As the summer of 2012 wound down, Tiger fans optimistic for the upcoming athletic year would have been wise to heed Red’s perceptive words from one of the greatest movies ever, “The Shawshank Redemption.”
“Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing,” he said. “Hope can drive a man insane.”
After suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of Alabama in the BCS National Championship the previous January, the LSU football team seemed ready to challenge for another national title.
After enduring four up-and-down, maddeningly frustrating years under former coach Trent Johnson, the LSU men’s basketball team finally had their messianic coach in Johnny Jones, the homegrown former player whose enthusiasm and recruiting prowess would reinvigorate the “Deaf Dome.”
In baseball, losing the Super Regional series to improbable underdog Stony Brook (the university from Lee’s home town on Long Island), the LSU baseball team now had the postseason experience and motivation it needed for a march to the College World Series in Omaha.
LSU sports fans had hope.
But things went awry early on for the LSU football team, as All-American defensive back and return specialist Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu was dismissed from the LSU team for a violation of team rules.
Sending shock waves throughout the SEC and the message boards, the LSU football team surged forward with new starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger and a ferocious defense, determined to return to the SEC Championship and BCS title games.
Losses to Florida and Alabama derailed the Tigers’ championship aspirations. Relegated to the Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Year’s Eve, the season ended for the Tigers with a bitter taste of defeat at the hands of the Clemson Tigers.
Meanwhile on the hardwood, Jones laid a successful foundation in his inaugural season as the LSU men’s basketball coach. Leading the Tigers to a 9-9 record in the SEC and 19-12 overall was a huge improvement from the previous three atrocious seasons of the Johnson era. Jones capped off his first season with a consensus top-10 recruiting class, headlined by five-star power forward Jarell Martin.
Over on the diamond, LSU baseball head coach Paul Mainieri’s Tigers blistered the competition throughout the season en route to a 48-8 regular season record, the best in LSU history. Despite finishing second in the SEC, the Tigers’ pitching depth, and a can of corn (you should Google it), carried them to the SEC Tournament title over SEC regular-season champion Vanderbilt.
In the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the Tigers rolled through Regional competition and exorcised last year’s Stony Brook-induced demons by sweeping Oklahoma in the Super Regional. Having avoided being the first senior class at LSU to not make the trip to Omaha in the last quarter century, the Tigers’ season came to an abrupt halt, losing to UNC and eventual national champion UCLA in two straight games.
Elsewhere on campus, LSU Softball finished 42-16, before falling to “the artist formerly known as USL” Lady Ragin’ Cajuns in the NCAA Regional. Nikki Caldwell led the Lady Tiger basketball team to a Sweet 16 appearance in her second season with an inspiring late-season run, competing with just seven players in the NCAA Tournament.
LSU’s Olympic sports were … actually never mind. If you are in that passionate group that enjoys watching collegiate golf, tennis, swimming, diving or gymnastics, keep supporting your teams because I can’t tell a birdie from back flip.
To the masses, the mark of success in athletic competition is championships, especially in the major sports of football, basketball and baseball. Many LSU fans have become accustomed, perhaps spoiled, to athletic success in all sports. To the Tiger faithful, I say it could be worse: LSU could be Mississippi State.
As the summer of 2013 heads toward August and a new school year, Tiger fans’ hope will be renewed, as the dawn of a new college football season is mere weeks away.
And Tiger fans should take heart in Andy Dufresne’s response to Red:
“Hope is a good thing,” he said, “maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”