After we were forced out of our home by the flood, our aunt took us in after a morning in the shelter spent catching our breath. She lived eight minutes away from our house at the max, but at times it felt like an hour. When we were able to brave the water and go back and after I got over the wave of shock and catharsis, we were too busy doing what needed to be done to think about anything else. But even in August, there are only so many hours in a day and so many trips between the street and your house you can make with a loaded wheelbarrow, and eventually you need to retire for the night.
The nights were the hardest part. We were staying in a place familiar yet strange. There was always something else that I felt I should be back home doing, one more thing that I should have done. It definitely hurt more to be away from home than there dealing with it.
It’s harder now that I’m at school and staying with my good friend Marques Leger, whom I owe a great deal. My family values an education and I’m close to completing it but occasionally it will hit me that while I’m sitting in comfortable air conditioning watching baseball and eating a hot meal while bullshitting a question about the media’s relationship with sports organizations, my nearing 60 diabetic dad is entering his sixth hour of work back home in the sweltering August home.
It’s always easier at home.
One day I’ll be an old man telling my kids or grandkids about this. The story begins with a cellphone footage of a scuffle punctuated by gunshots that ring in waters we never knew could reach us. I don’t know how the story I’m going to relay is going end, but I know it won’t end with my city in worse condition than it was before the recording started. This was the summer that tried to break Baton Rouge, but failed.
But the story wasn’t supposed to go like this. Just as the city began to lick it’s wounds, the football team was supposed go to a far away land with their city on their back and play for the people back home, playing inspired football that gives the natives hope and some happiness, if only for three hours.
It didn’t happen like that. The team played miserably and squandered a chance to win late. It was the twist of the knife for me and for many other people. How could one of our bastions of happiness come crumbling down like that?
Every bit of hope has been turned black. Dreams of an undefeated season have devolved into prayers of just making a bowl game. There has been more talk of replacement head coaches than there has been on the next game.
But isn’t this on par? I think it’s perfect. If we’re going to the cliche well, it’s also darkest before the dawn and right now we can’t even see what’s in front of us.
I don’t like making promises about...anything related to college football, but I know what’s going to happen this weekend. After setting up the tailgate, Friday is going to roll over and become Saturday and we will wake up at dawn. We will crack a showerbeer and man our stations at the tailgate. The party will kick off somewhere around 7 AM and it will maintain until somewhere around 5:00, when it will transfer to Tiger Stadium. There will be drinks to be drunk, food to be ate, lyrics to various Lil Boosie, Old Crow Medicine Show, and GROUPLOVE songs to be shouted, there will be games of washers and beer pong to be played, and there will be camaraderie and “Tiger bait!”s exchanged. We will win, maybe not as handily as you’d think because Jacksonville State is really good for an FCS team, but we will look better than we did in Green Bay. And morale will increase.
You would believe differently from looking at Twitter or from watching the news, but the season is not over. This team still has everything to play for with the talent to do so and anybody who tells you differently is wrong, point blank. The same people saying 8-5 is the ceiling are the same people who were looking forward to 11-1 as a conservative bet a week ago. Nobody knows for sure what this season holds. All we can do is hold onto the team and give them our undying support and vocal chords.
And if you’re shitty enough to bring suffocating negative energy to the stately oaks and broad magnolias, stay home. If you’re not going to boo instead of yell, sit your miserable ass in your favorite chair.
I’m not sure if you heard or not, but Tiger Stadium doesn’t need you or your weakness.
We’re going home. The floors are ripped up and the walls are knocked out, but we’re going to throw a party.