That paw doesn't just belong to Mike. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
I am sitting in a hospital room right now, waiting for my wife to be induced to give birth to our first child, the Little Poseur. She's almost two weeks overdue, so the joyous occasion has become a bit of ordeal as we keep waiting and waiting and then waiting some more. However, we know eventually that we will go home parents of the world's newest LSU fan.
Early this morning, as we were worrying about those last things together as only nervous first time parents can worry about, "Dandy" Don Long passed away. One life ends, another begins.
Dandy Don is the biggest, and perhaps most important, Tiger fan of my lifetime. He was the first one to throw up a website in the early days of the internet, giving every Tiger fan recruiting updates and exposure to his relentless optimism. Everything we do here owes him a not inconsiderable debt. We are just following in the course he plotted.
For those of us that live outside of Louisiana now, Dandy Don has been one of our most vital connections back home. When I first graduated and moved back to Maryland, Dandy Don would be the first site I would read every morning, even before I checked my email. His site was LSU sports, even before LSU put together its own website. I kept track of recruiting and LSU baseball through his site, an almost impossible task in those early days.
We live in an era of snark and anger. The loudest voice seems to get the most attention, and the TV talk shows have degenerated into "writers" yelling at one another, each trying to take the most outrageous position. Or we can go in the opposite direction, and effect a persona of ironic detachment, mocking anyone who dares express an honest emotion. The internet, and sports blogs in particular, is like the cool kids table run amok.
Then there was a Dandy Don.
He wore his love of the Tigers on his sleeve, and I loved him for it. Loving something isn't a demerit, it's a virtue. And his passion shone through in his writing. Especially before LSU's resurgence as a national power, he'd still find a way to pick LSU to win every week even in the face of all contrary evidence. If he believed hard enough, maybe the team would come through. Then suddenly, the team did. LSU went from laughingstock to national power overnight, and Dandy Don's optimism was vindicated.
If you can't see the huge debt I owe to Don, well, you must be new around here. Delusional Optimism was always partly a tribute to him, a man who kept the faith in the Tigers when they really did give no reason to believe. He found the silver lining to go with the black clouds. He wrote not to criticize and demean, but to uplift. We need more voices like that, not just about LSU sports, but in our lives in general.
Go outside and say something nice to a stranger. See the positive in a bad situation. Believe. Don Long loved the Tigers, and he shared his love across the internet. He is rightfully a beloved institution among all Tiger fans. He was our common bond for over a decade.
I've been waiting two weeks for the birth of my first child, and I've often been frustrated and angered by the process, particularly after a failed induction. This ignores the fact that at the end of the process, I'll be a father. Really, what's two weeks? This is a time for joy, and worrying about the little things just takes away from the good things.
I never met Don Long. But he taught me how people respond to someone who simply tries to see the good in things. I owe him a great debt, and I hope we at ATVS can live up to the standards he has set. One Tiger dies, another is born to take his place.
I hope we can all live up to his legacy.