I’m pleased to present this special, four-part edition of SEC Banter for the LSU-Georgia game, including two guest appearances, my nod to these traditional SEC powerhouses, and a NOLA travel guide for those heading to the game.
Part 1: “Callin’ Baton Rouge” by Ryan Scates
Part 2: “Sound Decision-Making My Senior Year of 1998” by Anonymous
Part 3: “Traditional Programs LSU, Georgia Collide” by SEC Banter
Part 4: SEC Banter’s NOLA Travel Guide
Part 1: “Callin’ Baton Rouge” by Lawyer-Investor Extraordinaire, Double Dawg and Poor Man’s Game Notes Author, Ryan Scates
If I was an alien (or a Yankee) who had just been plopped down in the American South, and I got to choose which SEC Football team to pull for, it would be LSU. There would be no debate.
Now we all know that is not how this works. Any self-respecting person born in God’s Country is almost pre-destined to be a certain kind of SEC person in the womb. I was born to Tennessee people, but the event occurred in Marietta, Georgia. I was going to be one of two things from the get-go, and in today’s world I have never been more thankful that I ended up at Georgia rather than Tennessee.
BUT, let’s pretend I had some say in the matter, and I could have shopped around. Their hazy French-colonial mystique would have pulled me to LSU like I was Hansel or Gretel following breadcrumbs to the cannibal witch’s house. It’s like an alternate universe down there. I mean – their rednecks speak French. These people eat bugs and brag about it.
Their largest civilized society is built on an uninhabitable bayou, and to compensate for this they: build beautiful residences with ornate ironwork, have parades, put all sorts of different kinds of sugars into liquor, distribute the same for mass consumption, and all the while they are fully aware that the whole thing could be two weeks away from complete natural destruction. This is my kind of place.
The next thing to cage me in as a Bayou Bengal would be all the great stories and lore that are only natural to arise out of such a weird and beautiful locale. The Chinese Bandits. Voluntary self-censorship of the band. It goes on…
…They had a governor who more or less embezzled state education funds to expand the football stadium, conducted the band at halftime, personally selected the incomparable golden girls, and was murdered by a ricocheted bullet down the street at the phallic state capitol where his constituents’ descendants now stand in line to touch those famous artillery wounds in the marble with their own hands.
And how about their most beloved player – Billy Cannon? The incomparably-named back won the Heisman after beating Ole Miss on a dramatic kick return on Halloween night. That is pretty cool, but not nearly as cool as what happened next. Cannon went on to be a dentist who was thrown in the clank for running a counterfeit money scheme. He ended up being the dentist there in the prison, a job he loved so much he stayed there cleaning con’s teeth until he died earlier this year.
Billy Cannon’s historic Halloween night punt return.
LSU’s colors were originally purple, gold, and green, but the Mardi Gras store was out of green ribbon before their first home game so what the hell now their colors are just purple and gold. The screaming cat on their helmets is the greatest symbol in college football. The food is terrible but eaten with great enthusiasm [Banter’s note: the food is terrible? I have no idea what this guy is talking about]. They have a live tiger. Spanish moss on live oaks.
By the time I would have seen LSU kickoff at a home game, there would be no going back for me. Their band is loud, simple, and is as persuasive to the crowd as a hypnotist. The noise that then cascades down on the field from their impossibly high stands just washes over and drenches you all day. They mark every five yards on the field, have H shaped goal posts, and at the 50 is an acid-trip worthy tiger eye.
LSU Football embodies so many things that are great about our region’s much-maligned way of life. It is a joyous and perilous event that is lived 100% in the moment, with utter disregard for your race, economic status, or other mood-dampening things like tomorrow’s hangover, current sea levels, e coli infections, if that cop is operating in his jurisdiction, or credit card interest rates.
All they care about there is beating the hell out of you for 60 minutes. You can keep your bowl games and playoffs, because the Tigers know that no other contrived event will ever come close to comparing to a Saturday night in Death Valley.
