We have to congratulate the Louisiana State University Tigers on their National Championship. I know... I know... ACC... and all of that... Yeah... yeah... My readers all know that I don’t give two hoots about the ACC as any sort of rooting interest. I root for the Hokies, and Army with a familial deference for Nebraska, too. I am sure that other guys on the staff have other teams besides the Hokies that they watch and quietly love, too. Ultimately, though, the ACC is the opposition and I never root for any of them, ever under any circumstances.
Last night reminded be of something that has little to do with football, though. As I turned out the lights and turned off the TV in the middle of the 4th quarter, a memory came rushing back to me. It was my first wrestling match way back in January of 1973. The Patton Junior High School Tigers all loaded on to the bus and drove the seemingly endless distance to Effingham, Kansas for the opening match of the season at Effingham Jr. High. It was a slightly bewildering experience. The gym was first rate, not the stage of Eisenhower Elementary School, where we practiced. The mats were all orange and black with slick lettering and they covered the floor neatly with no visible seam tape. All of the wrestlers were wearing those fancy leather hightop wrestling shoes and spiffy singlets... we had these odd throwback things from the 1950’s (or 60’s) who cares we looked like a bunch of doofs...
Well, we weighed in, and I was matched up against a kid that I swore was at least 16. When they called us to the center of the mat to shake hands, I couldn’t even wrap my hand around his. Have you ever had one of those “uh oh” moments? Well, they last a lifetime. The opening whistle blew, and I knew that I had exactly one chance to score any points at all, so I shot his lead leg, got him behind the knee... pulled with every last ounce of strength that I had and dove for the mat with him below me. A TAKEDOWN! Folks.. that was the last smile for the next seven minutes.
That kid reversed me, and then rode me like a I was a stuffed horse. I don’t think that he pinned me, on purpose, and it was my only dignity in the whole mess. I think he scored a record number of points on me just rubbing me all over that shiny classy mat. When I shook his hand at the end he smiled at me... said “thanks for the hard match”... My hand which was now completely numb. When I sat on the bench, I looked at it, and the tip of middle finger was dislocated 90 degrees. It was just sitting there looking completely odd. Aghhhh... I snapped it back into place.. my teammate nearly passed out seeing me do it, and I don’t remember the ride home or crawling into bed with a middle finger the size of a miniature banana - which my father had wrapped it in an ice pack.
Yes, all of that flashes in a few seconds when you’re nearing 61 and remembering something from nearly 50 years ago. And I mean remembering every minute of it.
Well, LSU’s win last evening gave Clemson a taste of that Effingham experience. Clemson opened the game strong, and then LSU found it’s bearings... shook off the surprise, and proceeded to rub Clemson all over the Super Dome stadium turf. I have to say in all honesty they did a bit better than my measly three points (I did get one escape in that match). We’ll see how they deal with their only loss in a long while.
I predicted that LSU was going to probably be the champion this season at somewhere between the 2nd or 3rd game. Joe Burrow is just too good, and when that good is backed up by an SEC receiving squad, an SEC offensive line, and an SEC defense, well I just remember that farm kid from Effingham, Kansas, and the feeling that maybe I was just really out of my league.
So, again, Congratulations to LSU. This year the Faux Playoffs were probably as accurate as they have been, to date. A special congratulations go to Coach O, who many dismissed when he got the job, and now, nobody will ever forget. I like when that happens.
Baseball coverage starts next week. Basketball is ongoing and getting exciting when we thought it was going to be dreary.