A message, to the good people of Syracuse, New York:
Good day, everyone.
The LSU Tigers come to your fair city Saturday for a collegiate football tussle with your Syracuse Orange. In the interest of cultural understanding and fair warnings — like our governor may show up as well and start campaigning for president — we send you this primer.
First of all, considering the Civil War documentary recently re-aired on PBS, it would be all too easy to make war-like references to invading forces here. We’re not going to do that. Football is not war.
To Louisianians, football is far more important than that. It’s like a religion. It’s why our pro football team is called the Saints, and it’s why so many here think the football gods have forsaken them with this 0-2 start. Basketball is our diversion, so much so that watching a talent like Anthony Davis play for the Pelicans is just killing time between the end of the football season and the NFL draft.
Considering how good Syracuse has always been in basketball, we figure for you it’s the other way around.
Still, you will have a strong sense this weekend that an army of LSU fans has encamped in your town. It’s expected upwards of 7,500 of them will surge into upstate New York. If you see someone wearing purple and/or gold, chances are they’re going to want to know where you keep the seasoning for your bland food.
If you encounter an unruly Tigers fan, as quick as you can produce a sample of one of your local beers, perhaps an Empire Skinny Atlas Kolsch, set the glass on the ground and back away. If you play your cards right, you will be invited to a tailgate party, where you will be served some delicious animal you never knew existed, much less could be fried. We promise you, turducken tastes much better than it sounds. And if someone offers you a fried orange, don’t be offended. It will probably be delicious, too.
As for the game, well, let’s just say you have a chance for a monumental upset. A slight chance.
LSU visits Syracuse having just vaulted into the top 10 with a 45-21 crushing of preseason Southeastern Conference favorite Auburn. It was an impressive win, though how good Auburn really is remains to be seen, spearheaded by one Leonard Fournette.
This probably won’t be his only visit to New York this fall. He is currently being toasted border to border as the nation’s leading Heisman Trophy candidate, making it a good bet to find him in Times Square the second Saturday in December.
What kind of running back is he? Jim Brown played for Syracuse, right? He’s kind of like that, an otherworldly combination of size, speed and agility. The more contemporary comparison is Adrian Peterson.
You’re likely to find most of LSU’s players are a ridiculous combination of size, speed and agility, the biggest, fastest things rumbling through Syracuse not hauling freight on I-81. The Tigers’ defensive ends have been known to chase down running backs like former Oregon star LaMichael James from behind. And a turf field, like you have inside the Carrier Dome, simply tends to make the Tigers faster.
LSU has 40 former players currently on NFL rosters, and I’d say, conservatively, about two dozen future NFL players on its current roster. No, really. And the Tigers devour nonconference, regular-season opponents. LSU is going for its 50th straight such win dating to 2002.
They say you’re probably starting a fifth-string quarterback, Zack Mahoney. It would be wise to tie a string to him so you can pull him back to the sideline if things get hairy.
Speaking of the Carrier Dome, we hear it’s not air-conditioned. What? We air-condition dog houses down here. It’s supposed to be in the mid-70s in Syracuse on Saturday, which means it could get stuffy inside your dome if 40,000 or so people show up.
Louisiana football fans and players know hot and stuffy. The Auburn game was like playing inside a pizza oven.
Lastly, know that we are more alike than we are different. Believe it or not, we live in the same country, albeit ours is a red state and yours is blue. I see that Syracuse is referred to as Salt City for the longtime salt industry there. Salt mining is big in south Louisiana, as are our salt domes, which have an unfortunate tendency to collapse on occasion and ruin some of our favorite hunting/fishing spots.
We both can agree that people in Boston, where LSU played Boston College in 1947 on its last trip to the northeast, talk funny. And we all loved Yogi Berra.
So when we meet each other Saturday, let’s all resolve to, as we say, pass a good time.
And y’all come when Syracuse plays at LSU in 2017.
We’ll put a turducken on for you.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.