I just got back from a couple of nights in New Orleans and the LSU - Alabama game. Here are my observations from some classic football tourism:
Short of Austin where you can party in town one night, then take a cab to the game the next morning, the New Orleans / LSU game may be one of the great college tourism set ups.
It is about 80 miles from New Orleans from Baton Rouge. The Louisiana drivers are probably the only people that drive faster than Michigan drivers. The do it at about 90 MPH in big ass F250 and F350 Pickups and aren't afraid to tailgate (not the football kind).
We made the trip in no time then got off the freeway when it started to back up. We made it fast to about 3 miles from the stadium when traffic just locked up. This was two hours before game time and we could have walked faster from this point. Traffic and parking sucked - you would think LSU had never seen a crowd. We got to about 400 yards to the stadium then got sent back down another road away from the stadium. People were parking on the shoulder of the road, in the medians and literally in the left turn lanes (those folks got tickets) It was insane and totally f'd up. We drove through some ghetto apartment complexes and ended up on a road by the Mississippi River. We literally parked on the side of the road by the levee - had to walk two miles past cow pastures (with cows in the pasture!) then through the 'official' parking areas. We - my wife and I - did meet a nice LSU couple (more on them later) and we followed them on the trek to the stadium.
Three miles of travel, two hours before gametime and a two mile hike - we ended up with zero LSU tailgating experience - we met my friend with our tickets and got into the game with 3 minutes to spare before kickoff.
Pre-Kickoff - this was the absolutely loudest pre kick off I've ever experienced. The place was rocking - then they decided to launch fireworks before the LSU team came out. It was totally out of control and I was thinking this place is as loud as everyone says it is.
Our seats - we were with friends from Bama and we were Bama fans for the day. My wife had a Bama shirt on (from a trip to Tuscaloosa last year). I had a yellow Michigan T Shirt and a yellow M hat. We were in the south end zone - row 24 at the back of the Bama section - Tiger fans hard on our tail - about ten rows of them on our level and another tier above
The stadium - I was glad to be in the good Bama seats - endzone - vs the last row of the upper deck, those seats must have sucked. It was loud but not constantly loud and other than the start of the game and when the field goal was blocked at the end of regulation not as loud as you'd think from the stories you hear. This could be because it was not a 7PM game and people couldn't get to their pregame tailgates because of the F'in traffic! The stadium inside is a bit of a pit. We decided they actually have narrower aisles the Michigan Stadium and they paint the seat #s closer together. We stood up the whole game (no "down in front"). We also decided the Louisianans have a general lack of cleanliness. There is crap all over campus and all over the stadium. My wife saw two used tampons on the floor in the woman's bathroom.......
The game - one of the great ones. Alabama tried to lose it in the first half but still exited that half tied at 14. LSU's quarterback, had he been accurate, could have won the game. He wasn't and they didn't. We thought it was game LSU when they blocked the field goal but then there was that last INT in overtime.... The LSU fans may have been more subdued than normal due to the final score.
Football Tourism - like Brian at Auburn, I got a lot of "you are at the wrong game", "the big house is 1500 miles from here" etc. My standard response was that after our season, I needed to come see some football the way the SEC does it. Given that my shirt was yellow I also had a number of Tide fans think I was on the LSU side. Once I explained the football tourism I think most people got - all were cordial
The LSU fans - we were a bit apprehensive wearing Alabama colors (my buddy had a Bama shirt for me but that didn't work because of the f'in traffic!!!) and we heard stories that had them ranking up there with Buckeye fans. I was also expecting crap to rain down on us from up above. Nothing bad happened. Every LSU fan we met was at least ambivalent while most where down right friendly. I think the LSU fans are some of the best in college football.
LSU Tailgating - the LSU website talks about their great tailgating tradition - I have to say we did not see it. I thought the traffic was going to be a function of tons of folks hanging out and partying (not going to the game) we didn't see much of that. As I said we missed the pregame tailgating so I was looking forward to the post game tailgate (that and we knew there was no way to get out of town....) It wasn't very impressive. We ended up in the equivalent of the Victors club lot where our Alabama friends were tailgating with some LSU friends. In the smallest of small worlds - the LSU couple we hiked in with were at the tailgate that we ended up at. The LSU fans were great but there was very, very little tailgating post game - ten times less than I've seen in the lot by Crisler Arena - I don't care that this was an LSU loss, nobody was going anywhere fast anyway.
The Campus - we stopped by the next morning on our way back to the New Orleans airport. What a dirty place! they had the convicts - Dixon Correctional Institute - cleaning up the place. At least they were putting their tax dollars to use but maybe if they had trash cans and taught the local how to use them?!?. We wondered why Ms. Miles would want to live in Baton Rouge vs. Ann Arbor - I mean how much are your millions worth if you have to live in a $h!t [email protected]#*?
All in all a great trip. Awesome game and the LSU fans are some of the best. Great stadium, mediocre tailgating, horrendous traffic and parking.