These LSU fans fell for the breadcrumb trail consisting of diabetes/gambling addition/cirrhosis/alternative protein sources long ago. They have already been devoured by the Tiger Witch, and a Saturday night in Death Valley is really just all of their poor lost souls throwing a pagan party in hell.
I’ll be pulling hard for the Dawgs Saturday, but if LSU beats us, I won’t even be mad. I’m just looking forward to being a part of their bizzaro underworld for our 60 minutes once every ten years.
Well, 30 minutes in this case. We are gonna kick their ass.
Saturday we show all these gypsies that there is NOTHING LIKE BEING A BULLDAWG ON A SATURDAY NIGHT!!!!
Part 2: “Sound Decision-Making My Senior Year of 1998” by Anonymous
When UGA makes a rare trip to Baton Rouge, my mind wanders to the Dawgs’ visit to Death Valley in 1998, when I was in college. In full transparency, this was the peak of my sound decision-making ability as a college senior. There is some uncertainly as to whether this was truly my senior year or the end of my second junior year, but in my mind I now just picture it as fall of my senior year.
To showcase my personal growth, this was the first football game road trip with a girlfriend. Until then, the mere thought of taking a girl to a football game on the road was not only nauseating, but it bordered on a felony. And this was during the mediocre Ray Goff and Jim Donnan years.
Off we went – leaving Athens on Thursday morning for a quick 24-hour stop in New Orleans. The details of NOLA are a little hazy – with a pit stop at all of the expected spots. Friday in Baton Rouge was right out a PSA about binge drinking – only we were amateurs compared to the home team…..late afternoon drinks, drive-thru daiquiri, pre-dinner drinks, dinner drinks, drive-thru daiquiri, post dinner drinks, fraternity party drinks, drive-thru daiquiri, bar drinks, post-bar fraternity party drinks, late night at our new LSU friend’s house drinks….all of this then went straight into bloodys, a shower and some grits and grillades.
This Georgia/LSU game was a night game, so naturally, tailgating began at sunrise. At some point during the day, the girlfriend and I went in separate directions – with a sound plan to meet right before kickoff (keep in mind this was before cell phones). When we reconnected approximately 5 drinks later, I immediately noticed a sizable change in her breast size.
The game itself was an all-timer. UGA squeaked out a 28-27 win. Quincy Carter connected on his first 15 passes. Champ Bailey played nearly every snap on both sides of the ball. The field was covered with future NFL’ers – 15 from UGA and probably that many from LSU. Perhaps most notably – in spite of the tremendous amount of bourbon that accompanied me into the game and the copious amount that also accounted for the increased breast size of the girlfriend (she brought in way more booze than I did), this remains the only game of my career whereby there was bourbon remaining at the end. Despite trying, we simply could not drink it all. Evan Williams was proud.
After that monumental win, I was completely convinced that the Dawgs were destined for the Natty. As a result, I needed to ensure that I was properly prepared by eliminating all possible stressors. First things first – the calendar. None of my classes could interfere with any games/future road trips. A review of the class schedule quickly revealed a problematic class on the schedule. I dropped it the Tuesday after the LSU game. There was internal debate about dropping another one, but I decided to wait until after the Tennessee game the following week.
Next in line – finances. A roommate was completely onboard with our national title run. We decided to cancel the cable, effectively immediately, and promptly had an extra $49 each month. Plus, our other roommate’s father had recently developed an addiction to Seinfeld and he brought 15 VHS tapes full of nearly every episode. Lastly, we called up our local bookie and placed two large bets.
The first bet was on Champ Bailey winning the Heisman. At the time, our odds were 75:1 – easily enough to cover the trip to the Fiesta Bowl and with enough extra to not share a bed with another dude. As a last resort hedge – we placed a bet on Quincy Carter winning the Heisman. At the time, his odds were not as lucrative – but still a healthy 15:1. Bottom line – we were covered…..it was just a question of a Marriott suite or a La Quinta cot.
