Showing posts with label California-Irvine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label California-Irvine. Show all posts

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Look away! Look away! Look away! Tigerland

Naw, I guess this was a joke, too. Jes' tryin' to make that Yankee coach look silly, with all his big tawk about us not knowin' the Civil War's over.

Crazy sumbitch think the war's over!

FUNNY THE THINGS you find when you're directed to the UC-Irvine athletics site to see the picture of the "good" LSU baseball fans waving American flags to greet the Anteaters at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge.

Funny, didn't the LSU administration tell fans they'd really, really,
really rather they didn't
bring purple-and-gold Confederate battle flags on campus?

And didn't fans get the idea that the battle flag
tended to rub minority students the wrong way? Of course, some fans couldn't have cared less . . . not that they didn't know the War of Northern Aggression was over or anything, according to this 2006 Associated Press story:

BATON ROUGE, La. -- The flag blends a symbol of the Confederacy with the school colors of Louisiana State University, a combination that provokes anger from blacks and creates headaches for the university.

Black students held a string of game-day protests last year -- the largest attracting several hundred participants -- to demand that the school prohibit fans on campus from flying the banner, a Confederate-style flag in the purple and gold of the LSU Fighting Tigers. The protests resulted in a few scuffles and a lot of attention in the news media -- but no ban on the flag.

This year, the protest organizer is taking a different approach: Instead of protest marches, senior Collins Phillips said he's planning pregame tailgate parties near Tiger Stadium. Beginning with the season opener on Saturday, Phillips said the parties will aim to encourage students to discuss the different meanings the flag carries: from pride in the South to the shame of slavery.

"If we were to march again this year, I think it would be a little redundant. People would say, 'There they go, marching about the flag again,'" he said.

University officials consistently rebuffed Phillips' demands for a ban on the LSU-themed Rebel flag, saying a ban would infringe on First Amendment rights. But while those who like the flag consider it a symbol of both LSU pride and Southern heritage, the school is opposed to the idea of merging its colors with what is also a symbol of slavery.

"We have an intolerance of the display of this symbol, a fundamental rejection by the university, of the use of university colors to even vaguely imply that we would tolerate or endorse this display," said LSU chancellor Sean O'Keefe.

The school has no restrictions on flying the flags on campus, but O'Keefe released a letter Friday asking fans to leave them at home.

"We will not impede the constitutional right of free speech by banning this flag, but we ask that it not be flown on the LSU campus," the letter said.

The school also sent letters to wholesalers and local retailers, asking them to stop selling the flag -- and strongly implying that the stores could be frozen out in the future on the lucrative sales of franchised LSU flags, banners and other items. The flags retail in some stores for $35. To wholesalers, the school sent letters indicating that the flags -- with their taint of racism -- could cause the value of LSU's trademarks to drop, O'Keefe said. The letters included the veiled threat of a lawsuit.

The result, O'Keefe said, has been a sharp drop in the sales of the flags.

"These are serious businesspeople. They get the picture," O'Keefe said.

The owner of one Baton Rouge flag shop said he stopped selling the flags at LSU's request. Byron Smith, owner of the Flag Shop, added that the flags weren't big sellers anyway -- until Phillips started his protest campaign last year.

"I started getting calls like crazy" after the protests began, from people requesting the flags, Smith said.

Phillips' protests drew wide coverage on local TV news and front-page stories in The Advocate, the local daily. Before the homecoming game, three people were arrested for allegedly throwing objects at the roughly 200 protesters. Phillips said he and other demonstrators were spat upon and called racial slurs.

Phillips, 23, a general studies major focusing on communications and African-American studies, takes pride in publicizing the fact that a large chunk of the population considers the flag a symbol of slavery and racism.

ISN'T THERE ANYTHING ELSE to take Southern pride in, apart from a lost cause to preserve a "peculiar institution"?

I'm asking, because I well know how central veneration of that lost war was -- is? -- to one's very identity as a Southerner. After a century and a half, we don't break out the slur "damn Yankee" for nothing when a non-Southerner offends us.

