Saturday, December 31, 2005

LSU's Peach Bowl Victory Bigger Than Any One Football Game

PASO ROBLES, Calif. (ZP) -- I couldn't make myself sit down to watch No. 10 LSU take on No. 9 Miami (Fla.) in Friday's Peach Bowl. I was too nervous to flip on the television, afraid of what the score might read.

In grad school, I never went to LSU football games. But because I lived a block away from Tiger Stadium, one of the largest college sports venues in the nation, home games meant long hours trapped in my apartment, held hostage by the hordes of tailgaters and some of the most rabid football fans in the nation.

For much of my time in Baton Rouge, I hated LSU football and the College Football Gods they served.

But this year, football, like just about everything else in Louisiana, faced its own version of the Apocalypse, somehow managing to survive torrential rains, strong winds, flooding, and FEMA.

That's enough to turn even the most diehard gridiron atheist into a believer, so throughout the game, I prayed for something divine, a small miracle of sorts.

It was, of course, the most unholy of prayers.

I prayed for LSU's Tigers to do more than just beat Miami. I prayed LSU would have the power to beat the living shit out of a team unfortunate enough to be nicknamed the Hurricanes on behalf of Louisianans everywhere.

I dreamt of witnessing Tigers wide receiver Skyler Green, who with teammate Brian Johnson turned a two-bedroom apartment into temporary shelter for more than 20 people displaced by Hurricane Katrina, prove once and for all that even one of the world's worst natural disasters can't kill the human spirit.

I asked for a victory on behalf of the Tigers' professional counterparts down the I-10 corridor, the New Orleans Saints, who were forced to spend their season as squatters and had to watch their home stadium, the Superdome, become a ruined symbol of of a tattered city.

I wanted a victory for the college athletic programs displaced or dismantled because of Katrina. I wanted LSU to win one for Tulane, whose football program played 11 games in 11 different stadiums, for McNeese State University, for the University of New Orleans, and for their athletes and student bodies.

I prayed for a victory on behalf of the 31 high schools that lost their football seasons due to Hurricane Katrina, a blow that could end up costing some poor kid a scholarship to college, and for the dozens of female high school student athletes who lost similar opportunities to prove themselves on the field.

Most importantly, I humbly begged the football gods to provide the people of Louisiana with something Mother Nature can never wash away, burn down, abandon, or flood.

I wished for a victory to give people a sign that hope is the most powerful recovery tool known to humankind, a reminder that even a 6 1/2 point underdog helmed by a sophomore quarterback can work miracles.

I am certain I'm not the only one who had similar prayers going into Friday's Peach Bowl. I'm equally certain that I'm not the only former Louisiana resident or LSU alum who teared up a bit at the game's final score.

LSU 40, Miami 3 - the biggest blowout in Peach Bowl history.

A little hope goes a long way.

And that's something to cheer about.

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