My introduction to the college football internet was through the comment sections on Lindy’s and Athlon in 2007. I had just met my first girlfriend (“girlfriend”) at a church camp in Mississippi. She was an Alabama fan from somewhere not far from the Tennessee border. As awkward middle schoolers with crushes are want to do, most of exchanges were playful ribbing, but based on each other’s favorite schools (and future alma maters).
I was absolutely too young to be commenting on such things, and at the same time I wasn’t. In a sense I fit in because the majority of these exchanges between what I assumed to be adults were extremely mid-aughts internet arguments featuring terrible photoshops. So many terrible photoshops.
But one theme starting to stick out to me: horror stories about opposing fans’ trips to Baton Rouge. Whatever you could think of, it happened to someone, or at least their uncle’s best friend. Fights. Drinks poured. Kids cussing adults out. Pee balloons. Laser pointers. Gallons of paint poured on cars.
Who wastes good paint like that, questioned 13-year Adam, correctly.
This didn’t line up with my experiences, where a hearty “TIGER BAIT” from someone with a BAC above the Mendoza Line was the worst dishing out I’ve ever seen. But then again, I always went clad in purple and gold. My experiences were not everyone else's.
And then I grew up. I started tailgating for games, and then seriously tailgating. And to the detriment of society at large, I remained online. Somehow, I made friends through the college football internet, where I’m glad to report the maturity levels of my posts have made marginal progress. And over time, those friends have made their way to the tailgate. More will come this year.
It’s easy for us to tell the story of LSU tailgating. It’s easy for us to explain via a 37-slide presentation why it’s better than The Grove, easier to explain what makes night games magical and why CBS Sports should be tried by The Hague.
But our experiences are not everyone else’s.
So here is the story of LSU tailgating, as told by the visitors, neutral and opposing as well as the occasional incognito opposing fans and people who were just fans for a single day.
As an avid football fan, a former college football writer, and the best friend of a woman who loves LSU with all of her soul, Baton Rouge holds a special place in my heart. And while this is technically supposed to be a blurb about tailgating as a visitor (I’m a lifelong Auburn fan), I’m going to cheat a little bit and extoll the virtues of tailgating as a visitor rooting for LSU. Before you write me off as some sort of disloyal fan, which you’d be well within your rights to do, I don’t mean when LSU is playing your team. I just mean screaming for the band to play “Neck” during a game that you either actively want LSU to win or you just don’t have a dog in the fight at all. While most LSU tailgaters are famously generous to opposing fans, I think everyone should experience at least one true LSU gameday decked out in their finest purple and gold.
I’ve cosplayed as a Bayou Bengal in Baton Rouge twice so far, once for the 2014 Alabama-LSU game and once for the 2016 Florida-LSU game. Both times, despite the final score of the games, I had an unbelievable amount of fun. But because we were all in purple and gold and didn’t have to accommodate any other fans in our group, the 2016 Florida game was truly a revelatory experience for me. We rolled into BR at 3 a.m. the morning before an 11 a.m. kickoff, slept for about three hours, started power drinking before breakfast to stay awake (?), and were nearly blackout by kickoff. Even for an early game, the atmosphere in Tiger Stadium was electric, and though LSU couldn’t come away with the win, we were greeted with big smiles, hugs, and cold beers by DVA Tailgating the minute the clock hit 0:00. You don’t have to be an LSU fan to be treated like family by these guys, but it’s human nature to crave community, and communing with good friends over a shared football experience is the top of the mountain in the SEC.
-Peggy Rosmanith, Auburn & neutral
I have covered college football for about a decade. I have watched more hours of games than I can remember or would care to admit, and I have typed so many words on so many comment boards and blogs and social media sites. I have read books and watched documentaries about the sport. I have co-WRITTEN a book about the sport. All of that is one thing, but I probably learned more about college football culture in the American South in one day of tailgating in Baton Rouge than I have learned in all those other years following along.
