The Texas state motto is friendship.
That’s what we’ve usually felt with our big neighbor to the west.
It’s certainly what we feel at times like these.
Twelve years ago last week, when Hurricane Katrina devastated south Louisiana, Houston’s Astrodome served as a refuge for many of our flooded-out citizens, our huddled masses who had lost everything. Last August, when flood waters devastated the Baton Rouge area, Texans raised money for flood relief and came here to help clean up the damage.
Now it’s our turn.
LSU’s football team almost certainly isn’t going to Houston for its season opener Saturday against BYU (more on that later) because of the unprecedented flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. But one of our other teams we’re mighty proud of is heading across the border.
The Cajun Navy is coming, folks. A fleet of bass boats and other watercraft is about to descend on the Bayou City. Godspeed to all our big-hearted outdoorsmen and women, who are about to prove once again that in our politically fractured country we can still come together when people need help the most.
We’re not going to escape Harvey’s wrath in Louisiana, either. All of south Louisiana is in for inches and inches of rain, though hopefully not the feet of it that have and will fall on south Texas. Hopefully we won’t need part of our “navy” back to help in Lake Charles or Cameron or closer to home in Baton Rouge, New Orleans or Lafayette.
The point is we’re all in this together. We help you when we can, and you help us when you can.
The images coming out of Texas may elicit compassionate shakes of the head in Chicago or Denver or Pittsburgh. That’s OK, as long as they’re accompanied by fingers tapping out some donations to the Red Cross and other charities on their cell phones.
But we see people wading through waist deep water from a hurricane and we know first hand what that’s like. We see a hole someone had to chop through their roof with an ax to escape with their lives, and we know what that’s like, too.
Though NRG Stadium, the site of Saturday’s scheduled first football meeting between the Tigers and Cougars, so far seems to have fared well from the storm, there are lots of signs that say it’s not time for a game there.
Streets around the stadium that many Louisianans know well, like Kirby Drive or Fannin Street which bracket the NRG campus, are under water. I was watching CNN on Sunday afternoon as a reporter interviewed a woman rescued from the Omni Houston Hotel. She said floodwater from Buffalo Bayou, which backs up to the hotel north of the Galleria and courses all the way across Houston, had flooded the hotel up to the second floor.
The Omni is where LSU was scheduled to stay for the BYU game. It’s where the Tigers headquartered for their game in 2014 against Wisconsin in Houston as well.
SMG vice president Doug Thornton estimated it takes about 3,000 workers to pull off a game at an NFL-type venue like NRG Stadium or the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Many of that number who would work the LSU-BYU game are almost certain to be refugees from the storm, pushed out of their homes and days or weeks from being able to return.
The LSU-BYU game needs to be played. LSU does not need to lose a game off its schedule for the third straight year, after the McNeese State game was canceled in 2015 and the Florida game replaced South Alabama last year. But it doesn’t need to be played in Houston. Hopefully by Saturday it will be a welcomed diversion for folks in Texas (many of them LSU fans and alumni) when it’s played somewhere else, whether it’s in Tiger Stadium or the Superdome or another venue.
For now, the word is not football but rescue. It’s help.