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Sports Authority

O’Connell: LSU shows sportsmanship

| Thursday, October 15, 2015

Every so often you see an example of sport as a transcendent form of culture — an instance where the game surpasses its surface meaning as a simple competition. This past weekend, the LSU football program produced one such moment via its treatment of the situation surrounding its “away game” against South Carolina.

For those of us who follow college football closely, particularly those of us who grew up in SEC country, Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is synonymous with a hostile atmosphere for any team that dares challenge the Tigers in their own domain. For years, it has been voted by coaches and players alike as one of the most difficult places to win a game on the road. The Gamecocks, then, were likely at least a little bit relieved before the season to see their game against LSU was scheduled to take place in their home this year. Or at least, that was the plan.

The massive weather systems that drenched the state of South Carolina throughout the weekend of Oct. 3 continue to leave their mark even today. As of Wednesday, hundreds of people were still living in state-provided shelters while they waited for their neighborhoods to become habitable again. Many of those people do not even have a home to return to after the record floods swept the state. Nearly 200 roads remain closed, and 29 dam failures have been reported since the storms hit several weekends ago.

In light of this natural disaster, something as frivolous as a football game might seem trivial. But the game between LSU and South Carolina had to be played nevertheless. As such, the NCAA made the decision to relocate the South Carolina home game — to the heart of the Bayou, in Death Valley.

I don’t think anyone would have blamed LSU for taking advantage of this unexpected turn of events. After all, the SEC is as cutthroat as ever, and the Tigers are looking to ride demigod running back Leonard Fournette all the way to the College Football Playoff. Nobody would have batted an eye if the Tigers had simply accepted their unexpected home game in stride.

LSU had other plans. The Tiger Band learned the South Carolina Alma Mater and played it prior to the game. Traditional public address announcements and Gamecock-flavored songs and chimes were added to the in-game experience. LSU even went as far as to put up billboards around town that read “Geaux Gamecocks! Make yourself at home.”

What’s more, all proceeds from the day’s festivities were donated back to South Carolina — just where they would have gone had the game been hosted in its original location. Red Cross donation stations were set up at stadium entrances, and fans brought all sorts of relief gear and canned goods in to be sent back east once the day was done.

It’s not hard to figure out where all of the Tiger sympathy was coming from. Baton Rouge is only about 82 miles away from New Orleans proper — the memories of Hurricane Katrina were no doubt quick to resurface in light of the tragic flooding that struck their conference foes’ home state. Still, this sort of act lends itself to the greatest aspects of the character of sport. Through football, residents of Louisiana and South Carolina were able to band together during one’s time of need with all of the aid coming from a community that had been there before. As I read daily sports headlines moving forward, I can only hope this is the sort of story that continues to proliferate.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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