Hobbs: Long trip could help bonding

Published 8:55 am Wednesday, September 1, 2021

It’s one of Ed Orgeron’s favorite cat calls, one of those wink-of-the-eye threats only the LSU coach’s guttural, back-of-the-bayou accent can pull off.

“We coming!”

Only this week there’s a twist.

The Tigers … they leaving.

Already done left, in fact.

And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

The Tigers pulled off a pretty efficient evacuation of Baton Rouge Saturday night, snapping fingers and moving their whole preseason operation from Baton Rouge to Houston on a mere moment’s notice to get out of harm’s way in advance of Hurricane Ida’s arrival.

Maybe they simply wanted to get a head start on the trip to California for this week’s season opener Saturday against UCLA in the Rose Bowl.

But word must have gotten out.

Bumper-to-bumper traffic accompanied the LSU busses for the whole relocation exercise.

OK, maybe the well-wishers were fleeing the scene too as the caravan stop-andstarted west on Interstate 10.

It might have been the first time in history that the LSU football team traveled more than 100 yards without a 12-car police escort, sirens and blues lights at work. Given the desperate circumstances, that wouldn’t have been a good “look” for this occasion, might have caused some state dissension across the Atchafalaya amongst those who’d been in the midst of even longer travel in the gridlock.

So what would normally be a 4 1/2-hour sprint to Houston left Baton Rouge at 9:30 p.m. Saturday and trudged into Houston 10 hours later, somewhat bleary-eyed, about 7:30 a.m.

The Tigers learned how the other half lives on the first leg of a season-opening journey.

Sort of.

In the retelling — TV announcers won’t be able to contain themselves Saturday night — it will recall the many rag-tags who desperately made similar Louisiana-to-Houston journeys after Hurricane Katrina exactly 16 years previous.

Oh, the travails, the horrors.

Well, except that these purple-and-gold Louisiana evacuees arrived and found respite in the downtown Houston Hyatt Regency, where they’ve been huddled up all week with room service, mini-fridges and Cinemax while continuing their practice chores at the NRG Stadium, home of the NFL’s Texans.

They’ll eat well, and they’ll fly out on Thursday — from Houston instead of Baton Rouge — just as scheduled for the trip to the West Coast.

It might even be a good thing.

Maybe it’s not what you sign up for when big-time college football calls your number. But ask any Class A minor league baseball team. You can do some serious team bonding on a 10-hour bus ride.

This day and age you might even get an NIL endorsement deal from Greyhound. And Orgeron even let them sleep in after the early morning arrival Sunday.

So it’s not exactly a haphazard evacuee center.

It brought to mind 2005 when the Tigers fled their triage campus after Hurricane Katrina with a home game scheduled against Arizona State.

The game was moved to Arizona State, which wasn’t so bad when the Tigers ended up in one of the swankiest golf resorts in the Phoenix area, courtesy of the Fiesta Bowl.

Personal memory alert: the decision to move that game that year came on a Monday. The media was alerted early in the day but it was before social media’s 24-hour news cycle, so there was no real way to break the news.

So the first thing we all did was find hotels in Tempe. The hotels didn’t yet know it was going to be an ASU home game weekend, so we all got very nice lodging two blocks from Sun Devil Stadium for about $39 a night.

Nothing like that for this trip.

But it could be just the final piece of the puzzle that this LSU team needs before heading to La La Land.

They didn’t need to get to know each other — it’s a senior-laden team with returning starters just about everywhere.

Maybe a few of the six new assistant coaches still need introductions.

But, while we know this team has talent and experience, its personality is still to be determined.

Maybe they’ll look back later and decide it emerged on a long bus ride.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at scooter.hobbs@americanpress.com