-Alex Kirschner, neutral
I knew that LSU tailgating wasn’t overrated from friends who’d went but the biggest thing wasn’t merely the party — stripper pole and shots off the ice luge were certainly fun — but it was the quality of food which cannot be slept on. Smoked mac and cheese, alligator étouffée you name it. I can get beer and hot dogs wherever, but I’m not getting good eats anywhere around the country. In my experience outside of Gainesville as long as you’re not an ass people will be nice to you no matter who’s color you’re wearing before the game and LSU was right in line with that. Tiger fans know the reputation their tailgate scene has and part of maintaining it is being welcoming to people not wearing purple and gold. Mission accomplished, and I can’t wait to go back.
-Richard Johnson, Florida
As an Ole Miss fan and Oxford resident, LSU tailgating offers a stark contrast to the Grove. Let me clear...I enjoy BOTH! One can acknowledge and appreciate the perks that both tailgating experiences have to offer which routinely set them head and shoulders above the rest on any given “Top Tailgating” countdown. Some anecdotes from my four trips to tailgate in Red Stick include:
- Fresh shucked oysters, immediately thrown on a charcoal grill
- Goldfish races where the losing fish’s owner chugged the poor little guy
- Abita Purple Haze kegstand
- Anything and everything from Zrau and #DVATailgating tent, specifically smoked mac & cheese
- Drunkenly yelling “REBEL BAIT” at LSU fans after Jevan Snead (R.I.P. sweet prince) torched LSU in 2008.
While the last one isn’t exactly tailgating related, it was the lone occurrence during my fandom that Ole Miss dominated in Death Valley, and for that I am forever nostalgic. As for the rest, one will begrudgingly never experience underneath the tents of the Grove.
-smeargle, Ole Miss
The SEC as a whole is hailed as the pinnacle of college football tailgating. The Grove and Ole Miss are often hailed as the jewel of that crown. For me personally, LSU and Baton Rouge get my vote for the best tailgating scene in the conference and by default, in the country. Texas A&M’s biannual visit to Death Valley is something I have circled on my calendar each year it happens. It has become a tradition for my family to make the trek over to Baton Rouge even if we don’t get tickets for the game, just to tailgate. Sure, the pageantry and pomp of the Grove is special, but I wouldn’t trade the incredible food, copious drink, and incredibly welcoming atmosphere of tailgating in Baton Rouge for anything. After all, it’s a family tradition at this point.
-Jay Arnold, Texas A&M
Marco Polo spent decades abroad to come home and tell incredulous Venetians about...pandas or black pepper or whatever. I can be gone for a weekend and get the same reaction from my Ohioan coworkers with tales of DVA tailgating.
The DVA team is so kind, so welcoming, and so (so so so so) gratuitously ready to party down. One of them will show up with eight pork butts. Another will show up with a jambalaya pot big enough to double as an ocean liner. Yet another one will be triple-powerbombed into a table, and the powdered sugar from beignets will make a very satisfying cloud.
You will see incredible things all before breakfast. You will eat food so good it tastes like undiscovered colors. You will probably drink a lot. You will have another ten hours of tailgating to go.
Marco could never. Geaux Tigers.
-Nick Kivi, Tennessee
Stepping on campus on a Louisiana Saturday Night is something special. A lot of other visiting fans warned me about going into Baton Rouge. They said it would be hostile & dangerous. They warned me to be cautious of my safety, but my actual experience was nothing short of being welcomed in as one of the family. The entire campus feels like one giant party, sprawling from building to building and field to mounds. Anywhere there is a patch of grass, you’ll find a group of Tiger fans celebrating the day with music & a way to track the day’s games, ready to welcome you with some of the best food you’ll ever eat or a beverage & some good-natured banter. Go in looking for a fight, & I’m sure you can find someone willing to oblige. But go in looking for a good time, & what you’ll find will exceed your expectations. In an age when white tents have commercialized the entire tailgating experience, it’s a breath of fresh air to roam the bayou amidst tents of purple and gold… and even the occasional pink.