Our gambling plan on an incredible Georgia run was all set, and then……….UGA lost to Tennessee 22-3 in Athens the following week…..and followed up with a loss to Florida and a loss to the North Avenue Trade School (Georgia Tech)…..to finish 9-3.
The silver lining……the girlfriend became the wife a few years later.
Part 3: “Traditional Programs LSU, Georgia Collide” by SEC Banter
Historically traditional SEC programs clash Saturday afternoon when No. 2 Georgia (6-0, 4-0 SEC) travels to Baton Rouge to face No. 12 Louisiana State (5-1, 2-1 SEC). Toe will meet leather at 3:30 pm ET, hurling the pigskin through the thick bayou air as CBS broadcasts the contest to a national television audience.
UGA and LSU don’t square off regularly. Saturday’s affair marks the first time the teams have met since 2013, and Georgia’s first visit to Death Valley since 2008, where the Dawgs look to snap LSU’s 20-game win streak in Tiger Stadium during the month of October, a streak that dates to 2009.
And yet, this is the 10th time LSU and UGA have met in the last 20 years, more than this writer realized. UGA holds a 6-4 advantage during that span, although the Tigers are 2-1 against the Dawgs in the SEC Championship.
LSU and UGA are similar in SEC stature, at least in my view. Not on Alabama’s level but, then again, neither are several NFL teams.
After Bama, however, I put LSU and UGA right there with the Southeastern Conference’s second-tier programs which, by any measure, makes them elite, powerhouse programs on a national level.
These tradition-rich schools have several traits in common:
- Their state’s major, flagship university with little in-state recruiting competition;
- Located in fertile recruiting states with enough appeal to attract talent from nearby states and a few weird places like California or Illinois
- Have live mascots, one a Bengal tiger named Mike who resides in a 15,000 square foot habitat on campus, the other an adorably cute English bulldog named Uga (I think Georgia should build a habitat for Uga on campus like Mike)
- LSU fans get uncomfortably close to opposing teams’ fans and scream “Tiger Bait!,” while Georgia fans get uncomfortably close and bark like dogs
- Warning to UGA fans in Baton Rouge this weekend: Think twice before getting in an LSU fan’s face and barking, or generally getting anywhere near LSU fans at all. Cajuns + a loss at Florida last week + tailgating all day = recipe for disaster.
The Louisiana State and Georgia programs share another similarity, one that’s still playing out today: they serially underachieved for prolonged, inexplicable periods.
After some success in the 1980s, the 1990s represented the dark ages of LSU football. Curley Hallman and Gerry DiNardo guided the program to just about nowhere, and LSU was all but an afterthought.
Then they hired some coach from Michigan State, of all places, named Nick Saban.
Saban guided LSU to a national championship in 2003, laid the foundation for Les Miles to win another national title in 2007, and play for yet another in 2011.
The sleeping giant of LSU football was awakened and, while the program’s stature arguably has declined following that 2011 national championship appearance, it retains its status as an elite brand in college football.
Georgia had a remarkably similar run to mediocrity in the 1990s following the tenure of legendary Bulldogs coach, Vince Dooley.
The Ray Goff and Jim Donnan eras in Athens were completely forgettable, and while Mark Richt enjoyed success by most measures, it was not success as measured by football-crazed Georgia fans starving for their first national title since 1980.
So UGA went out and hired Kirby Smart, Saban’s longtime defensive protégé, and in just Smart’s second year he had the Dawgs in the national championship game, and in the process overhauled the entire culture of the program.
Traditional SEC powerhouse programs, awakening after inexcusably long stretches of mediocrity, now in the mix for SEC and national titles. UGA’s trajectory is steeper than LSU’s at the moment, but both remain firmly entrenched as storied, successful SEC programs.
The two don’t meet regularly but, when they do, fireworks tend to ensue.