Really, we can talk about honoring our heritage, and our fallen ancestors, and Southern pride, and blah blah blah blah till Gen. Robert E. Lee rides back from the dead atop his beloved Traveller . . . but what does it say about us that we still venerate a war fought to preserve a way of life predicated on enslaving the Negro race?

By what mental and spiritual gymnastics do we turn what is objectively shameful into the source of our "Southern pride"? Again, I'm asking, because it took me a mere four decades of life -- and almost half of it away from the orbit of Southern groupthink -- to ask some quite basic questions on this topic.

HAVE WE SOUTHERNERS become nothing more than America's Serbs? And is Louisiana the rowdy, dysfunctional corner of a rowdy, dysfunctional homeland?

Or am I just a disloyal, so-called LSU fan? And a damn Yankee turncoat bastard, to boot.

Keep that trash down on the bayou

There's nothing like responding to an insult . . . by living down to it.

There's nothing like taking a stereotype . . . and giving it new legs.

There's nothing like being too bloody stupid to realize that the nation isn't laughing with you, but instead is laughing at you.

Well, dat's Loosiana for you!

IT ALL STARTED when California-Irvine's baseball coach, Mike Gillespie, gave an interview to the school's hometown paper. In that interview, Gillespie compared Louisiana State's fans to Nebraska fans -- and not in a positive light:
Gillespie said the LSU fans will be different from those UCI encountered at Nebraska.

“That was pretty electric,” Gillespie said of Saturday night’s crowd of 8,646 at Haymarket Park that witnessed UCI’s 3-2 win over the host Cornhuskers. “It was a sea of red, but they’re not a hostile group,” Gillespie said of the Nebraska faithful.

“They’re not on you, and they’re not rude and they’re not vicious and they know the Civil War is over and they know how to act,” Gillespie said, before backtracking somewhat. “Now, I don’t mean to suggest [that is the case at LSU] I really don’t.”
YES, HE DID MEAN to suggest every word of it. And then some LSU fans set out to prove the man right.

Now it's all over the Internet exactly how right Gillespie was . . . and, to a degree, he was right. Stupid to say it to a reporter but pretty much right, nevertheless.

Nebraska fans are some of the classiest in the nation -- no, the classiest in the nation. For as long as anyone can remember -- after the clock ticks down to 00:00 -- fans at Memorial Stadium have given the visiting team a standing ovation.

Win, lose or draw.

Even Oklahoma.

BY COMPARISON -- unless half-drunken chants of "Tiger bait!" can be considered a warm, loving welcome for visiting teams and fans -- this cannot be said of LSU. And unless hearty greetings of "F--- (fill in the blank)!" are considered non-hostile behavior, my experience with LSU home athletic events (and even some away games) tells me that Gillespie wasn't completely full of beans.

Ask any Nebraska football fan brave enough to follow the Huskers to either the 1985 or 1987 Sugar Bowl where, each time, the opponent was . . . LSU.

I remember the 1987 game well, because I was there. And my wife is a Nebraska alumnus.

It's an amazing -- and amazingly unpleasant -- thing to be on the wrong end of "Tiger hospitality" in the Big Easy. But why believe me? Believe
the postgame story from The New York Times:
The key sacks came from Broderick Thomas, the end, and Danny Noonan, a consensus all-American middle guard, on the last two plays of the third quarter after L.S.U., trailing 17-7, had taken over on the Nebraska 17-yard line following a blocked field-goal attempt

A defensive tackle, Neil Smith, a New Orleans native, said the motivation for Nebraska came on the first night in town, when nine players and two graduate assistants were arrested in the French Quarter for disturbing the peace, charges which were later dropped.

''A lot of guys say they were mistreated and didn't want to come back,'' Smith said. ''I felt like we needed to give them a bonus to get them to want to come back.''

Noonan, one of those arrested, said the incident was influential in the Huskers' performance. ''I think that only helped us,'' Noonan said. ''We got fired up. The people treated us like dirt.''
AND LET'S NOT FORGET the treatment Tennessee received when the Vols came to Tiger Stadium for a 2005 weeknight game in the wake of Hurricane Rita.

So, the UC-Irvine coach told the truth as he saw it during an unguarded moment. As it happens, the truth as
Mike Gillespie saw it was pretty close to the truth as it actually is.

