Not too long ago, I tweeted out a question on Twitter that I figured—like so many of the questions I’ve tweeted out over the years on the app—would float down the timeline like a tumbleweed down Canal Street.
“Why do we love football in Louisiana?” I tweeted. “Why is our love affair with the sport akin to how people in Indiana feel about basketball or how Minnesotans feel about hockey?”
Surprisingly enough, I got a response to the question.
“It’s in our DNA,” native New Orleanian Quentin Scott told me. “This has been an affair that has gone on for decades here in Louisiana. For three or four hours, we put aside our differences and focus on the purple and gold of LSU or the black and gold of the Saints.”
For Kandance Richardson, the piano played a pivotal role in her love for football. “It was 2002,” Richardson recalled. “LSU was playing Kentucky, and time was winding down in the game. At the time, I was playing the piano, and the Tigers were deep in their own territory, so there was no way they were going to win this game.”
Of course, as every LSU fan knows, Kentucky players doused then-head coach Guy Morriss with Gatorade and numerous fans were planning to tear the goal posts down at Commonwealth Stadium.
That is, until Marcus Randall found Devery Henderson deep in the end zone to break the hearts of Kentucky fans.
“When that play happened, I remember my brother, my mom, and I were screaming at the top of our lungs. For me, that was the game and the play that made me love football.”
For Richardson, being in attendance at the 2014 Ole Miss-LSU game in Tiger Stadium, a game LSU won hours after the death of Les Miles’s mother, ranks among her favorite memories as a football fan. “I was in school at the time,” she recalled, “After the game, they allowed us to rush the field. That's how amazing that game was to me.”
When asked why Louisianans love football, Ms. Richardson had this to say:
“We don't have your typical four seasons here in Louisiana. For us, it's crawfish, football, Mardi Gras, and festivals. We devote five months out of the year to arguing with rival fan bases and planning out our tailgates. It's a way of life.
“I don't know how I fell in love with football,” said Aislinn Herrera. “I guess you could say that it stemmed from birth. In addition to that, my mother is a diehard LSU fan, being that she is a three-time graduate of the school. I knew for a fact I would be cheering on LSU forever.”
Now a teacher in Texas, Ms. Herrera recalled her favorite moment as an LSU fan: the 2007 LSU-Florida game in Tiger Stadium, a game for which she and her roommate were running late. “Tiger Stadium was filled to the brim that night,” she said. “I remember my roommate and I were running late for the game and we got to the end of the student section. That whole game, nobody was sitting down, and I always felt that we were the deciding factor in the Tigers getting that win over Tim Tebow and company.”
When asked about her favorite players from both the Saints and the Tigers, Ms. Herrera cited Josh Reed and Deuce McAllister. “Josh Reed could do it all,” she said. “I also would like to add Danielle Hunter to my list of favorite Tigers, because he went to Morton Ranch High School where I now teach.”
For Herrera, the reasoning behind Louisiana's love affair with football is simple. "We have so many things that divide us here in the South—things like race, politics, and social class. However, each weekend during the fall, for four hours on Saturdays and Sundays, we put those differences aside and cheer for our teams. Football is the only place where people can come together over a bowl of jambalaya and a cornhole game. And I think that's beautiful."
In Cassie Jordan's household, it was football or nothing at all. “In the house I grew up in, on weekends we had two options: love football or be bored,” Jordan said. “Once I understood it, I was hooked. To me, there's no better feeling than seeing your team winning a game in the final minutes.”
Jordan, a resident of McComb, Mississippi, cited her favorite LSU memory as the 2012 Ole Miss game in Tiger Stadium. “I went to the game with my dad,” she remembered. “It was his birthday, and anytime we've gone to an LSU game, they always managed to come away with the victory. This game was no different, as they scored the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds.”
For Mrs. Jordan, when it comes to her favorite players from both the Saints and the LSU Tigers, she mentioned Patrick Peterson and Benjamin Watson, respectively. “Patrick Peterson was so entertaining to watch,” she said, “And Ben Watson is such a good guy. I love Drew as well and what he and his family have done for New Orleans, which is more than just football.”
As far as the Pelican State's love affair with football, Mrs. Jordan had this to say: “Over the years, Louisiana has been through so much as a state. Despite what we've been through, we still gather on Saturdays and Sundays for what's important.”
Formerly with The Times-Picayune and NOLA.com, David Gladow has seen his share of talented prep football players throughout the New Orleans area. “It’s pretty hard to pick out who was my favorite player to cover,” he said. “Now, as far as living up to the hype is concerned, Leonard Fournette would definitely be at the top of the list if we were just talking about players who lived up to the hype.”
Gladow, who also wrote a book on college football called Eyeblack Madness, mentioned that in the New Orleans area, prep football is a huge source of pride. “For most people, if you ask them, 'What school did you go to?’ nine times out of 10, they're talking about the high school you went to. That pride is definitely on display on Friday nights in the fall, especially with the Catholic League schools.”
For Gladow, the most basic reasoning behind the love affair with football in Louisiana was the weather in the state. “Anytime you're in 90-degree heat with 100 percent humidity, it toughens the hell out of you. It also helps when you're crazy talented. I think that's why there's such a love affair with football here, because you see the love and passion those kids have through those grueling practices.”