November 07, 2008
For Alabama fans crossing Dixie for Nick Saban's return to Death Valley, a "survival guide" isn't necessarily just a euphemism. Let Holly Anderson's weekly tailgating guide get you through the most proudly unhinged scene in America in one piece. Two, tops.
Baton Rouge on a fall Saturday is, to put it mildly, Not Of This World. There is nothing else in the universe quite like game days at LSU, which is both reassuring and sad. This is the school that branded its steep-walled hellmouth of a stadium "Death Valley." A school with a massive and preposterously inebriated fanbase that keeps a live tiger as a mascot. That fanbase? Caused this seismic disturbance during a game. Purchases and uses these fine appliances. Expects fierce loyalty even in their household pets. Considers tailgating a contact sport. Would take it as a compliment of the highest order if they heard me call their stadium a hellmouth (and I assure you, it's meant as such). This is highly regimented lunacy, college football fandom at its very finest, and no matter how many times you've told yourself otherwise, You Are Not Ready.
The sundry tailgating tribes are as variegated as they are cheerfully insane. You've got your college buddies, your clubs that rate their own beer endorsements, and ... these guys. You'll find hordes of all these stripes and more blanketing campus, and though setting up your own visitors' tailgate might make for a more tranquil gameday afternoon, we cannot recommend mingling with the enemy highly enough. What's an away game trip without stories you can never, ever share with your grandchildren?
Our trusty Lewzyana correspondents advise this approach when encountering Tiger fans in the wild:
• Once you've made initial contact (have a safe opener, like "What is that y'all are cookin?") be sure to compliment their setup. If you act like you've never seen anything like it before, they'll want to show you everything. A real Cajun cannot let you leave Baton Rouge believing that Campbell's Gumbo in a can or some gumbo in Mobile is real gumbo, so he'll feel compelled to share his food with you. And he'll give you a beer for complimenting his party and his women.
• That said, this is still football, it's still the SEC, and it's still all right, even encouraged, to hit back (so to speak).
• If you can take it like water off a duck's back or even come back with something better, they dig that. You're in after that. Help yourself to the food and have some booze. You're family.
What to Wear
Look, far be it from me to imply the Crimson Tide faithful would be better off showing up in Baton Rouge without their crimson. I'm not suggesting they ditch the houndstooth for patterns that might make them a little less identifiable as enemies of The Tiger State. It's just ... here, allow an LSU alum to forewarn y'all:
• Don't be suprised if a six-year-old girl walks up to you, screams "Tiger Bait," sticks you the bird and calls you a bitch.
• If you're holding a six-year-old girl, don't be suprised if an adult comes up to her and does the same thing.
• Just remember: Do NOT make direct eye contact with these types, especially if they seem aggressive.
All we're saying is: Be aware of thine surroundings.
• If you're in town Friday, grab lunch at Mamma's Silver Moon. Bring cash and an empty stomach.
• The Chimes, 3357 Highland Road. Drink your way through a sizeable slice of NATO member countries.
• Walk-Ons, 3838 Burbank Drive. Come for the copious beer and convenient location; do not stay for the food. Trust us.
• Serrano's, 3347 Highland Road. Latin American munchies and can be counted on to have a band playing outside after games.
• The Varsity, 3353 Highland Road. Rowdy crowds pile in late and dance 'til dawn.
• Fred's, 1184 Bob Pettit Boulevard. Recommended by one Baton Rouge regular as "a dirty, dirty good time," and remember that that's calibrated by Baton Rouge standards. He refused to elaborate, which can only be a good sign. See for yourselves, why don't you?
What to Drink
Quoth our LSU correspondent: "LSU is a signature cocktail." Whatever your poison, Dr. Saturday recommends pouring it from a vessel of some sort directly into your mouth, and not attempting to dive in face-first:
That is, if you can resist.
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Thanks this week to bon temps legend RCR and Joshua of LSUTigerBait. Holly is a Tennessee-born writer and digital film editor based in Los Angeles, and associate editor of Every Day Should Be Saturday. She welcomes your adulation and scorn at nastinchka-at-yahoo, etc.