"You see that over there?" Spencer asks me. "That's Tiger Bait right there."
The bait's name is Brian Mahon, a cop from Trenton, N.J. Hours earlier, Knuckles, as Mahon is referred to by Dave Media, his partner on the police force for the past 15 years, was reassured by Media and his other LSU friends that the place they were going to watch the game wasn't a Tiger bar. Some friends.
"I got screwed," Mahon, 42, tells me at halftime. "I had no idea till we pulled up."
The night is turning into a bizarre final chapter for both Jefferson and Jarrett Lee, LSU's backup quarterback. Jefferson looks befuddled and frustrated when the lights are shining the brightest and Lee is left on the sidelines with his helmet on, ready for a call from Miles that will never come. Seeing that Alabama sophomore quarterback AJ McCarron is on his way to the kind of efficient, MVP-like performance you'd expect from a fifth-year senior, pockets of the bar are chanting for Lee. They're wondering whether the once-maligned quarterback—who kept the Tigers afloat earlier in the season when Jefferson was suspended, leading them to wins over the eventual Rose Bowl and Orange Bowl champions—will get one more moment to cement his legacy. A young brunette in front of me by the name of Jamie continues to turn around and point at her "Jarrett Lee MVP" button that's on her purple and gold beads, wondering if her guy can come in and clean up this mess of a night. And she will continue to wonder until the clock hits 0:00. For better and for worse, Miles hitched himself to Jefferson and Lee these past four years, which makes the choice to not sit a senior quarterback who is struggling for another senior quarterback who beat Oregon and West Virginia away from Death Valley all the more quizzical. So goes "The Hat."
At 10:41 p.m., hope is restored as Jeremy Shelley misses the 41-yard field goal attempt that would have put the Tide up 15 in the third quarter. Recordings of the LSU band again fill the three-story bar, fans reaching for anything to hang on to. Two minutes later, hope has been dashed as Jefferson is sacked on third down. He's not the most popular guy at this midtown Manhattan bar. And it doesn't get better. At 11:13 p.m., Jefferson is sacked and fumbles it at midfield, and Alabama recovers the ball. The dancing has come to an end, the toasts to the Honey Badger are no more as reality begins to sink in that Saban is going to get one over on them in the rematch that maybe America didn't want. If the plus-one system is eventually implemented, this year will be another example of how it was sorely needed, especially if you ask Mike Gundy in Stillwater, Okla., and Chip Kelly in Eugene, Ore. But don't tell that to this group, not tonight. History was theirs for the taking, this year's Tigers staking their claim as one of the greatest teams to ever come through the SEC. It didn't happen.
Still there amid all that purple and gold, Mahon and his Alabama hoodie are getting all kinds of looks from passersby. What can they say?
"I made it out alive," he tells me, shaking his head as a Gatorade-soaked Saban is answering questions about winning a third BCS title on the big screen. "I'm just happy I made it out alive."