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Observations from a fun Syracuse football weekend in Louisiana

I’m back! Time to share some thoughts.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Louisiana State Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

If you noticed considerably less ALL CAPS profanity in the comments and on Twitter in the latter parts of last week, don’t be alarmed. I’m alive and well. I just brought those exclamations down to Baton Rouge with me to bestow Tiger Stadium with the gift I’ve been supplying you all for free these many years now.

In all seriousness, though, this is a recap of what was a really fun Syracuse Orange trip -- not to be confused with Hoya Suxa’s forthcoming roadtrip diary, which promises to be excellent. Suxa and I met up briefly and were soon whisked away by a very drunk (and friendly) LSU fan to “see something cool.” Ends up it was cool (as was everything, really). I’ll get to that below.

First off, there’s a reason the LSU Tigers have the reputation they do with regard to tailgating. Even in a subdued atmosphere this weekend — coming off a loss and Greek life being suspended as a result of a sad hazing death — the tailgating scene is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Every tradition is a sacred ritual passed on from generation to generation. I spoke with fans whose families had tickets since the 1950s. Many were Baton Rouge natives and never left.

LSU v TCU Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

From sillier things like the “tigerbait” chant (which almost lent itself to a fantastic t-shirt idea for us, had we won; to the band arrival and procession to the stadium, there isn’t a stone left un-turned on game day. But unlike many traditions around college football, these aren’t exclusive. They’re meant to be shared with anyone around. That goes for the tailgating scene as well. LSU fans and the residents of Baton Rouge were the most generous, gracious and welcoming people I’ve ever met in my life.

Obligatory nod to And the Valley Shook’s PodKatt for hosting my group, providing a needed respite from the heat, plus amazing food and drinks. Not only that, the assembled Tigers fans were a wealth of local and program knowledge. They were happy to show us the top spots to observe the band’s arrival — a tradition I’d sort of forgotten all about, but one that was well worth several hurried walks to get the best vantage points.

There’s also the live Mike the Tiger, whose habitat is close to the stadium. Talking to LSU fans, I knew everything from his birthday to his preferred sun spots, to his demeanor compared to previous Mikes.

Again, these are the types of things that other fan bases would deem exclusive to them. And yet, the LSU fans we met could not have opened them more to all of us throughout game day. (thanks again to PodKatt and the whole crew for having us -- it really made the day a unique experience)

But onto the actual game...

Coordinated chants have never been our thing, and that was made apparent surrounded by Tigers fans. Despite a stadium atmosphere that seemed to lose some life as the game wore on (more on that below), those remaining were still on point. We could use a few more traditional cheers beyond “Let’s Go Orange”

Still, despite that and the obvious challenges with getting fans from a small Northeast private school down to Baton Rouge, we did represent quite well from a noise perspective. Especially as we closed the gap to just two points, there was a palpable energy from the Orange faithful. We done good, gang.

Also, there’s no shame in losing this game -- even if we could have won. But a near-loss is still a loss, and it still highlights why we don’t need to be playing these sorts of games unnecessarily just yet. This team shows promise and talent. Let’s schedule in a way that gets us to a bowl.

And I understand that a statement like that makes me seem like a hypocrite since I went to the game anyway. I have been honest about this fact too. Despite my complaints, these contests present opportunities for cool road trips. And for someone like myself and many others, it’s an easy excuse for a vacation an a new game experience. I won’t deny that. Though we can’t deny we’d rather limit that travel as a trade off for potentially visiting bowl games.

One last bit on attendance: Syracuse is far from the only fan base to experience issues of late. I mentioned some of the factors dampening expectations for LSU earlier, and those played a part in keeping the crowd below 100,000 on Saturday. But by the second half, that number dipped even further (and continued to). It seems LSU’s struggled to keep fans attending/staying at non-Alabama games. If they’re having trouble with a better game atmosphere/product, it only makes sense we are too.

Syracuse v LSU Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Other closing thoughts:

  • Louisiana is a food vacation, and you should embrace that if you ever go. Spent four days in New Orleans and Baton Rouge and my stomach hates me in the best way possible. Eat any seafood available.
  • Can someone please protect Eric Dungey?
  • Mississippi’s not too far of a drive from Baton Rouge if you’re one to check off states.
  • New Orleans is better Vegas, and I’ll fight anyone that disagrees.
  • Southern beer’s not getting enough credit for its quality right now. I’ll discuss more on the podcast, but had a ton of great stuff from places you wouldn’t expect based on the current national beer conversation.
  • Frenchmen Street > Bourbon Street
  • Dammit, we were so dangerously close to winning that game...