Watching the BCS Championship Game at midtown Manhattan's Legends bar, a bastion of fandom in a city where college football is otherwise ignored
Facing what feels like one of the more insurmountable 9-0 halftime deficits in recent memory, five shots of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey are lined up for LSU fans on the bar at Legends in New York. It doesn't matter that LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson played more like George Jefferson in the first half of the BCS National Championship Game against Alabama or that the Tide's first step on offense and defense trumped the unbeaten Tigers. This is the national title game and it is being played in New Orleans, the site of the two previous LSU national titles in the past decade. Until something other than a third LSU title happens tonight, there's no reason not to throw a damn good party in the process, one that includes whiskey toasts to Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu.
"To the Honey Badger!" a woman in a black Saints shirt yells, leading the brigade as they rip their shots.
More than 1,300 miles away from the Superdome, the 1,000-plus LSU fans—and a handful of brave Alabama fans—that have come to Legends on West 33rd Street act collectively as one of the loudest voices of college football fandom in the city, where major college football remains otherwise ignored.
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SEC purists know what's at stake here. A third national title for LSU in the decade and Les Miles' second in five years, and the team cements itself as the dominant program of the past few years—possibly the best team in SEC history, and for sure the best in the BCS era. If Alabama wins, the team gets titles in two out of three years and gives Nick Saban his third BCS title, the most of any coach in the BCS, period. There will be no "SEC!" chants from the losing fanbase as is the case in most other national title games where SEC fans join in solidarity to recognize the conference's dominance on the college football landscape. "Everyone hates Saban at LSU," one woman says, clarifying LSU's position on Saban—who coached the Tigers from 2000 to 2004 before defecting for a short stint with the Miami Dolphins—in case I wasn't sure already.
In what's arguably the biggest night for SEC football in the BCS era, it's a national holiday for the New York contingency of Bayou Bengal fans. They showed up four and five hours ahead of time for gumbo and shrimp po boys and Bud Lights by the bucket. The three levels of the bar remain covered in Christmas lights and garland with red and gold ornaments. Fans are dancing to Garth Brooks' "Calling Baton Rouge," Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger," and any other song that comes on during the commercial break. If not for Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" coming on, you would have forgotten that the Empire State Building was right outside.
Standing next to me is Spencer, a New York lawyer and '88 alum of LSU's law school.
He says: "I told them they should have petitioned them to shut down the street and put a big-screen TV outside," saying that it got so crowded inside Legends that the doormen started sending people to the overflow bar down the street. "And who really wants to go the overflow bar?"
A lone man in a crimson Alabama hoodie walks toward the front of the bar through the throng of LSU young alums, old alums, T-shirt fans, and people who just enjoy a good party.