With the exceptions of my first mirror and women, with whom (in a marginal misquote of Michael Caine) I fall in love with every time I sleep with them, the only other time that I have felt that striking and overwhelming rush of positive passion for the good was when I attended my first gameday.
My first gameday: getting drunk on lite beer, eating fried chicken and alligator, wearing the colours (purple and gold), being hugged by strangers, (more importantly) being given beer by strangers, swimming through the sunshine, playing beer pong, learning and singing the songs – the anthems, vying for space to see the marching band (The Golden Band from Tigerland) in their beautiful band outfits trumpet and drum their way through campus to welcome the team of Fightin’ Tigers, seeing Mike VI (the university’s Bengal tiger and mascot), hearing Mike VI roar, walking into the roaring stadium that is filled to its 94,000 capacity and standing in the endless sky of purple and gold students – some wearing purple and gold clothes, some wearing spectacular purple and gold paint too (also the usual superhero costumes and fancy dress customised to purple and gold, of course), listening to the Golden Band from Tigerland play the first bar of the Fightin’ Tigers’ Anthem (Daaaaaah Daah Daah Da), then the team run out…
Every hair, neuron and muscle of my body is standing erect, taut and staunched with adrenaline and endorphins. Right now I can feel no pain on my skin or in my gut. I can not find a worry or thought other than the most basic of sensing my environment – let alone being able to analyse it. I realise that I am rocking and swaying a little, like I am unsteady on my feet, but it is just the effect of the adrenaline spraying itself into every nook of my body and those around me are doing it too. We are on our toes, licking our lips, grinning.
Imagine this, if you have never experienced it before: Almost 100,000 people shouting and cheering, 90% of those people are shouting and cheering the same team – your team, the only thing louder than the shouting and cheering are the drums and brass of the 425 person band, more often than not it is a golden evening – but still baking hot, you feel powerful like purple and gold electricity are flying off every point on your body.
You and 93,999 of your friends (n.b. I can not take credit for this rhetoric) are one giant lung breathing together, one giant mouth singing together, one giant heart pulsing together, and one pair of eyes watching the team flag bearers run out – T…I…G…E…R…S… TIGERRRRSSSSS! In front of the team that run out below you appearing huge, despite being so far away.
Tiger Stadium aka Death Valley
These are your heroes for not just the next few hours, but for the rest of your life, probably. This team, eleven men at a time, will fight for you. They are your representatives that will win this long, epic battle in the valley, fought so hard and so passionately as the horns echo through that valley accompanied by your crowd. You – previously insignificant, getting on with life, trying to find your place – you are that crowd.
Every shout, cheer and song that the crowd propels is your shout, cheer and song. Every hug, kiss and high-five you give, you get back from this crowd of 94,000. Every time you are watching through fingers and praying through teeth, those 93,999 friends are clawing at their faces, whispering through their teeth too.
Far from being released as soon as the game begins; this excitement, this energy, this focus, blindness and passion continues to simultaneously escalate and be released throughout the match-up: As bodies clash, the ball buzzes through the air, catches are made, rushes and runs (even small steps) are taken, hand signals are made, men are thrown to the ground and stood over… and touchdowns are scored. As all of this happens, you are pitching energy like an earthquake in all directions (but mostly down to the field), constantly, but finding that you are producing it faster than you can release it.
Entropy is not tall enough to participate in this sport, to hang-out with these people.
Many people find that when the final whistle blows, when the clock reaches zero, that is when you are all able to release – this is the climax: You have spent hours, hours, hours building this up and as soon as the clock started you simultaneously wanted it to finish but never end. It is a day of oxymorons: you feel sensitive but untouchable, passionate but emotionally fragile, significant but part of a mass, you see everything with such clarity and logic but feel that something you can not see is awake too, and you want to keep and release this energy.
This is gameday and this is when I have been at my most passionate. Supporting the LSU Tigers is almost indescribable in its awesomeness, but being with that many people in such a constant outpouring of energy for good is what the point is really: It is a trauma that has left a proud stain on my heart or soul or whatever you believe in. Euphoria normally lasts a few seconds, if not only a few moments… normally – this lasts day and, guess what, it happens every week.
“There will be no questions for me. I represent me in this issue. Please ask me after. I’m busy. Thank you very much. Have a great day”
~ Les Miles (LSU Head Coach, 2005-2016)