As a native New Orleanian and someone who is proud to have been educated at LSU, I have watched the Tigers play lots of games in Death Valley and other Southeastern Conference destinations. I find Friedlander's long-distance attachment to my school curious, but then I know he is hardly alone.
In addition to covering Penn State football for the Daily News these past seven seasons, I also am the paper's boxing writer. It is in that capacity that I learned that Alan Hopper, who is the media relations director for Don King Productions, is the Nevada-born, Florida-based Friedman equivalent. The primary difference between them is that Alan makes it a point to be there for at least one or two LSU games every year.
"I think it was about 25 years ago, a home game against Notre Dame," Alan said of his introduction to LSU football. "I was working in the music business then and representing country artists. I knew a guy in Nashville who owned a merchandising company who had attended LSU and signed one of my acts.
"I assured him I had been to some big-time college games, at Southern Cal and UCLA. He told me, 'That's all well and good, but you ain't seen nothing yet until you've been to a Saturday night game in Tiger Stadium.' And guess what? He was right."
Alan admits to not seeing as many games live now as in the past, mostly because of supply-and-demand issues. LSU tickets are a smokin' hot commodity, and you have to be prepared to pay top-dollar to procure one. The cover price for tickets to the BCS national championship rematch with Alabama is a hefty $350, and scalpers are commanding upwards of ten times that from fans of both teams who just have to be there. Hey, so what if the rent money or the car payment is late next month? In SEC country, the first thing you learn is the need to prioritize.
"I probably went to more games when we weren't quite as good as we are now," Alan said, somewhat ruefully. "It was fun then, and it's still fun since we've gotten really, really good. But while there were always a lot of Tiger fans, it's just crazy now."
There are reasons to explain why an ultrasuccessful LSU program is so loved (and hated) by so many people. Where, say, an Alabama is always competing with Auburn for the hearts and minds of fans in that football-obsessed state, LSU reigns supreme in Louisiana. FBS schools like Tulane, Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe are left to grovel for whatever in-state prospects LSU doesn't select.
There also is the unique nature of South Louisiana, where significant segments of the mostly boisterous population speak French as well as English, dance to Zydeco music and have a special fondness for LSU football that is not unlike what Canadians feel about hockey, or Britons about soccer.
"You know what they say - there isn't anything quite like 93,000 inebriated Cajuns in Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night," Alan said. "Going to a game there is like visiting a foreign country, a really fascinating foreign country. And after the game, everybody goes out for gumbo."
Full disclosure: My late mother's maiden name was Arseneaux and she was born in Morgan City, La., which is a little bit west of Houma, which is southwest of New Orleans, and that is about as Cajun as it gets. My PDN colleague, Ed Barkowitz, calls me "Caj" for obvious reasons.
When I covered the Penn State-LSU game in the Capital One Bowl at the end of the 2009 season, one of the Penn State beat guys from Pittsburgh asked where my sympathies were. I told him that I was in a rare no-lose situation, since either my old school or the school I have covered since 2005 was guaranteed to win. I also pointed out that I have lived in the Philadelphia area for 27 1/2 years, longer than I lived in Louisiana, and that who and what I am is as much or more a part of being here and from starting out there.
But as I am not assigned to LSU-Alabama II, I am not constrained by professional ethics to remain neutral. I'll be watching the game on the big-screen TV in my Drexel Hill den, and if Tyrann Mathieu, the "Honey Badger," slobberknocks a Crimson Tide receiver coming over the middle, I'll go just a little crazy. I think I'm entitled.
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