By: Eric SanInocencio
SEC Digital Network
New Orleans, La. -- 80 miles separate Baton Rouge from New Orleans. This week, it might as well be 80 feet.
Having been in the host city for this year's BCS Championship Game for around 12 hours, I am certain of one thing. LSU will be the "home" team on Monday night.
Despite the "neutral" atmosphere usually provided by most college football bowl games, this year's pinnacle event looks awfully close to a normal Saturday night in Death Valley. Let me explain.
New Orleans is in the midst of one of the greatest weeks of sports events you could possibly imagine. Having already hosted the Sugar Bowl (Michigan vs. Virginia Tech), the weekend was packed solid with entertainment from the city's signature teams. On Friday night, I was lucky enough to find myself seated at New Orleans Arena, watching the hometown Hornets take on the Denver Nuggets. Despite being at an NBA contest, the tone was quickly set as to what was on the mind of most people in attendance...even the Hornets mascot.
During a break in the action, the aforementioned "Hugo" was front and center on the jumbotron, waving at the crowd to try and energize the group in attendance. During one point of that skit, a young fan with an LSU shirt appeared. Thoroughly delighted, Hugo embraced the fan, pointing at her shirt as if to acknowledge his allegiance to the Tigers.
Moments later, another patron emerged on screen.
Whether it was planned or not (I'm still on the fence), a rowdy young man with a "Roll Tide" shirt ran in front of the group, chanting Alabama's battle cry and pointing to the crimson "A" letter on his chest. Hugo was not amused.
After going off camera for a few seconds, while the LSU and Alabama fans exchanged in some casual banter, Hugo re-emerged. In one swift move, the Hornets mascot nailed the Alabama fan with a whipped cream pie, splattering him much to the delight of the 13,000 fans in attendance. It was a hilarious scene.
For the next few minutes (this was an extremely long timeout), Hugo ran to center court, waving a large LSU flag in front of the faithful in the arena. LSU's alma mater blared over the speakers, and many of the fans began to chant in unison "L-S-U, L-S-U". Les Miles would have been proud.
Not that one incident epitomizes the entire city's feelings on the upcoming game, but you can't help but notice being here that New Orleans is LSU's backyard. The number of fans present here and the amount of purple and gold you see on the streets all point to that central fact.
Now, I don't know whether that atompshere will play a role in determining Monday's winner at all, but it is clear that part two of the "Game of the Century" clearly features LSU as the "home team".
Even Hugo knows that.