You might just find yourself returning as one of the newest Tigers.
-Lydia Jones, Auburn
“It is the humidity of autumn evenings that drapes stately oaks and broad magnolias.”
To a first-time visitor, the first thing you notice is the trees. God, so many trees, and they’re all beautiful. But what happens underneath those trees is just straight uncut magic.
I’ve gotten (and will always get) plenty of grief for leaving my hometown of Baton Rouge for the University of Alabama. Listen, I can easily be bought and UA dropped the big bag. Sue me.
However, one thing I’ve never denied is LSU’s superior tailgating operation. It is a targeted campaign from top to bottom, 360°, designed to test any outsiders’ limits on food and booze consumption. If there’s a patch of green grass, it will be tailgated upon. Most concrete is up for grabs too.
And under those tents, you’ll find some of the most passionate fans in America. They’ll call Coach Saban every name under the sun (and a few you didn’t even know were words) But, if you can take a joke you’ll walk away one beer and 4 laughs richer.
“When the sun finds its home in the western sky it is a field of glory for sure ... But much more than that, it is a sacred place.”
You’ll get “tiger baited,” but you’ll get treated like a royal right up until kickoff. After that, I can’t help you. But I’ll see y’all by the Mounds the first Saturday in November.
-Kevin Paul, Alabama
I grew up two miles outside LSU’s south gates. My parents had one rule regarding college enrollment: “you’re not allowed to attend school in the same zip code you grew up in.” And after 5 years at the University of Georgia, Baton Rouge wasn’t the place I anticipated spending my mid twenties. A recent media grad, I had illusions of grandeur: New York, Chicago, even Atlanta.
Job prospects calcified and my career paths - or maybe lack thereof, brought me home. It was a decision I initially backed my way into. But a few years out, I’m beyond grateful that I did.
As much as I cherish Georgia football, and as much as it has indelibly warped my brain, I’ve remained vocal about it’s palpable dearth of tailgating. There are a multitude of factors, primarily Sanford Stadium’s proximity to downtown Athens’ bar scene, but much of it’s on campus tailgating restrictions surround the want to maintain a veneer of social stratum.
I’ve heard that in order to attain true happiness, you’re supposed to make your 13 year old self happy. At 13, it was 2007 and the only thing that mattered was the upcoming Saturday. I attended my dad’s friends tailgate planning meetings, tasked with plotting out the TV schedule in Microsoft Word.
Moving back to Baton Rouge reconnected me with my roots. There’s something honest about tailgating. Do you know how insane it is to spend every cent of disposable income and every second of free time dedicated to lugging a 200 pound generator and seventy inch TV in the middle of an academic institution’s quad to cook smoked sausage for 400 of your drunkest friends. But that insanity breeds community.
There are three separate groups I know who tailgate for every home game. By pure coincidence, all three sit within one hundred feet of one another, off Dalrymple by Peabody Hall. The same plot of land that I staked out as a child, I was welcome back to as an adult - some weird, structurally unsound prodigal son.
Now, as a Georgia grad and New Orleans resident whose primary concern is ensuring one of those three tailgates is showing the Dawgs, I’ve gained a newfound appreciation for something I didn’t realize I missed. As coonass as this could possibly sound, I’ll forever be thankful to Baton Rouge, LSU tailgating, and the DVAT crew for providing me with a sense of community when I didn’t know I needed one.
-Andrew Stephens, Georgia
My first trip to Baton Rouge was in 2005. We came down to the Red Stick expecting a quality football game between 2 teams vying for the SEC Western Division title, just over a month after Katrina. Because we didn’t know anyone in the city, we essentially showed up and entered the stadium.
