Surrounded by concrete and purple and gold. Bright stadium lights illuminate the smoke from the fireworks. A microcosm of Louisiana itself. From the drunk insurance salesman, to the fraternity pledge with mud on his white button down, to the sassy grandma that hasn’t missed a game in decades. All rooting for the Tigers. Just another night in Death Valley.
Saturday night football games in LSU Tiger Stadium are an experience. One to be had by all. There’s something unique about the Louisiana atmosphere in those moments. A particular expression of the culture in its full dynamic. And you get to be a part of it. A part of the 102,321. A certain unity with something bigger than yourself. Your voice joins in the mass hollering, but doesn’t get lost.
The hype of the environment evokes a response of ecstatic excitement and goosebumps. The powerful moments of the Tigers scoring a touchdown in the north end zone as you create a semi-mosh pit freak out with your best friends can only be understood unless they are lived. The energy is unbelievable. Everyone in harmony with the grandeur of the band. Cheering. Dancing.
However, there was something different that occurred last Saturday before kick-off. Something that struck me, and possibly many other people. The screens played the hype videos, the speakers throbbed with bass, and everyone entered into a spirit of vivacity before the players ran out onto the field. Then, the announcer came over the loud speaker to announce a moment of silence for one of our LSU student-athletes who was shot and killed two nights before. Wow. What an unreal event. Like a switch was flipped. The vibrant energy of the stadium was not sucked out, but it was put on pause. For only a few moments. A strong thirty second pause for silence. This particular section of time that night left a profound impact on me. More than the celebration of the touchdowns. I thought this experience revealed something deep and extensive for all of us to reflect on. Why would a few moments of silence be more powerful for me than hours of noise?
First of all, when each person in the stadium to entered into that time of silence it felt like a miracle was taking place. Not in any cheesy way. But the fact that thousands upon thousands of people losing their minds for college football, immediately obeyed the announcer’s request and went silent. Unbelievable. Whether people were praying, or just thinking, or maybe just counting the seconds until it was over, something bigger was happening. Respect for a life. Respect for the family going through a loss that can not be imagined. In a stadium of chaos, things were still.
These moments of silence gave every person an opportunity. The opportunity for a fact of life to sink into us. Into our hearts. Possibly to change us. To help us feel things, ask questions, acknowledge something other than ourselves. Too many times do I keep busy and stay within the area of noise to let life encounter me in a deeper way. Things happen and they become just traces in the sand. Blown over and forgotten moments later. Events in life are reduced to fleeting thoughts instead of given a chance to impact me as a person. This is why that 30 seconds of silent Saturday night pervaded me. Surprised me. Silence allowed for life to penetrate deeper into my humanity. To feel sorrow for a man that lost his life. To grieve with a family that had their son torn from them. To ask why any of this would happen.