Strelow column: The show must go on

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 30, 2008

BATON ROUGE, La. ó The loud roar of two jets performing a flyover caught some LSU students off-guard as they walked across campus shortly after 10 a.m. on Friday.
At the same time this morning, the show will go on inside Tiger Stadium.
The threat imposed by Hurricane Gustav, which shed its tropical-storm status Friday afternoon, forced officials to adjust the kickoff time for today’s season-opening football game between Appalachian State and LSU.
Originally set to begin at 8 p.m. EST, the start time was moved up three hours for television purposes. The Mountaineers will now meet LSU at 11 a.m. EST ó or 10 a.m. local time ó in a contest televised by ESPN Classic.
The latest change ó requested by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office ó came on the three-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina striking New Orleans and surrounding areas.
“The impending situation is certainly more important than football, so we aren’t upset in the least by the time change,” Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore said in a statement. “We’ll be ready to play (Saturday) morning and will keep the people along the Gulf Coast in our prayers.”
The decision was made because of concerns about traffic generated by people fleeing north from North Orleans. Switching the kickoff time beat the alternative, which was postponing the game altogether.
Sept. 13 is the only open date on Appalachian’s schedule, and LSU will play host to North Texas that day. North Texas and LSU both have byes on Nov. 15, so postponing their matchup until that date would have been necessary to make a later meeting between Appalachian and LSU possible.
The Mountaineers won’t play in a half-empty Tiger Stadium as the Carolina Panthers did in 2005, but no one knows for sure what kind of atmosphere awaits Appalachian. “Death Valley” is widely considered the nation’s toughest venue for a road opponent, especially when the game is at night.
LSU’s band will not perform in Tiger One Village, and none of the regularly scheduled parties will be held across the street from the stadium in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. The same arena was used as a triage center for Katrina victims three years ago.
“10 a.m. is obviously not the optimal time for a football game,” former Duke and current LSU athletics director Joe Alleva said, “but when one of the options was to not play the game at all, this is a matter of making the best of an unfortunate situation.”
The other scenario would have frustrated and angered fans, including many from North Carolina, who had made plans to be in Baton Rouge today. I shared a flight to New Orleans with several Appalachian supporters Thursday and spotted more ASU shirts on Bourbon Street later that night.
The potential for bad weather caused officials from the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs to cancel home games scheduled for Sunday and Monday, meaning the team will complete its season today. East Rowan graduate Bobby Parnell likely would have started for the Zephyrs on Sunday, so there’s a good chance he’ll pitch in New York before taking the mound again in New Orleans. The Mets are expected to call him up when rosters expand Monday.
As for me, I had planned to watch Parnell pitch on Sunday and leave New Orleans on Monday night. I now hope ó weather permitting ó to depart Sunday with what my father guessed will be a strong tailwind.
Getting to see Appalachian and LSU in action will make the trip worthwhile, even if the Mountaineers don’t pull off another shocking upset.

Bret Strelow is in Baton Rouge covering Appalachian State vs. LSU for the Post.