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Silver Threads: Old-time football meant watching LSU in real time

Have you heard the joke about the man from Breaux Bridge whose daughter was elected president of the United States? She called him up and said she expected him to come to Washington for the inauguration ceremony and parties that night. When he protested that his truck probably couldn’t make it that far and anyway he didn’t have good enough clothes for the festivities, she said she’d send airline tickets, a limo to meet him and take him to the Capitol, and a new suit and tuxedo.

He got to town and was sitting in the stands, watching all the bigwigs file by for the swearing-in, when a senator’s wife leaned over and gushed, “This must be a mighty big day for you, Sir! You must be very proud of that daughter of yours.”

“Oh, I’m verree proud,” replied the old Cajun, leaning over confidentially, “but her brother, he played for LSU!“

Now that the Tigers have gotten off to a good start for the season, are you ready to watch the Saints go marching in and “run down a little bitty cow pasture and try to get to the other end without either getting knocked down or steppin’ in something”? If you’re not, then you’re way younger than I am, and you need to get online and search for “What it was, was football”/Andy Griffith, and you’ll be on YouTube and in on this joke, too.

Andy did that classic stand-up comedy routine in 1953, the year I graduated high school and five years after my husband remembers local TV cameramen coming out to a Fortier High School football game to practice their technique for the upcoming Sugar Bowl. It’s hard to believe that until that fall, New Orleanians weren’t lounging on their living room couches, eyes glued to television sets every Friday and Saturday, watching prep and college games.

I guess that in the meantime football fans listened to the contests on the radio, but that’s something I know nothing about, gridiron afficianado that I wasn’t. In defense, I’ll offer growing up in a house with a mother, grandmother, two sisters, a toddler brother, and a father addicted only to baseball.

I don’t remember going to games in high school, except on special occasions like homecoming, and that was to show off my new outfit — and date, if I had one. We girls dressed to the proverbial nines for football games. As much as I deplore the current lack of standards in dress, I sure recognize the fact that it’s a lot easier to climb up to your seat in a stadium if you’re wearing pants and sneakers. What were we thinking?

Anyhow, football was something I understood strictly from Andy Griffith’s point of view. When I got to college, the Saturday night home game was a big deal, but I just couldn’t get it. In the first place, knowing nothing about downs, I was confused when everybody stood up and cheered despite the fact that no touchdown had been made. I was in the dark as to what had happened that got everybody so excited.

I did like the band, the cheerleaders and the drunks — freshmen frat boys had a habit of over-imbibing with almost any excuse — but even those entertainments paled after about three games and the time a tipsy Alpha, in danger of tea-kettle-ing down the stadium slope, put his hand on my shoulder and smashed my chrysanthemum corsage.

So one time, having a date with an actual football player for after the game, I developed the strategy of going to the movies at the edge of the campus and then showing up for the finale. It worked out well but the boy and I didn’t, so from then on I just went to the movies, period.

It saved a lot of unnecessary dressing up — and confusion, too.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at


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