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Two-way play

Posted by Bob Ryan, Globe Staff  November 17, 2010 03:05 PM

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I'm betting I'm the only person on the planet who can say he was at LSU-Alabama one Saturday and Amherst-Williams the next.

Let me say something else: there's no confusing the two, starting with the ticket price: LSU-Bama was $70 a ticket. Amherst-Williams was, as my mother might say, free for nothing.

Each was a great experience in its own way. An LSU home game is a testament to conspicuous consumption. Tailgating in Baton Rouge is very serious business. I've seen RVs and campers before, but these people have raised tailgating to a high art. It's not enough to have a spacious RV and lots of great food. The well-prepared LSU tailgater owns a generator, and that means a big flat screen TV is de rigeur. Understand that many of these people own parking spots, set up shop on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning and never set foot inside the stadium.

So I had to laugh when I saw the printed rules for tailgating in Amherst prior to the Williams game. 1. No RVs. 2. No campers. 3. No alcohol. Eliminate any one of the three and there's no tailgating in Baton Rouge. No alcohol? They would say, "What's the point?" We're talking Louisiana here. Oh, and let the record show there is a mobile jail on site. Now they might need one for white-collar criminals at the Amherst-Williams game, but that's a story for another day.

The people at LSU were up for the game. Ole Miss is supposed to be their nominal rival, but right now that's kind of on hiatus until the Rebs get good again. Their new chosen rival is 'Bama, mostly due to the Nick Saban connection. Lots of folks down there will never forgive him for leaving LSU in the first place, and then he compounded the felony when he left the Dolphins to take the 'Bama job. Think Wade and Roger with the Yanks.

LSU was still smarting from its loss to Auburn, but everyone knew a victory over 'Bama would eliminate them as a conceivable championship threat, so they were quite up for the game.Throw in the season's big subplot, which is that half the fans think coach Les Miles is a lot luckier than he is good. His clock management policies are the subject of much public debate.

The game started out very badly, with neither team able to move the ball. But it really livened up in the second half, turning into a rousing LSU comeback victory highlighted by a reverse to a tight end on a fourth-and-less-than-1 at the 'Bama 32. It was a (temporary) all-is-forgiven moment for Coach Miles.

Anyway, LSU won the game, and the party was on.

Amherst-Williams was for big stakes, too. A Williams win would give the Ephs both an undefeated season and sole possession of the NESCAC title. An Amherst win, combined with a Trinity victory over Wesleyan, would create a three-way tie. I was kind of bummed out because Amherst had lost to Trinity the week before, meaning that rather than a battle of ancient rival unbeatens it would be 6-1 Amherst vs. 7-0 Williams. But you can't always get what you want, can you?

This was the 125th renewal of this rivalry, so we had that as an extra added attraction.

Amherst scored first, and it was a 10-10 game at the half, but you could plainly see that Williams was the better team. The Ephs had left 11 points out in the field via botched Red Zone plays, for example, and I would have been quite willing to bet that Williams would take control in the second half, which is exactly what they did, winning, 31-16, to accomplish all their goals.

Oh, yes, halftime. There was an alumni Tug of War between the even numbered years vs. the odd numbered years. You don't see that every day. That was followed by the classic sight of Frisbees and footballs filling the air. Dogs and children? Yup. And then the PA announcer asked everyone to clear the field so we could have more football. If someone had run on the field at halftime of the LSU-'Bama game he or she would have been met by at least four Lousiana state troopers with guns.

The one was classic big-time American college sports, as only America does it. The other was small-time American college sports, as only America does it. I cannot imagine America without either. It was a privilege to be a part of each.

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About bob ryan's blog Opinions, observations and anecdotes from Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan.
Bob is an award-winning columnist for the Globe and the host of "Globe 10.0" on Boston.com.

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