“Bless me Father for I have sinned…I’d try to calculate how long it’s been since my last confession, but it’s a moot point, because when you hear the sin I’ve committed, you’re probably going to tell me it can’t be absolved anyway…”
The unpardonable of all unpardonables.
It all came to my attention when I received a phone call from my baby brother a few months ago. He good-naturedly informed me that I had inadvertently scheduled my third daughter’s wedding on the exact same day as the biggest football rivalry in the history of all football rivalries.
Thus I have unintentionally set the very world askew on it’s very axis. Or at least the very world of my 300 wedding guests – who now must choose between the people they love the most in the world (dem Tigres) and my family.
I don’t envy their decision, as we are planning to blow it out in New Orleans. We are commencing at The Cathedral in Jaxson Square with a beautiful religious ceremony, immediately followed by a Second Line to the reception on a terrace overlooking the mighty Mississippi with 3 open bars, two oyster bars, all the New Orleans cuisine you can imagine, 2 jazz bands, and hand-rolled cigars – just to mention a little of the allure.
What we will NOT be featuring is a television set playing the game.
While acknowledging the enormity of the conundrum I have created for all my LSU Tigre loving friends and family, I wasn’t terribly concerned and continued merrily and ignorantly planning our big day, unaware that a perfect storm was brewing each and every Saturday as big games were being played and won/lost by specific teams.
Apparently, unbeknownst to me, (living in my football free widow bubble) the stakes have been raised even higher.
After spending the past decade disappointing and upsetting my late husband – raising his hopes, only to dash his dreams – it seems his beloved tigres have picked this post-mortem year to be good.
It has just come to my attention that Alabama is ranked number 1 and LSU is ranked number 2.
This is the stuff baby piglets dreams are made of. Forget all that hogwash from Charlotte’s Web. (Pun intended) South of the Mason-Dixon line, in SEC territory, baby pigs dream that they may live and die one day to present their very hides to be skinned and laced up and tossed around in a game of this magnitude.
Why just yesterday, ESPN (never a network to be dramatic about the importance of any sporting event) called this November 9th match-up, “The game of the century!”
And here I was thinking I was planning “the wedding of the century” for a little girl whose Daddy won’t be there to walk her down the aisle. (A day he and I talked about and dreamed of since we glimpsed the very first sonogram image of her.)
In an effort to explain to me the significance of my faux pas, which I evidently wasn’t fully grasping, a dear friend said, “You just don’t understand how passionately folks from Louisiana feel about their football!”
“Oh, Mais Non, Mon Cherie!” I met my husband at 17, dated him at 18, married him at 21. LSU Football was the very backdrop of my marriage. I was fully indoctrinated, baptized in the bayou waters of LSU football devotion Why, it’s a right of passage down there.
To illustrate, I will share a classic Jimmy Blanchard story. It will bring a smile of recognition to all of you who knew and loved him well and will help y’all who didn’t know him, appreciate the man he was.
The year was 2007. The day after Thanksgiving, Friday, November 23. Per the usual, the men stayed home to watch the traditional LSU VS ARKANSAS football game (remember we had lived in Little Rock 3 separate times with Steak and Ale and Outback, so there was no shortage of phone calls, texts and trash talking from friends and former employees. To put it bluntly, the stakes were high, as our pride was on the line – it wasn’t a matter of whether we’d beat Arkansas, just by how many points.
All the ladies went Christmas shopping that day every year with the little girls and the men claimed they “babysat” their own sons. Truth: this was the beginning of the boys’ football fandom brainwashing program. (In the South, you start em young.)
As we had a long drive ahead of us that night and Jimmy wanted to get on the road to Oklahoma the very second his Tigres (correct spelling) kicked those razorback’s bristled hides, the sisters-in-law and I quietly arrived back to the homestead with our purchases about midway through the 4th quarter and started packing the minivan.
But something was very wrong…like Phil Collins said, “You could feel it in the air that night...”
Smoke was coming out of Jimmy’s ears. The boys were biting their nails and near tears and Jimmy, his mother and brother may well have already been crying. I’m not at liberty to say. Let’s just say you could cut the air with a knife.
I started corralling kids as fast and quietly as a mother can corral 5 children. I insisted the girls all potty and strap into the car. The game went into triple overtime while my daughters waited like sweet little angels in the car. This situation didn’t jive well with our travel plans, but Jimmy never budged from the couch.
You never heard so much Purgatorial howling, wailing and gnashing of teeth in your life. You would’ve thought the CIA was waterboarding someone in there.
In summary, LSU lost the game in triple overtime to Arkansas. Jimmy got behind the wheel. I warned the kids not to utter a sound. If you’ve ever met a Blanchard, you know we always utter sounds. But they didn’t. It’s like they innately understood the depth of their father’s deep despair.
We drove through the darkness of the swamp, the Morganza Spillway, over the herons, the alligators and God only knows what other swamp creatures. When I say not a creature was stirring, I mean nothing made a peep.
After about an hour and a half, Jimmy finally broke the silence. He said to our sons. (Aka: My baby boys)
“Well boys, we now have absolutely nothing left to live for…”
That’s when this Ginger Snapped. I lit into that man like you wouldn’t believe. I can’t remember my exact words but it was something to the effect of,
“Our little boys back there have their entire lives ahead of them and EVERYTHING to live for. For the love of God and mankind, they’re 10 and 7 years old! You may think YOU have nothing to live for, which is pretty ludicrous, but don’t you dare cast that dismal outlook on my sons. They’ve got extremely bright futures!” Something to that effect…
(Keep this between us, but I was thinking – they’ve never even kissed a girl or had a beer. Geez.)
The rest of the story – and I’ll include a link- is that I was right. Some unforeseeable madness occurred and all the top teams ended up with incredible upsets propelling LSU back into the National championship game against Ohio State.
The picture I included is the day they posted the rankings and Jimmy and the boys realized that LSU was going to the National Playoff Game and they did have what they call in Louisiana, “raison de vivre,” (reason to live!)
That’s Jimmy’s “raison de vivre,” facial expression in that picture. I’m not sure many of y’all got to see it. Y’all mostly got his poker face. But as I tell this story, it occurs to me, he never did tell me I was right when I lit into him that night crossing the swamp. The night he forcasted my sons’ dismal futures.
My baby boys got to witness a genuine football miracle that year. It taught them that all things in life are possible (and also that sometimes Mommy is right and Daddy is wrong…shhhhhh).
Dem Tigres went on to beat Ohio state 38-34.
So my boys actually had that to live for. And now, they have this year and November 9th. That’s the night they will stand in for their Daddy and walk their beautiful beloved sister down the aisle and happily miss ESPN’s “Game of the Century!”
They will do that because every single day they honor the man that made them men. And all kidding aside…the man that raised these two men….he always knew what to live for.