Louisiana’s History of Sports Redemption in Wake of Tragedies

LSU football

Following politically-fueled violence, LSU’s CWS battle brought Louisiana and the nation together, recalling the New Orleans Rebirth after Hurricane Katrina and demonstrating the unifying power of sports.

On June 14, house majority whip and Louisiana representative Steve Scalise and his fellow GOP members were targeted in a politically-driven attack, with Scalise suffering internal damage from a life-threatening gunshot wound to the hip. Thankfully, it looks as though Rep. Scalise will recover from his injuries.

LSU football

Photo by Allison Shelley / Getty Images

It’s unclear if Scalise, who was shot while practicing for the annual Congressional Baseball Game for Charity between Republicans and Democrats, bleeds purple and gold for his alma mater, Louisiana State University (LSU), but it looks as if Tiger blood runs deep. Though Scalise missed out on a tense game between our nation’s rival parties, members of both the Democratic and Republican parties donned LSU hats in a show of unity and support for the Louisiana representative.

And it appears that Scalise’s recovery began just in time to cheer on his alma mater.

LSU football

Photo by Justin Tafoya / NCAA / Getty Images

The LSU Tigers made national news last week, but it wasn’t for the sport you might think. Known for having one of the best defenses in the college game, LSU football is famous for its SEC rivalries, (former) quirky coach and massive stadium. There was a different Tiger team making headlines last week, however, as the LSU Tigers baseball team competed for the College World Series (CWS) Championship in Omaha (or Geauxmaha if you’re a Tiger fan). The road was not easy, with LSU facing and defeating tough opponents including Florida State and Oregon State. Unsurprisingly, the scene was electric in Nebraska, aka Baton Rouge North, as fans anxiously awaited the championship games between LSU and Florida.

Baseball fans saw these SEC rivals face off in the best-of-three-game series, just as political party rivals did nearly three weeks prior. Coming off an attack on their state representative, the Tigers had an opportunity to lift the spirits of its community with their bid for the College World Series Championship title.

One thing is for sure: when tragedy befalls the Bayou State, Louisiana always rebounds, a testament to the spirit of its people and the power of sport.

LSU 's CSW

James Nielsen / AFP / Getty Images

August 29, 2005, is a date that, like September 11, 2001, brings painful memories to mind for Louisiana residents. Many recall where they were or what they were doing when Hurricane Katrina made landfall. The devastating category 5 hurricane left in its wake accounts of evacuation narratives and displacement, blue-tarp-covered roofs, FEMA trailers, 9th Ward destruction and a death toll of nearly 2,000 people. Chants of “Who Dat” turned into “Help Us” as New Orleans residents waited for rescue efforts on rooftops and bridges and in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Once filled with football fans dressed in black and gold, the stadium became a sanctuary of last resort and a small symbol of hope in the wake of tragedy.

LSU's CSW

Photo by Maddie Meyer / Getty Images

The physical devastation New Orleans faced could not be repaired overnight, and neither could its spirit. In fact, it took 13 months for the spirit of New Orleans to be reclaimed, and it happened in the same place that once held its tremendous pain. Returning to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 25, 2006, to face the Atlanta Falcons, an NFC rival, the New Orleans Saints marched in and claimed victory on the same field that once served as a massive shelter for its displaced city.

This victory was more than a W on the score sheet, more than a victory over a conference rival. It was the signaling of a transformation, of a “rebirth,” as it was called. In that same stadium, on that same field, grief was defeated, and the spirit of the New Orleans Saints rose from the ashes, reminding us all of the unifying power of sport. The city even erected a statue named Rebirth, depicting one of the key plays in that fateful Saints vs. Falcons game: the Steve Gleason blocked punt. Gleason himself said that the statue isn’t about the play as much as it is about the city’s ability to pick itself up after Hurricane Katrina.

Once again, Louisiana residents and citizens across the nation came together in the name of sports during the College World Series. There’s no doubt this nation could use more battles based on runs, hits and strikeouts than on health care cuts, travel bans and racial violence. As if written into the plot of a Hollywood movie, ideally starring Miles Teller, the LSU Tigers had a chance to bring this same redemptive glory, or rebirth, to Louisiana once more in the wake of the attack on Rep. Scalise and others injured in early June. Although the Tigers ultimately fell to the Florida Gators, their comebacks against Florida State and Oregon State, along with their tremendous effort in the CWS final games, united fans in Louisiana and across the nation.

Undoubtedly, this will not be the last chance for Louisiana sports teams to lift up their residents. Football season is just a few short months away, and history dictates that it takes just one blocked punt or one interception to change the game and the community’s narrative. end

 

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