In Louisiana, back up in the canebrakes and crawfish swamps, there are places where you can get a beer and a beating for $2. And you might get the beating before the beer shows up if you start talking too loud and too fondly about Nick Saban. That’s how football season is down here right about now when it is still too hot to be called fall. Besides, football is not a season anyway, unless your insuance agent gave to a messed up calendar back in January. We play football pretty much 24 months out of the year. And some of us are so passionate we have pop knots up side our heads to prove it.
I know a woman in Alabama who had a whole dress made of houndstooth back in the 1970’s to honor Coach Paul Bryant. There’s a man in Florida who had Steve Spurrier’s face tattoo’d on his forearm. Since the Old Ball Coach is now in South Carolina, he is probably rethinking that decision. I asked him why he did not tattoo Urban Meyer on his other forearm. He just looked at me like I was stupid.
A couple of weeks ago, just before a storm blew in from the Gulf, I drove into a little place just big enough to throw a boubin ball through a hole in a cypress board wall that was painted purple and gold. Sure enough, there was the beer for $2 dollar sign above a picture of Les Miles, Archie Manning, Huey Long and a church fan with Jesus smiling in a bass boat next to what looked like a hunting dog. The beating was not far behind.
As I admired that church fan and prepared to ask where I could purchase one, two big boys got into a heated argument about LSU and Arkansas. As I waited for some fried fish, they started cussing and swinging. Between the purple wall, their largesse, and me I figured my fish sandwich was going to be a victim. I was wrong.
I heard something behind me and when I turned around to look, it was a fist. It hit me right in the ear. And if you’ve even been hit in the ear by anything, you know it hurts. How a fist could work its way out of their fight and onto my ear is a mystery, but there it was.
I abandoned my wait for the fish sandwich and bent over, heading towards the ripped screen door, so as not to get hit again. And I got hit again, in the other ear.
I’m a peaceful man most of the time, but that was about all I could take. After spurning the desire to swing a metal chair across the bug-eyed grappler’s faces, I went out to the the truck instead, ears swelling while I grabbed two boxes of MoonPies and returned to the thumping building, peeping in about the time the LSU guy’s head bounced off a cooler, the front of his torn t-shirt splattered the color of Saban’s Tide, which he would not have liked at all.
As they flailed and cracked their skint knuckles on chipped teeth and busted noses, I started lobbing MoonPies through the door like grenades, a technique I saw on “Saving Private Ryan.” One box into it, they stopped fighting. I waited outside next to the door, afraid to look it since I was out of ears. Feeling pretty proud that my MoonPies had the power to calm a couple of 300-pounders in full head-smacking mode, I turned to walk away; going over the various ways I would tell this wonderful story of how MoonPies stopped a fight. The wonderful story, however, lasted about 3 minutes before they started up their sweaty fist swinging all over. So I tucked the second box of pies like a handoff, ran across the oystershell lot, cranked my truck and figured all I had done was provide some halftime snacks for their football fight. Which is not the happy ending I had hoped for. But that is how football season plays out around here. Sometimes good intentions turn into swollen ears and wasted MoonPies. A week later I had to drive back through on my way home and could not help but stop by to ask the owner about the outcome of the altercation – and, if I’m honest, to check on the Jesus fan I wanted.
As I gingerly entered the front door, there sat the two big boys, scuffed-up, lips split, eyes puffy. They were drinking beers and laughing about Miley Cyrus. The beer was still $2, but apparently the beating was not on the menu today.