FROM THE SIDELINE: THE LSU TAILGATING EXPERIENCE
MizzouInsiderZone.com contributor Charlie Clarke takes a look at the tailgating that took place at the Tigers rare road game at LSU
By Charlie Clarke
Saturday marked Missouri football’s first trip to Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to play the LSU Tigers.
Mizzou lost 42-7, but many Missouri fans and at least one reporter experienced the well-known game day traditions surrounding Death Valley on fall Saturdays.
Prior to Saturday night’s matchup, I walked around and intermingled with some LSU fans to get a taste of their tailgating routines. I arrived on the grounds of Tiger Stadium at noon. Despite a 6:30 p.m. kickoff, the parking lots were packed outside of Death Valley upon my arrival.
I spent much of the day with the hospitable Navarre family and its friends at its RV tailgate but I also walked around for a bit during the day to explore the scene. One particular tailgate stood out and symbolized what I saw on Saturday.
Meet Troy Thibodeaux, a lifetime Louisianan who has been attending LSU games as an alumnus since he graduated from Louisiana State in 1988. Thibodeaux refused to identify himself as the leader of his tailgate, but said he’s “usually the guy that’s doing the talking.”
The tailgate he helps run is centered around a large, old purple bus labeled “The Unsupervised Bus.” The bus has been the hub of Thibodeaux’s tailgating scenes for the last 12 years.
“There were seven or eight guys in construction management at LSU. They picked up the bus for like $600,” Thibodeaux said. “They stripped all of the insides out and renovated it. Now, it sleeps 10.”
Thibodeaux and his friends showed up for the LSU vs. Mizzou contest at 5:00 p.m. on Friday evening. Five people slept in the bus on Friday night. Thibodeaux said that sometimes up to 12 people sleep on the bus prior to games.
The Unsupervised Bus is loaded. The bus is equipped with bunk beds, two LED TVs on the inside and one on the outside, a 20-foot projector screen, a digital touchscreen jukebox and more. On the outside of the bus, the tailgate features a pair of tents, tables for food and games, and a tiger-striped coffin doubling as an ice chest.
Thibodeaux’s tailgate epitomizes southern hospitality. On top of offering me food and drinks, something many LSU tailgates do, The Unsupervised Bus rolls out its 20-foot projector come game time and hosts ticket-less fans across the Tiger Stadium surroundings.
“A few of us stay back to have a party and host all of the people who don’t have tickets and want to watch the game,” Thibodeaux said. “We have a good crowd out here and just party until it’s over.”
Despite essentially filling Tiger Stadium to its 102,321-person capacity for every home game, many LSU fans claim there to be around 200,000 people and often times more tailgating for LSU games. The parking lots are still full of purple and gold come game time each week.
Bleacher Report ranked LSU second in 2015 and third in 2016 among top tailgating schools in the country. Unsurprisingly, LSU fans feel they have the best tailgating scene in the United States.
“As far as sheer tailgating intensity, the two that stick out to me are Florida and Alabama,” Thibodeaux said. “But I think we’ve got the best tailgating all around, food-wise and hospitality-wise.”
The Unsupervised Bus hasn’t yet seen a tailgating scene that has topped LSU’s. The bus used to travel to road games, but due to the deteriorating condition of the bus, Troy and his crew haven’t been going to as many road games. The traveling became too much when the bus started being carried on a trailer carried by a semi to other SEC destinations. The Unsupervised Bus now generally sits at home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Prior to the bus’ creation, a fragment of the group tailgated with a trailer. But throughout decades of attending LSU football games, Thibodeaux and co. have been hospitable to nearly every fan that has come by.
“Our bottom line is we take all comers and we don’t charge anything,” Thibodeaux said. “You want food, you want beer, you want to come hang out and have a good time? That’s what we’re here for.”
LSU football games often start in the evening, fitting the “Saturday Night in Death Valley” title. While an open day allows LSU fans to relax and/or stay at home, many head over to Tiger Stadium at the break of dawn and even earlier. The dedication and hospitality of LSU fans help make tailgating outside Death Valley almost as much of a Tiger tradition as watching LSU football.