Of course, there are a great many polite, gracious and welcoming Tiger fans. Those may even be a sizable majority. The problem is an inordinately large minority of hateful, rude, profane and -- yes -- racist jerks.

Monday evening, in response to Gillespie's "disrespecting" of the locals, a couple of these morons thought making a joke of the Civil War would be a real knee-slapper. Which kind of proved the Anteater coach's point about Louisianians not knowing the Civil War ended in 1865.

The loss of a generation of Southern men might be the stuff mirth is made of back home . . . and the deaths of 600,000 Americans might be 900,000 too few for some LSU fans who seek a best-of-three smackdown . . . and the fact that my homeland made chattel of human beings and thought it so good it fought a war to, among other things, preserve its
"peculiar institution" might be damned funny to some Tiger fans, but that crap isn't going to fly here. Or across most of America.

To summarize -- just in case Baton Rouge didn't get the memo -- the Civil War wasn't a laughing matter. And it's still not.

I can't imagine that LSU's African-American students were amused by the baseball "joke." Neither, I imagine, was most of Baton Rouge, where white folks happen to be in the minority.

AS A NATIVE of Louisiana and an alumnus of LSU who now resides in the United States, maybe I'm the person to inform Tiger fans of one cold, hard fact of life -- your act is wearing thin.

This is one example that you've entered the Michael Richards Zone. This is another. And this is yet another.

this one . . . this one includes a YouTube video that renders the "humor" of the Alex Box Stadium "Civil War" banner null and void. Out here in America.

In case you don't want to follow the links, here's the video, shot in January before the BCS National Championship in New Orleans:

LET ME lay this out for folks from my home state -- particularly those who plan to make the trip to Omaha this week to cheer on our Tigers.

I was born and raised in Louisiana. My family had been around Baton Rouge for a generation before Jefferson struck a deal with Napoleon, and I know that my hometown (along with the rest of the "Florida Parishes") didn't join in on the fun until 1810.

One of my great-great-grandfathers lies in a Confederate grave at Port Hudson, La. Another died in the Battle of Atlanta. Somehow, I don't think a "two out of three" Apocalypse would sit well with them.

I know "Fergit, hell!" In fact, in elementary school, it came as something of a surprise to me when I first learned the South lost the war.

Having grown up in a milieu where it was possible to not know the South lost the war, it is no surprise that I also know segregation . . . and know what racism looks like when I see it. And I know the Alex Box Stadium ha ha banner was sick sick inappropriate.

YOU DON'T come up with that kind of stuff -- even as a joke, even to tweak a loudmouthed opposing coach -- without making a very basic assumption that LSU is a "white" school and the Tigers are a "white" team. Despite the African-American players on it.

That kind of sick conditioning is something you fight, for the rest of your life, to overcome. First, however, one has to recognize it's sick. Then one must decide to resist the sickness.

Obviously, judging by at least one LSU fan site, folks down on the bayou are struggling with the first part of the equation. The "it's sick" part.

"America's original sin" sure has staying power. More than 140 years after the South's "peculiar institution" died a violent death, people just can't confess that dirty little secret everybody already knows.

Not after the South started a war that damn near destroyed it.

Not after it lost most of a generation in that war.

Not after a century of Jim Crow, that de jure attempt to undo the 14th Amendment south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Not after the civil-rights movement and several acts of Congress finally killed ol' Jim Crow.

Yeah, the Civil War. Best two out of three. Ha ha. A joke.

A joke built upon the corpses of a mountain of martyrs.

TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH, it would have been a lot funnier if LSU officials had given every fan walking through the gate a little American flag. War over . . . and Mike Gillespie looks like a fool instead of looking vindicated.

That's probably how it would have gone at Haymarket Park in Lincoln. And that's exactly why at least one Louisiana expatriate now calls Nebraska home.

And as a Nebraskan, and an Omahan, this native Baton Rougean has one thing to say to my fellow Tiger fans: Leave your "funny" banners and some of your other "peculiar" notions back in the swamp. They're not welcome here.

The jambalaya, etoufée and gumbo, you can bring. That, and the best of that Fightin' Tiger spirit.