tonight, figuring most of his supporters would prefer to watch the Tigers vie for a national title rather than schmooze with the state’s top politician. The governor, a former Amite High quarterback, plans to watch the game from his spacious official suite in the Dome. President Donald Trump is expected to attend the game, too.
Few things overshadow politics in Louisiana, but football obviously does. Our fascination with the gridiron sometimes distracts us from pressing problems, as we’ve often noted before. A campus community that funds football while academic programs languish obviously has some work to do.
Even so, there’s a lot to be said for a winter Monday in Louisiana when the State Capitol isn’t center stage. Louisiana’s preoccupation with political theater has brought problems of its own for generations. Maybe we need more days, like today, when elected officials assume a more modest place in the civic imagination.
Politics, after all, is too much with us in this bitter season of our discontent. It’s exhausted our spirit — not only here, but across the nation and the world. January, presumably a month of fresh possibilities, has already started to feel a bit ragged, with raging tensions abroad, the impeachment saga in Washington, and threats of four more years of partisanship in Baton Rouge.
At the start of what promises to be another troubled year, how do we reclaim the fellowship so lacking now in our public life? We might find it in the common spaces beyond the halls of power, including sports arenas packed with enthusiastic fans rooting for their home team.
On Monday night, Louisiana will present a young face to the globe as its best college athletes, including Heisman Trophy winner and LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, compete for a coveted title. The challenge for all of us, as the governor and other state officials begin a new term, will be to make a Louisiana where more young people from every walk of life can become champions.
That hard work awaits us Tuesday. But for tonight, we can all enjoy what promises to be a riveting game.