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Watch as a well-rested, tan, and carefree Ed Orgeron cooks well-seasoned steaks on a smoker during the Mississippi State game and passes them out to fans. See players fixing plates and blasting music on the bench, happily posting selfies on Instagram during games. Hear “Callin’ Baton Rouge” playing not once or twice during a game, but 20 times. Enjoy a scoreboard tuned to a stream of fishing shows, Dirty South rap videos, and 15 straight minutes of Joe Burrow highlights.
That’s what I want for you in 2020, LSU: a rolling feast for all four quarters of every game, and definitely not a single care in the world about winning the championship again.
It’d be nice to repeat as champions.
But in 21st century FBS, only Alabama has done it, winning back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012. To do that, the Crimson Tide had to play you, LSU, in what is generally regarded as the worst championship game of all time, a 21-0 win no one enjoyed for any reason whatsoever.
(OK, maybe the moment when LSU finally crossed the 50 was bitter comedy for some of us. But that’s it. The rest is pure football garbage that helped kill the BCS once and for all.)
If that’s what it takes, you shouldn’t want it. Life in general is stressful, and the physical and mental toll of football adds to that burden. The strain of trying to follow up the undefeated 2019 season – the greatest in LSU’s history, and one of the best campaigns in the history of college football – is too much for anyone. It’s definitely unfair to the 2020 Tigers, a team with plenty of inexperienced starters who can’t come close to 2019’s glories.
2020 LSU doesn’t have to set up for disappointment. There is a solution. It requires daring, innovation, and patience. The Tigers could decide to embrace the moment and steer into the skid of a comedown season.
Other teams have admitted as much following championships, that this is a year of rebuilding and not reloading, that the kids will have a lot of learning to do on the field. Yet no team has openly turned the next season into a four-month victory lap/scrimmage session.
Until now, LSU.
Football Mardi Gras: That’s what 2020 could be for you, Tigers, a season-long celebration of not just 2019’s accomplishments, but of everything about LSU football, the university, and the state.
Lift weights, do drills, have scrimmages, sure. No one is saying the coaches and players have to stop doing the work to get the team ready for 2021. In fact, behind the scenes, 2020 will be a great opportunity to get game reps with limited pressure.
Unlike most other programs, LSU already knows how to combine a good time and a game. It is a skill a lot of teams lack. Alabama put in millions of dollars worth of seizure-inducing club lighting to try to convince themselves that someone, anyone, was having fun at an Alabama game. Instead they made a lot of people at home wonder if their flatscreens were broken. Alabama can win titles every other year, but no amount of in-stadium frippery is ever going to make them festive.
LSU does that effortlessly. So why not turn a whole year of construction into a long recruiting ad for the entire university? The schedule is perfect for it. There’s a possible road loss to Florida, the inevitable Alabama revenge game, and the usual coin-flip games like Auburn, Ole Miss, and South Carolina, which LSU should and could win, but could decide not to.
Let LSU stew in a crock pot for four months. Everyone will get the 9-3 or 8-4 to be expected playing a full SEC West schedule, and no one will blame LSU for failing to fully replace the greatest offensive player the school has ever seen.
Turn the 2020 schedule into outright propaganda that just happens to have four quarters of football in the middle of it. Forget the football, ticket-holder. Instead, worry about whether the complimentary 500-gallon tub of gumbo (sponsored by the Lousiana Farmers Association) in the south end zone will be ready to eat by the third quarter. Shaquille O’Neal is stirring it with an oar the size of a telephone pole; Odell Beckham Jr. has just fallen into it.
Stress about replacing all that offensive talent. Or, alternately, place friendly wagers on the airboat races they’re holding live on the river. This week’s pilots are rapper Webbie, the former governor of Louisiana (but in your hearts, still in office) Edwin Edwards, and political consultant James Carville. One of the airboats has snakes on it! No one will know which until we begin the race.
The alternative is to struggle with the realization that 2019 brought the greatest high LSU might ever have.
Try, and fail, to accept that such a peak moment might never be equalled. This gets dark. It ends with LSU fans sitting on the tailgates of their trucks in their driveways, looking up at the sky and thinking bleak thoughts like: Maybe we were better when we had unspectacular quarterbacks like Jordan Jefferson.
Alternatively, climb into this bathtub of self-satisfaction for the next nine months. Wear custom WWE-style spinner championship belts to games. Edit: Wear WWE-style spinner championship belts everywhere. Brandish them over your head when you’re picking up your kids, bellowing “CHAMP’S HERE” while the school resource officer begs you to keep it moving in the carpool lane. Point at random strangers in Target while yelling “TIGER BAIT” at them. Go to church and yell at the choral director to play “Neck.”
Chances are you want to do this anyway. That should make the choice between two 2020 seasons even easier, LSU. On one side, there will be the option of watching a slogging frustration of a season with unmatchable expectations, complete with – ughhhhhh – “learning and growing” as a theme. Universal truth: Everyone hates learning and growing, and that’s why they make these parts montages in movies.
On the other side, you can skip the tedious parts and put a song over all the hard work. Football Mardi Gras could be real in a way not possible for any team outside the heart of Louisiana. These good times are here to be had, with the surplus champagne from the championship game still chilling in the cooler. You could focus on banging your head against the door of the next championship, or you could let these good times rouler where they may.
I think I know what call you’ll make, LSU. I’ll be polishing the spinner belts for you, because champions prepare.