Ohio State fans beware -- New Orleans is Tiger country
Susan Morrow Findlay chooses her words carefully.
“I don’t want to give them any locker room bulletin board material,” she said of the Louisiana State University Tigers. “Plus I have a husband and children in New Orleans and I want to ensure their safety.”
The 42-year old is kidding ... sorta.
Findlay is one of the many Bayou Buckeyes -- transplanted Ohioans – now living in the heart of LSU country. Ohio State faces the Tigers on Monday night in college football’s BCS national championship game.
Findlay, who went to medical school at LSU after graduating from Ohio State in 1987, attended the Buckeyes’ game in Baton Rouge in ‘87 -- a 13-13 tie.
According to the Clark County native, she had a beer poured on her head, was spit on and was pelted with debris.
Her crime? Wearing Ohio State gear in Tiger Stadium.
“The LSU fans -- how do I put it delicately? -- the word ;ignorant’ comes to mind, even though I shouldn’t use that one,” said Findlay, who is President of the Ohio State Alumni Club of Greater New Orleans. “The word ‘rabid’ also comes to mind. They’re over-exuberant. They have a pocket of fans who take it too far some times. Some of their fans seem to make it a life-or-death experience.
“It’s not. It’s just football.”
Apparently, the Tigers don’t agree. One man called LSU fans “vicious.”
Another called them “intimidating.”
Bonnie Benson, a Euclid native who graduated from OSU in 1962, wasn’t quite so harsh.
“They’re crazy,” said Benson, who lives in Mandeville, La., just north of Lake Pontchartrain. “Their games are at night, so they’ve been tailgating since the crack of dawn.”
Monday’s game is in the Superdome, just 80 miles from LSU’s campus. The Buckeyes are walking into a hornet’s nest.
“They’re really the most intense team in town as far as the state’s backing of the team, even more than the (NFL’s) Saints,” said the 67-year-old Benson, one of about 100 active members in the alumni group. “It’s very similar to Ohio and the Buckeyes.”
Mark Peters, a native of Tipp City who graduated from OSU medical school in 1978, is excited to be able to watch two teams he has followed so closely all season match up for the national championship.
“I think it was low-key in the city early in the week after the Georgia-Hawaii game (in the Sugar Bowl), but you can really sense the excitement increasing,” said Peters, the CEO of East Jefferson Hospital in Metairie, La. “I think it will be a great thing to have these two teams playing each other.”
Peters endured calls of “Gator Bait” in Arizona last year as he watched Florida put a 41-14 thumping on the Buckeyes during the national championship game. Of course it didn’t help that he was sitting in the middle of the Gators’ student section, right by Florida’s band.
He’s hoping to avoid “Tiger Bait” calls on Monday.
Peters’ son -- another Buckeye fan -- is flying in from Boston tonight to attend the game with his dad. It’s the first game the two have seen together in a couple of years, giving Peters some much-needed company.
“I’m looking forward to seeing some Ohio State fans,” he said. “I’ve definitely been outnumbered.”
Bloodlines don’t always match football lines. Benson’s daughter graduated from LSU. Her older son graduated from Oklahoma.
The trash talk has been kept to a minimum. In fact, Benson is taking her daughter and son-in-law, another LSU fan, to the game Monday.
“It’s been fun, really,” Benson said. “We’ve been great sports about it.”
Findlay had some advice for Buckeye fans coming to New Orleans.
“Watch your back,” she laughed. “In all seriousness, just come down to have fun, but be aware of your surroundings.
“And make sure you bring both lungs, because we’ll need all the yelling we can get.”