Victory Hill marks the start of LSU Football ’s pregame stroll into Tiger Stadium. The crew buses pull right into a roundabout on the high of the hill, stopping on the intersection of Area Home Drive and North Stadium Highway. Crowds collect six to seven rows deep — generally extra — cramming onto the sidewalks for a glimpse of the gamers and coach Ed Orgeron.
Orgeron will get animated throughout these treks. As “Born on the Bayou” and “Halftime (Get up and Get Crunk!)” play over audio system, Orgeron energizes the group. He claps. He pumps his fists. He screams and provides high-fives to these followers jammed towards the fences. The final time LSU traveled down Victory Hill, celebrating its nationwide championship, Orgeron threw Mardi Gras beads.
The coronavirus pandemic modified this custom, because it did so many others round LSU Football games. With tailgating on campus banned and an introduced crowd of 21,124 inside Tiger Stadium, the ambiance earlier than LSU’s season opener Saturday towards Mississippi State lacked the vitality typical of an LSU recreation.
As an alternative of music blaring all through a raucous campus, fowl sounds stuffed the air. A fountain gurgled within the quadrangle as a household walked towards the stadium. Some followers seen for the primary time that LSU Football performed its alma mater at midday from Memorial Tower on recreation days.
Small teams trickled onto campus all through the day. Not allowed to carry tailgate tools, they organized meals and drinks of their automobiles. Public well being pointers taking part in from audio system reminded folks to put on masks, keep bodily distance and canopy coughs.
“Thanks for making Tiger Stadium the very best ambiance in school athletics,” the recorded message mentioned.
The campus felt quieter than a faculty day, resembling a sleepy Sunday morning than the primary season opener after a nationwide title. Boy Scout safety guards sporting orange vests sat across the Indian Mounds. One carried his folding chair to the highest of the mound. Few folks walked previous.
In a car parking zone close to the empty Parade Grounds, followers gathered behind their automobiles. They introduced coolers and luggage of chips. One arrange a small grill. One other organized two iPads on cinder blocks within the mattress of a pickup truck.
Daybreak Crnjak sat at the back of her automobile consuming a mimosa. She had come to the sport with Chris Breaux, who stood close by consuming a bloody mary. They saved water and extra alcohol in a cooler.
“I really feel like we’re being watched,” Breaux mentioned, referencing close by safety.
On the opposite facet of the northern entrance to campus, music pulsed from audio system at The Chimes. Individuals gathered exterior ready for tables. They drank from yellow plastic cups. Some wore masks. Others didn’t.
“It’s as regular because it’s been in a very long time,” Crnjak mentioned. “That is Baton Rouge. That is what we do.”
For moments on recreation day, folks felt one thing they hadn’t for the reason that starting of the coronavirus pandemic. They mentioned attending the sport provided a sliver of group and peace, a way of normalcy.
However as Orgeron stepped off the bus at Victory Hill an hour and a half earlier than kickoff, 6-foot-high chain-link fences coated in black screens separated a small group of followers from the crew. They cheered. Orgeron, his face coated by a purple LSU Football masks, clapped and pumped his fists.
“Hey, coach,” one fan mentioned as she held up her cellphone.
“Geaux Tigers,” Orgeron responded.
The gamers gathered behind Orgeron on the high of the hill. They wore fits and face coverings, ready to stroll into Tiger Stadium for the primary time this season.
“Let’s go, child,” Orgeron mentioned. “What do you say, boys?”
Orgeron turned to stroll down the hill. He clapped and pumped his fists once more. Audio system blared “Born on the Bayou” and “Halftime (Get up and Get Crunk!).” Hardly anybody stood alongside the fences. On the backside of the hill, this house usually filled with humanity had a sparse, single row of followers lined alongside both facet of the highway.