ESPN is addicted to really stupid features and gimmicks. That’s not a secret, and I’m only the 739,034th internet jackass to point this out. But this is not a post about why ESPN sucks. In fact, it’s how these stupid features actually illuminated some truths about LSU, albeit unintentionally.
The first feature was “TitleTown”. Two SEC towns were among the nominees to become ESPN’s titular TitleTown: Gainesville and Knoxville. Now, if you’re the kind of person who gets their knickers in a twist over something as stupid as this feature, may I recommend you close your computer now and start drinking heavily now. However, I would like to point out that the two SEC schools which have won the most titles are LSU and Arkansas. And if we count football titles, which the NCAA does not, LSU is tops in the SEC.
LSU also has had lots of recent success. We’re the only school to have won two BCS titles (kind of a cherry pick, I know). The basketball team made the Final Four, and the women’s team has been to five straight Final Fours. The baseball team just returned to Omaha after the 1990s, when LSU won five titles in ten years. It’s one of the more dominant stretches of any team in any sport of my lifetime. Well, not counting the LSU track and field team’s absurd run under Pat Henry.
Who really cares, though? It’s a meaningless gimmick by ESPN just to fill airtime during the slow summer months. But it does show this: LSU is not considered to be a dominant program. We’re good, and I think people believe that, but we’re not the epitome of a winning program.
This isn’t some plea that no one respects us. In fact, it’s kind of a good thing. Which leads us to our second stupid feature: The Most Hated List. ESPN listed the top ten most hated teams in college football, and there’s nary a mention of LSU. Heck, the SEC breakdown lists LSU as only the fourth most hated team, which is crazy if you stop to consider LSU’s won a lot recently.
I can’t help but think these two features are somehow related. LSU is not perceived to be a great program, which means no one spends much time hating us. This doesn’t mean we’re disrespected, I think it means deep down, neutral fans kind of like us. What’s not to like? Our whole rep is based in good food and drinking. And as long as we don’t go around beating our chests or trying to claim all sorts of mythical titles, our recent run of success doesn’t really offend anyone. We have just the right amount of failure mixed in with our success to make it palatable to outsiders.
Our buddy Jason is fond of saying this is the Golden Age of LSU Athletics. It really is. What makes it even more fun is that we’ve managed to have some success in almost every sport and not piss off the neighbors. Sure, there are people who hate us. We’re not beloved. But we’re not despised. And part of that is tied in to the fact we’re not perceived as overhyped.