I learned a lot that day about crisis management, as the crowd was especially hot, and the game did nothing but amplify an electric atmosphere. Sadly (for me), my Auburn Tigers missed 5 field goals and lost in overtime. I was flipped the bird countless times and thanked for coming down countless times by strangers. It was in this exit from Tiger Stadium that I fell in love with Baton Rouge, the scenery of LSU, and Tiger Stadium. There’s nothing like an Iron Bowl in Jordan-Hare Stadium, and there’s nothing like a Saturday night in Death Valley. Not as many places in this conference can actually back that statement up, but both our houses tend to do their job, and do it well.
Countless times I have been back. Including the 2018 Alabama game where I was able to cheer for LSU (cheer against Alabama, more appropriately). Thanks to Twitter and my friendship with Spencer Hall, I decided to connect with Zach Rau and make an event of my trip to LSU in one of these ventures to the bayou, and it forever changed me as a college football fan.
To say that Zach and the ATVS crew of Podkatt, Billy, and Adam are benevolent hosts is the understatement of a Saturday in the South. Truly, there is no hospitality quite like the DVATailgating crew. They love their Tigers fiercely, but it pales in comparison to their love of people.
I’ve never felt so at home in a strange new place like I have at the DVATailgate. A little cash, some Jackson Hole, Wyoming whiskey for Zach, and an attitude of loving people are all that I’ve ever had to bring to the occasion, and I’ve left with countless memories and friendships forged that transcend football rivalries. Every time I go back I feel I’m at a family reunion that has grown in its members by droves since my last visit.
The 2018 Alabama game didn’t end the way anyone wanted it to, but my reason for being there was an important one. My father-in-law, Dave Lumsden, grew up in Cincinnati and the only game he’d catch on the radio on Saturday nights was out of Baton Rouge. My wife Jessica is a James Madison grad, and in her time there Dave would host what was the epicenter of tailgating in Harrisonburg, VA. Dave had always wanted to attend a game on a Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. While the game was painful (Devin White got screwed and I’ll hear no argument otherwise), Dave’s biggest takeaway was that he felt like he was finally at home at a tailgate. He finally got repayment for all of those morning FCS kickoffs where he would do a breakfast tailgate with his homemade Bloody Mary mix. He finally got to receive a gift that he had been giving to folks for years. It was an unforgettable experience for him. Jess and I were the ones who left fulfilled, knowing we had been a small part of the DVATailgating crew helping fulfill a man’s lifelong dream. And that made it all worth it.
For all of the beer that can be drank, all of the smoked mac and cheese and delicious meat that can be consumed, and all the liquor shots taken at the ice luge, the thing that always fills me up the most is the heart behind it all. These folks genuinely want to bring a welcome mat of inclusion and friendship to people every Saturday.
I always end up leaving this experience wanting to be a kinder person, with a hope that I take an attitude of giving out of myself to others the way these hosts do, as it is a legitimate labor to put this together. The fact that they make this labor look so organized undersells the tremendous effort that is put into it. They aren’t making money from this. They could easily just show up with one tent and keep this a secret among themselves. It begs the question when you’re helping them tear down after their first loss to Auburn in Tiger Stadium in 20 years...just why in the hell are they doing this?
The love of people and investing in that love through their efforts give them a payoff of Sundays laying on a couch, with a recovery beverage, and a dog to lay next to you wondering why it took you so long to follow their lead. And it’s all worth it to them! Why? The people!
LSU folks can be known to get a bit rowdy. That stadium can give you the sense that you could be in danger. But this tribe lives the “gumbo of humanity” that makes Saturday Night in Death Valley a very real thing. It’s a gift that I can never repay, though I will be sure to have some Wyoming whiskey in tow to add some small piece to an already perfect event. It is one of the greatest blessings of my 30+ years of going to Auburn games to stumble upon these fine people, as they have enriched my life, and legitimately encouraged me through their actions to be a better person, more than they ever know.
-Josh Black, Auburn