I recently posted the following on Facebook – the day after adopted-Cajun Joe Burrow won the Heisman Trophy – reminiscing on how special the 2019 season has been for LSU football…and for me.
This LSU Football season has been special…Edwards-Helaire, Burrow, Orgeron, Moss, and so many more with their stories and accomplishments has made this a one of a kind season. But it’s been a special season for another reason, I’ve watched every game with Libby and Emma. They’ve blossomed as true Tiger fans. They scream and yell during tense moments, get anxious….all the emotions of fans who are all in. They’ve closely followed Burrow’s Heisman race, love Coach O, and smile at everything LSU.
This scene you see in the picture literally has not changed since game 1. This season has been special because of the bonding I’ve had with my daughters. 2019 will be remembered for a long time.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve often pondered the question, “Why does LSU – particularly LSU football – mean so much to me?” I’ve been in Louisville for almost two decades, having moved from Louisiana at the turn of the new millennium. I met my wife here, bought a house, raised a family of three daughters, and earned two degrees in Louisville. Why in the world do I still root for the Tigers, much less still get excited about something that’s just a game (let’s face it, in the grand scheme of things, football is just a game)?
Part of why I root for LSU still is that I enjoy football, and I’ve been a fan of LSU since day one of my life. But, as my sports fandom has been tempered with increasing age and responsibilities, I’ve come to realize that cheering for LSU is more than just cheering for a team. That is, LSU has come to represent something much more to me.
I’ve always loved my home state, but I’ve never felt that I fit in. I’ve never been hunting in my life (not by choice), I didn’t catch my first fish until I was 18, and – by and large – I’m just not an outdoorsman. (I realize that I’m making a rather broad generalization of Louisianans; not all who live in Louisiana are outdoors people. However, I do believe that it’s safe to say that a large majority of Louisiana residents do identify with outdoors activities like hunting, fishing, etc.) When I moved to Louisville, I saw it as an exciting opportunity to live way from home – somewhere with more opportunity and excitement.
Yet, in my middle-age, I’ve come full-circle. There was a period of time where I longed for (more like ached for) home. I wanted to learn more about my home state, about my parents’ history, and to recover long-lost memories. I even sought for jobs in my home state (unsuccessfully). Now, as I’ve grown content with Louisville as my home, I still look back on Louisiana fondly. More so, I see Louisiana – my home – as integral in shaping who I am.
I find the late-30s and early 40-s to be a trying time for a person – it’s like reliving middle school all over again, except you’re taller, heavier, and have less hair. This period of life was (and has been) a time of rediscovering who I am. For so long I’d been working towards a dream – a goal, and all of a sudden I’m faced with an existential crisis of sorts.
- What has all that I’ve done mean? Some career goals hadn’t worked out, and the reality of the corporate world was…well…I’m not a fan.
- What have I missed out on? They say kids grow like weeds, and do they! I met my wife on the first day of orientation for our Master’s degree (which took 9 years to complete). After my Master’s, I jumped into a PhD, and after that, I jumped feet first into working toward a full-time teaching position. It hit me all of sudden that my daughters – who were born during my Master’s degree – were young women entering middle school and high school. Have I done enough as a father?
- Have I provided for my wife as I should? Two degrees and a career path takes a lot of energy and attention. Have I been the husband my wife deserves?
- Finally, who am I? I felt my heart torn between two homes – Louisiana and Louisville. Family and friends knew me in my formative years – and much of what they remember of me is my first 23 years of life. Those I’ve met in Louisville essentially know me as what I’ve become as an adult – they know me now, a sort of truncated version of me. How do the two connect?
In the midst of all this mess, I’ve come to a reconciliation of sorts of my one heart/two homes existence. I can’t tell you why or how, but I’m at a place where I don’t see my past as something to merely remember (that is, my past is in the past); rather, my past – where I grew up, who I knew (and know), etc. – informs me of who I am today. No matter how how hard I move forward toward a goal – no matter how far I progress, every time I turn around, my past is still there. I can’t – you can’t – avoid or ignore your past; I can’t grow or progress out of my past. I may not be the same person I was when I lived in Louisiana, but in a way, I am still that person. It’s a Theseusian conundrum – I’m different but the same, and you know what? I’m at peace with that.
I’m a Louisvillian now. I’ve lived in Kentucky for two decades – long enough to where Louisville is home. I remember buildings that no longer exists; businesses that are now but a memory; and people who once graced these streets now abiding somewhere else. I’ve lived in Louisville long enough to have memories of the way things were. However, no matter how long I live here, I’ll always be a Louisianan. Louisville is home, but Louisiana is home. Louisiana what made me who I am today, Louisville is who I am today and will be tomorrow. The two are not mutually exclusive, but intimate parts of one whole – me.
So, when I cheer for LSU football (and this year, who can’t?!), it’s more than a team I’m rooting for – it’s my heritage; my home; my family and friends; and it’s the memories and experiences that will always stay with me.