The 2003 Matt Mauck to Skylar Green bomb in LSU’s win in Death Valley, 17-10.
UGA’s 45-16 beatdown of the defending national champions in Athens the very next year. (Can you imagine a Nick Saban-coached team losing like that today? Just doesn’t happen.)
The Honey Badger igniting LSU’s 42-10 victory over UGA in the 2011 SEC Championship.
Georgia’s 44-41 win in 2013 over an LSU team that featured Odell Beckham, Jr. and Jarvis Landry, both NFL superstars. I have heard one Dawgs fan label this the best day ever in Athens.
Saturday shapes up as a dandy, with LSU officials expecting a record number of people on campus. Whatever the outcome, as the sun finds its home in the western sky and slips below the banks of the Mississippi River just outside Tiger Stadium, we can only hope for more fireworks from these traditional SEC powerhouse programs.
Part 4: SEC Banter’s NOLA Travel Guide
Most folks have a preconceived notion about New Orleans. They think a long weekend in the City That Care Forgot is spent eating, drinking, leisurely strolling around, drink in hand, followed by more eating and drinking until the whole thing becomes one big, easy blur.
As a native New Orleanian, I can affirm with vigor that such a preconceived notion is exactly correct.
Heading to my hometown for the LSU-Georgia game? Here’s SEC Banter’s guide to eating and drinking your way through NOLA:
Thursday afternoon arrival drinks — Hop on the streetcar and head for the Garden District to the Columns Hotel, an old mansion-turned-hotel on famed St. Charles Avenue. A classic spot for late afternoon cocktails, perch on the expansive porch and sip your beverage as the streetcar rumbles by.
Thursday night dinner — after the Columns, head further Uptown to Clancy’s, my favorite restaurant in the city. Make a reservation in advance and ask for a downstairs table. Sport coat not required, but why not throw one on.
Here what to order:
A stiff drink, obviously. Oysters and brie appetizer. Turtle soup. Smoked soft shell crab (when in season). Veal Annunciation is just ridiculous; someone order that too. Also can’t go wrong with angel hair pasta and grilled Creole tomato.
Friday breakfast – Cafe Du Monde, if you must. Other options are Camellia Grill in the Quarter or Uptown (order an omelette with fries and a chocolate freeze), or the Ruby Slipper.
Friday lunch — Acme Oyster House. The place is touristy for sure, but a fun spot with good local seafood. Arrive early as there will be a line outside the door, so just grab a beer and drink in line. Order some gumbo and a poboy. The “peacemaker” is combination fried shrimp, fried oyster. Cold draft beer in pitchers, black-and-white checkered tablecloths, and the best Gulf oysters on the half shell you’ve ever had.
Other options for lunch (and see note on Galatoire’s below): City Grocery for a mufuletta, or Napoleon House, or head back Uptown to Domilise’s where I have probably eaten 1,000 poboys. Pics of the Manning family all over the walls. If you go to Domilise’s, someone order a shrimp or oyster poboy and someone else get the roast beef.
Friday early evening drinks — Arnaud’s French 75 Bar, or the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone. Excellent people watching there, and where else will you find a bar that slowly spins around in a circle, like a carousel?
Friday night dinner — So many choices here, but I’d go with GW Fins. Excellent, fresh Gulf seafood. Peche is also solid, as are Bayona and Cochon.
Saturday breakfast — just grab a screwy at the hotel bar and board the bus for B.R.
Saturday night dinner — good luck fighting traffic back to N.O.; I hear my buddy Jeff Stratton has a reservation at Galatoire’s, so just jump in with his group.
Sunday brunch — go to Commander’s for their classic Sunday brunch. Worth it.
Other options in general: drinks at the Windsor Court Hotel, drinks at the Ritz, drinks at Cane & Table, drinks at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, drinks at the Absinthe House. All of these are in the Quarter.
Have fun and remember, my hometown has a way of creeping up on you . . . be careful and try not to overdo it. Good luck!