When I was a little girl and Daddy was a sportswriter for the State-Times in Baton Rouge, we went to Destin on vacation every summer. He was a journalist, and, although the career looks glamorous, it’s not a job that’s going to make you rich. And, even if it was, with 4 little kids, I don’t know how rich we would have been anyway. He managed to get a discount at a little hotel on the white sandy beaches of a fishing village called Destin every July before football season kicked up, and he had to be gone every weekend. It was called Capri by the Sea. I can still see that little motor court with a big flashing sign that said Kitchenettes. I can still see it plain as day. There were no swimming pools. Momma made meals in the kitchenette, we wore our little fair-skinned selves out on the beach all day, and we sometimes… every now and then … got to make a trip to the Dairy Queen downtown. Those were high times.
One year when I was in my teens we drove up in our typical early morning fashion to see a couple of high rise condominiums littering the shore of the quiet little beach town. I’m sure my parents could see it coming, but I had no idea what might happen when “development” came into town. I’m lucky now if I can even afford to stay in a place in Destin. I went down a couple of years ago to a Jeff Galloway running camp in Blue Mountain Beach which is just east of Destin. I decided to drive through Fort Walton – the way we used to drive when I was a kid – for nostalgia. There was no nostalgia. There was nothing that I recognized. All new buildings… traffic as thick as thieves …. and money …. money … money.
I have nothing against money, but I do have something against money when it buys up the prettiest little beachfront this side of heaven so that kids like I was won’t ever be able to put their toes in the sand. I had planned to camp at a state park there for the week after the camp ended, but, after two days of driving in that traffic, looking at all those ritzy shops and condos and not seeing the gulf at all, I packed up my stuff and headed to the mountains in North Georgia. I had a great week camping on the side of a mountain, listening to small town bluegrass and getting a lot of fresh air and exercise. I will never go back to Destin. There is nothing there for me. And, it makes me very sad. I’ve sat on beaches all over this country, and there are ways to develop a beachfront where it doesn’t look like that. As far as I’m concerned, they blew it.
Thursday night I went to my college football game. It was our school rivalry match-up, the River Bell Classic, with Nicholls State University. We beat the tar out of them, y’all! But, I digress. A bunch of us went to the tailgate, had some scrumptious home-cooked pastalaya, drank some cold ones and then walked over to the game. We had a blast. It was a perfect night. The only thing missing was a lot of our friends because it was on a weeknight, and they couldn’t make it. A group of us hung out a little after the game was over and debriefed the evening. My friend Gizmo chatted about how they used to tailgate over at LSU – for 15 years – cooking, loading all their stuff up in their little trailer and having a ball. One year, they came over and told them they couldn’t come back unless they paid $2500 for the spot. “You mean we’ve been coming here for 15 years, and now you’re going to charge us $2500 to park in this spot?” he asked. The answer was in the affirmative, and that ended their tailgating at LSU.
Last year my brother Terry and his family came out to Homecoming at Southeastern. He said he’d been wanting to bring his kids to a college football game so they could experience it, but the LSU games had gotten so ridiculously over-priced and were such a hassle, that he didn’t want to go over there. When I was at Southeastern, we had about 5,000 students to LSU’s 15,000. Now, Southeastern has 15,000 and LSU has about 30,000. We’re not that much smaller. And, we just won the Southland Conference Championship to boot. Our coach, Ron Roberts is popular and is really concerned with building community. It’s no wonder I was hooked when I came back to Homecoming last year. It was like I was catching a little wave that is continuing to build for Southeastern Football. We have playoff games coming up in a few weeks, and people are already talking about going …. even if it’s out of town. That’s a big deal for my little college, and you’d better believe I’ll be there if I can.
I overheard my friend Gizmo say, “We ought to just start coming over here,” last night as we were talking about the hassle of going to a LSU game. He said what I’d been thinking for the last two weeks. I much prefer the quieter side. And, it’s still fun. It’s a pretty little stadium. The campus is nice. Friendship Circle is right next to the stadium, and we tailgate under big old moss-covered Live Oak trees. It takes 10 minutes to get off campus after the game, and parking is a cinch. What better time to start a new tradition than when your team is winning? It doesn’t take anything away from LSU, but why not have a place for families that’s a little more accessible for the average fan. And, if you have a good football game with a multi-media scoreboard, pretty cheerleaders and great beer, all the better. I think I’m liking this idea.
The biggest social events of the year down here are LSU football games. I know people that don’t even go into the stadium anymore. They have big screen TVs set up in the parking lot and watch the game from there. Others host parties at their homes because they don’t want to mess with the traffic and expense. I run down the levee in downtown Baton Rouge on Sunday mornings frequently, and I see the parking lot full of big RVs. I don’t like it. I’m the type of gal that, given lottery winnings, I’d go buy me a pretty little place in the Ozarks beside a nice stream, buy a few goats and save the rest for going on adventures. I wouldn’t want an RV with all the trimmings. I spent a horrible weekend camping in a tent with my friend Elizabeth with some RV blaring it’s generator all night. We didn’t hear a bird all weekend. It ruined it for us.
I have a feeling I might be one of those folks that would have loved tailgating at LSU when it was 15,000 students, and the average coonass had a space where they could cook a pot of gumbo. So, I think I’ll be heading to Southeastern next season instead of trying to land LSU tickets. I sure can’t afford them, but I can buy them in Strawberry Stadium and have money to buy a couple of green and gold shirts and even popcorn and hot dogs. I always kind of liked the underdog anyway. Lion Up!! 🙂