About three years ago, I made the commitment to cover more women's sports on the blog, particularly the gymnastics team. This wasn't for any equal time reasons, but because the gym team is the best team on campus, and their matches are a ton of fun.
Never, in my wildest imagination, did I think that three years later over 12,000 people would show up for a LSU gymnastics meet, particularly on the same night the baseball team played a game in Alex Box. More people were at a women's gymnastics meet than at the LSU baseball game on Friday night. That is not just a school record, it is a great leap forward.
Now, all of this excitement and fan support goes away the moment the team starts losing. Nothing drives attendance like winning, and the gymnastics team is not just winning, they are dominating. The team just missed its second 198.000 score of the season, as it thoroughly dominated the defending national champion Florida Gators.
Florida wobbled a bit, and lost any chance of a comeback on the beam, partly due to the pressure of an intense, partisan crowd. Let's be honest, no one on the mat was used to a meet quite like this one. Even the Super Six is at least somewhat neutral. This was a huge crowd, all going nuts for the Tigers. It was as difficult an environment the Gators will ever face, so let's not write them off for when we will inevitably face them again.
LSU still had to hit their jumps and sticks their landings, but this was a victory for the LSU home crowd. A once ignored sport has, for some reason, sparked the intense fervor of the LSU fanbase. It's not just the winning, which of course is a huge factor, but it's the fact that meets are a lot of fun, and dirt cheap. There's no better bang for your entertainment buck in Baton Rouge.
By virtue of the win, LSU moves up to #2 in the national rankings. As a reminder, LSU was #1 at this point last year, though they lost to Florida and then would finish third at the Super Six. This is all about taking the next step. First came the quality of performance. Then came the fans. All that's left is delivering a national title to the school.
It's a tall order. Oklahoma is still the 800-pound gorilla and the heavy favorite to win the title. There will also be no home crowd of loyal supporters to carry this team to victory come the postseason. However, this team knows it is good enough to win it all. It's just a matter of putting it all together. That's not the amazing part.
The amazing part is that, suddenly, all of the Tiger Nation cares. Win or lose, going forward, it is not going to be one line in the paper or a little seen article on the LSU website. LSU gymnastics pursuit of the title is now front page news.
We all love a winner.