During games at Tiger Stadium, the fans delight in listening to Garth Brooks’ 1993 hit “Callin’ Baton Rouge.”
The song first lyrics read like the beginning of a script for an old Hollywood picture: “I spent last night in the arms of a girl in Louisiana.”
But when fans hear it, they join in and shout out “Louisiana,” as if it is surprising and joyful to hear our state’s name mentioned in a song.
For excellent reasons, given that it is such a wonderful and romantic place, New Orleans gets a lot of ink from songwriters. Louisiana and Baton Rouge seem to get left out.
That’s what makes this year’s LSU championship season so very special: Ed Orgeron made it a celebration of Louisiana.
LSU won national championships in 2004 and 2008, and all of us enjoyed every single minute.
But somehow this title — which will be commemorated with a parade today on the LSU campus — seems different.
This was arguably the greatest LSU team ever.
The team won 15 games, two more than the Saints.
And a kid from Athens, Ohio, just looking for a chance to play, came to Baton Rouge and left with a Heisman Trophy.
But the biggest difference is Coach O.
Finally, we have found a football coach who doesn’t have an accent, who speaks clearly in every word that passes his lips, who knows how to peel crawfish. Nick Saban was from West Virginia and Les Miles was from Ohio, and while Miles seemed to enjoy making a life for his family in Baton Rouge, both coaches were here on business.
Orgeron rejoices in Louisiana, and sees his team and its success uplifting every corner of the state, from Chalmette to Shreveport.
Americans love second chances.
Orgeron was fired at the University of Mississippi, where he won only three SEC games in three years, and passed over at the University of Southern California.
But LSU was the job he longed for, and he brought the joy back to Tiger Stadium after a frustrating decade of playing second fiddle to Alabama.
It’s easy to be cynical about college athletics these days. But all of the things that divide us, politics or race or the tensions between urban and rural life, seem to vanish in Tiger Stadium.
There, everyone sings the same tune.