By Myron Smothers & Rickey Miller
This past weekend, LSU hosted a football game against the South Carolina Gamecocks, in what was originally scheduled as an away game for LSU. But due to recent flooding in South Carolina, the game was rescheduled and moved to Tiger Stadium. While LSU fans are known for their undying love for their Tigers — it seems that, instead of the usual tiger chants and the fiery aggressive spirits, LSU offered the Gamecocks generosity and compassion.
DIG caught up with some of the Gamecocks fans that attended the special game and agreed that this weekend definitely seemed a bit different than past visits to Baton Rouge.
Jonathan Concienne, a graduate from LSU, said “We’ve been out here for four hours and she hasn’t been ‘tiger baited’ yet,” pointing to his fiancée Anna Sanders who is a South Carolina fan, proudly sporting her Gamecocks jersey.
“From what I hear, LSU fans are pretty intense,” said Sanders.
However, she explained that she felt right “at home.”
Joshua Deroche, a graduate of both LSU and USC, was deeply moved by the compassion and sportsmanship the Tiger gave to SC throughout the day.
“Everywhere where we passed at all the tailgates you can see South Carolina fans or signs welcoming them,” he said. “It’s really warming to see a fan base do this and recognize someone else’s struggle.”
Evan Parker, a junior at the USC, admits that otherwise he would be jeered as tiger bait, but feels the support from LSU is utterly sincere.
“While LSU and Gamecocks fans might be chippy sometimes, but this weekend has been absolutely fantastic”, said Parker. “There has been no hostility just all hospitability All I can say is thank you; Baton Rouge helped us get a win out of all of this.”
Of course, many Tigers and their fans know how it feels to be displaced by flooding. LSU’s star running back Leonard Fournette (@_fournette) tweeted what everyone was thinking a few days before the game.
“Prayers going out to South Carolina it reminds me something similar that happen to us…keep faith.”
Fournette is a resident of New Orleans, and remembers the floods Hurricane Katrina brought with her all too well. Fournette is currently auctioneering his jersey in order to raise money to support the families affected by the flood in South Carolina, after getting the go ahead from the NCAA.
Also on campus to offer their help and support was the Red Cross. Kay Wilkins, Chief Executive of the American Red Cross South Louisiana Region, says, “We know what it is like to not even have a tooth brush to be able to brush our teeth.”
Wilkins explains that once it was announced that the USC and LSU game would be moved to Baton Rouge, the local Red Cross was requested to go out and receive cash donations to help with the flood relief. She says she was excited to help and she knew the city would be willing to help because of the disaster that was experience with Hurricane Katrina 10 years ago.
“Who better than a Tiger fan can understand how hard it is to rebuild our life after a flood has taken everything you own and turned it into muck?” she said.
The Red Cross isn’t the only organization that made efforts to support South Carolina flood victims. University Presbyterian Church, right on the edge of LSU’s campus, was also dedicated to helping the cause. The church usually sells parking spaces on game days as a fundraiser for mission trips in their church, but rededicate those funds to flood relief through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. They also offered free parking to all South Carolina fans, which any tiger fan can tell you is a pretty generous gesture.
“We just felt compelled and called”, said Reverend Mike Watson. “Any chance we get to contribute to those in need or in struggle is a part of our calling as Christians.”
A tailgate on campus called Whiskey Tree got into action as well. The tailgaters wanted to help by offering cotton candy, which was free to all but donations were accepted for the flood relief.
Also, many bars in Tigerland and around campus also joined in on the support, offering South Carolina students free cover into their bars.
Though South Carolina did not get a win on the scoreboard, both LSU and USC fans were both indeed true winners this weekend. No other school in the SEC could relate to the situation South Carolina is going through. Despite being conference rivals, LSU and South Carolina will now be connected in a special way by this strange coincidence. And while we may return to being bitter rivals next season, we will always remember the day the Gamecocks lost a home game in Baton Rouge, but won the love of Tiger Fans.