Though she’s only 2, Ainsley loves her LSU Tigers. And football.
So to say she was excited for her first game in Tiger Stadium would be the understatement of the century; Santa Claus has nothing on Mike.
She jittered in place as we put on her cheerleader outfit before last year’s Northwestern State game, after having been talked out of sleeping in it the night before.
The ride to the stadium was a montage of “Hey, Fightin’ Tigers” and rapid-fire questions about LSU, tigers, bands, games, foofhall and tailgating.
“Is party, MommyDaddy,” a 11/2-year-old Ainsley asked when we arrived amidst the throng of tailgaters.
Yes, baby. It’s a party.
One like none other.
She was entranced. The sights, sounds and smells threatened sensory overload, but like the little ham that she is, a bit of attention brought her around.
“Cher! Y’all come look at the little baby cheerleader,” one man said, summoning his entire tailgate party.
Bear, of course, ate it up, waving her pom-pom from her daddy’s shoulders.
“She gonna be a cheerleader, yeah! Can you say Geaux Tigers? Hah?”
“Lookit dat baby! Do you want some jambalaya, little cheerleader? Y’all starting her off right!”
“Can you say tiger bait? Are you going to go to LSU when you grow up? Yeah, she’s gonna be a cheerleader.”
“You see that big tiger? What do tigers say? Can you roar? Momma, can she have some gumbo?”
Every once in a while, she’d try out her version of “Geaux Tigers,” much to the joy of one tailgate party or another.
When the Tiger Band began its march down Victory Hill, she clapped and yelled. When we got in the stadium and found our seats, she thought the applause for the warming-up players was for her.
She danced to “Calling Baton Rouge.” She roared with the crowd at pregame.
She learned what to do when the band played “Chinese Bandits.”
Then she fell asleep at halftime and we made our way back to the car, this time with less commentary, though one or two couldn’t resist a peep at the sleeping cheerleader.
Let no one say there’s a tailgate party that even comes close to Saturday afternoons around Tiger Stadium. All it takes is to ask what smells good or where they got something, and you’re handed a bowl or a cup. Fans of visiting teams may get one or two “Tiger bait!” calls, but, more likely, they’re going to be invited to sit down and share a meal or a drink.
I’m not going to say there aren’t a few bad apples out there, and, like with any gathering of hundreds of thousands of people, there’s bound to be a little trouble. But by and large, it’s a good crowd.
No, it’s a great crowd.
Especially for a little cheerleader.
Beth Colvin is The Advocate’s assistant Food editor. She can be reached at bcolvin@the
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