Intensity. Animosity. Pure unadulterated emotion.
Any time two rival teams square off in a collegiate athletic showdown, the electricity — the atmosphere — surrounding the game becomes almost palpable, sparking off a flood of feelings both good and bad.
Even for the casual fan not tied to either team in question, there’s always added excitement when watching a rivalry game in college athletics.
At a young age I used to love watching televised football rivalry games like Texas vs. Arkansas when they were both in the Southwest Conference (Go Hogs!), Michigan vs. Ohio State and UCLA vs. USC.
In the 1970s, nothing was much more fun than going to watch an LSU vs. the Green Wave showdown at Tulane Stadium, Tiger Stadium or the Superdome.
And watching an Army vs. Navy game has always been a highlight of football season for me. Being an Army veteran, my father would always cheer on the Cadets while because I grew up within walking distance of a U.S. Naval Base and a short drive from a Naval Air Station, I would always root for the Midshipmen.
The intensity of a rivalry game was especially big in my family when it came down to Louisiana Tech (my father’s alma mater, as well as mine) and what was then known as Northeast Louisiana University (which my mother graduated from) showdowns my family would sometimes make the trek from our home in New Orleans back to north Louisiana to watch while I was growing up. Football, basketball, baseball — those games were always fun.
I had an aunt who taught at Grambling in the 1970s, and thanks to that I actually first met Coach Eddie Robinson and Doug Williams at a GSU preseason practice at the age of 13 when a cousin — my aunt’s son — brought me to one). He knew I was already a G-Man because he often visited us in New Orleans and he knew that every weekend I would avidly watch the Eddie Robinson Show and the Ara Parseghian (who was Notre Dame’s football coach at the time and New Orleans had a huge following for the Irish) football highlight shows on the local Public Broadcasting Station. (I also watched Harvard and Yale square off every year back then thanks to PBS, but that’s a whole other story).
And because the Bayou Classic rivalry started around that time, I went to several Bayou Classics in high school and during my early years in college, always pulling for the Tigers despite the fact that most of my New Orleans Friends were Jaguar fans.
So I will admit that the upcoming weekend will be a special one for me. The Bayou Classic played in Shreveport because of COVID-19, and the “Rivalry in Dixie” hardball showdown between two of the top baseball teams in Conference USA — LA Tech and Southern Mississippi — at the Love Shack.
That’s enough to make this man giddy. Or at least get “Jiggy Wit It” … don’t blame me for that, blame the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air.”
But no matter what, I have no doubt that this weekend will be fun.
True, the Bayou Classic not being played in the Superdome won’t be the same. And we don’t know what kind of football game to expect after the G-Men missed their last two scheduled games due to a COVID-19 outbreak on the team. I worry we might see five tight ends or some defensive linemen in the offensive trenches for GSU come Saturday.
But it will still always be the Bayou Classic, and that’s what makes it fun.
And I have no doubt that the LA Tech vs. USM baseball showdown — the second four-game series of the season for the teams (Tech won three of four games on March 26-28) — will be a classic rivalry weekend.
Join me this weekend in “getting into the games.” There’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned rivalry game, so we’re in store for an explosion of athletic electricity before next week rolls around.