No joy in hosting this game - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

No joy in hosting this game

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Posted: Tuesday, September 6, 2005 6:48 am | Updated: 7:26 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

It was the right thing to do. I can understand why Louisiana State University officials were reluctant to move Saturday’s game against Arizona State to Sun Devil Stadium.

People in Louisiana could use a diversion from Hurricane Katrina, even if only for a few hours, and even for something as irrelevant as a football game.

But it would have been incredibly insensitive, if not callous, to spend a Saturday tailgating, drinking beer and going nuts for four quarters of football when a triage center has been set up in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center across the street, the track next door is being used as a helipad to transport evacuees, and an auxiliary gymnasium on campus has been transformed into a makeshift morgue.

College football may be big in Baton Rouge, but the city has more important matters to deal with these days — like life and death.

Beyond the sheer emotional argument, there were practical reasons for the site change.

Hotel rooms in Baton Rouge have been filled by evacuees from New Orleans. What was ASU supposed to do, kick them out of the Holiday Inn to make way for their traveling party, which required 123 rooms?

There were also issues with security, transportation and food. Baton Rouge barely has enough resources to deal with the ever-growing number of refugees in its city, much less the logistics of staging a football game in front of 92,000 fans.

Here’s a question: What if an LSU or ASU player were seriously injured in the game? Would there have been a hospital room or an ambulance available? Should there have been an ambulance available?

"We didn’t want to interfere with the recovery effort in any way," LSU athletic director Skip Bertman said.

ASU senior associate athletic director Tom Collins toured Baton Rouge on Sunday to determine whether it was feasible — and rational — to hold the game there.

His first stop was the Holiday Inn. The rooms were filled, and the power was out in parts of the hotel.

He drove by the triage center, saw the helicopters and, after a couple of hours, came to understand the massive effort needed to make some sort of order out of the chaos.

And why playing a football game in the midst of all that would be wrong.

"It was clear to them by the end of our visit that we had legitimate questions," Collins said. "I was concerned about bringing a football team there."

So it’s here now. ESPN will bring its cameras. The Fiesta Bowl will pay for LSU’s lodging and meals in the Valley. ASU will donate any profits above staging costs — about $1 million if the stadium is full — to the Hurricane Katrina relief fund.

Two top-20 teams will meet in a game with national title implications, and for three-plus hours college football fans will be in for a treat.

Let’s be clear on one point, though: No ASU fan should be happy that the game’s been moved. A tragedy of unimaginable proportions has occurred, and to revel in the fact the Sun Devils have a better chance to win now that they’re at home, well, that’s sick.

In fact, there shouldn’t be a single boo, heckle or catcall directed LSU’s way on Saturday. Many of the Tiger players have been directly impacted by the hurricane; some have turned their apartments into refugee centers for family and friends.

They deserve your sympathy — and your applause —when they step onto the field at Sun Devil Stadium Saturday and when they walk off the field. No matter the score. Bertman said Monday that moving the game was an "incredibly hard decision." It was the only decision to make. For how would it have looked to play the game in Tiger Stadium, whose nickname, sadly, now reflects life there. Death Valley.

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