Notes from the Underground: NYC LSU Bar, Legends on 33rd

Posted: November 9, 2011 in All Things Power Spread
Tags: , ,

Welcome to The Notes from the New York City College Football Underground!

The Empire State Building does not intimidate Mike The Tiger

This past Gameday Saturday I discovered that Dante was unaware of another circle of Hell: SEC football; number 1 versus number 2; late in the regular season.

LSU entered the game undefeated (8-0) on the season and ranked #1 in every major poll.  Their opponent Alabama entered the game undefeated (8-0) as well and ranked #2 in all of the same polls.  They both find themselves in the SEC West, making this game effectively an elimination game for the SEC Championship Game.  The winner would have full command of their own destiny en route to the aforementioned SEC Championship Game with the ultimate goal being the BCS Championship Game (which will coincidentally be played in New Orleans).

I joined several LSU friends for this game.  From my perspective as an Ohio State fan committing to step foot inside their New York City outpost was very difficult.  In my ideal world neither team would win and a bolt of lightning would strike them both down.

The bar in the city where all LSU folk gather is Legends on 33rd St across the street from the Empire State Building.  We heard the bar was expecting 500 people and the crowd reached that capacity an hour before kickoff.  A line formed outside on the sidewalk, and you could only get in if someone else came out–and no one was was going anywhere.

I dressed as neutrally as possible, jeans and a grey shirt, and of course my OSU ballcap.  This immediately ruffled the feathers of my friends who were naturally sporting their purple and gold in clever southern ways.  I’ve found that in the midwest we’re not subtle or particularly classy about how we display for the outside world our schools of allegiance.  Primarily we communicate it through the use of  jerseys.  In the south, it’s almost anything but a jersey.  And for women it’s all about the sundresses.  Old habits die-hard and it only takes a moment inside Legends, at the base of the Empire State Building in New York City, to become vividly cognizant of a complete and total culture shock.

While I am a general newbie to many things SEC, this was not my first experience of transplant SEC football in NYC (I’ve put in some time at the Auburn bar).  Who knew there were even a dozen LSU fans up here in Yankee Territory, let alone over 500!  Much like student seating in the SEC (or perhaps everywhere but Ohio State), there are no reservations at Legends, first come, first serve.  I arrived at 4 (4 hours before kickoff) and could not find a seat that wasn’t already spoken for.  I understood that people were showing up as early as 2, hawking the prime seating and tv viewing spaces in the bar.

Among other things that I did not know about LSU was their love of all songs (primarily country) involving keywords such as Baton Rouge, Louisiana, cotton, Eye of the Tiger and Don’t Stop Believing.  They really love them some Garth.  My ears were subjected to several renditions of Callin’ Baton Rouge.  Everyone sang it, and they sang EVERY.  SINGLE.  WORD.

Legends, lower bar

Finally, after hours of waiting, the game was about to get underway.  Per typical televised football game protocol, CBS introduced the viewing audience to each teams respective head coach.  When they popped up on the screen the face of Nick Saban, Legends sent off a chrorus of booing that could be heard from the top of the Empire State Building.  Then when they introduced us to Les Miles, well, Les is up there with Garth from what I gather.  The love-hate relationship from an outsiders perspective is a beautiful thing: Nick Saban rectified the program, and delivered their first National Championship in 45 years.  He was Saint Nick.  Now they hate his guts, and they’ve found a new love, Les Miles.

It wasn’t long before I started to piece together why this fan-base loves their current coach so much.  Jarrett Lee is not such a mobile type under center, so it wasn’t long into the game when he started feeling some intense heat from the Bama defense.  So on one particular play, with a Alabama defensive lineman about to put a punishing on him, Lee desperately heaved the ball out-of-bounds.  He still took a serious hit, but he did not take a sack and negative yards.  Tactically, a smart play.  One of my friends however, was not pleased with the play at all.  He said, “LEE’S GOTTA TAKE THAT HIT LIKE A MAN!”  To me, this explains everything they love about Les Miles: it’s not really about doing the smart or tactical thing, it’s about doing the manly thing.  The quarterback doesn’t just hand the ball off, they pitch it to the halfback then block the backside defensive end; his punter doesn’t just run the fake field goal in for a touchdown, he taunts defenders as they score – THE PUNTER!  They love Les because he’s created an alternate universe where the objective is just as much about kicking ass (as they chant after every first down) as it is about actually, winning.

So the game was billed the Game of the Century, and I wasn’t about to argue the topic with anyone Saturday night.  By the end of the fourth quarter Alabama was content to go to overtime.  LSU basked in the intensity of the game.  LSU held Alabama to a field goal attempt which was blocked.  They could taste victory, they had been outplayed on the night (again, a topic I was not about to bring up with anyone), but they knew victory was close.  Within a couple plays of their overtime possession they thought they had it won on a great run by Michael Ford.  The bar erupted and it took several plays for everyone to realize it wasn’t over yet.  Les appropriately centered the ball for the kicker.  Then this:

LSU won the Game of the Half-Century (as I’m calling it…this year).  Legends went through the roof.  And the bolt of lightning I had hope would strike down each team never came.  So I made my way through the jubilant Tiger faithful to the door where I re-entered New York City.  After experiencing Legends on this Saturday night I almost wonder if I really need to actually, you know, go to Baton Rouge!  Then I recalled what Legends had on their menu…and what I’ve heard about LSU’s tailgating food.  Yes, I hope someday soon I’ll be able to make a pilgrimage to Baton Rouge, although I’d really prefer to wait until a certain Ohioan is no longer their head coach.


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