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Celtic Pride: Can Ya Feel It?

Let’s get something straight: these are not your father’s Celtics.They are not led by the “Big Three”. They don’t play in the musty heat box colloquially known as “The Gaahden”. And until they hang banner #17 over the famed parquet floor and collect the requisite hardware, they will only be another on a lengthy list of exceptional Celtic teams to fall short of greatness. Call me a hater, call me a cynic (I am neither), but like it or not that’s the basketball standard in Beantown; the standard set by the Russells and Havliceks and Birds and McHales. It’s a standard that, in light of tragedy and incompetence, was almost wiped clean from our memories.

Now it’s back and as relevant as ever. Celtic Pride, it would seem, is the ultimate double-edged sword, though I sense few complaints these days. The TD Banknorth Garden is being mentioned in the same breath as “The Garden”. Pierce, Allen and Garnett are drawing comparisons to Bird, McHale and Parish. The Celtics as a whole are being compared to the Patriots. The crazy thing? All are legitimate utterances, albeit totally premature. However, I didn’t decide to write this column now for no reason.

Two days after Christmas, the Green beat the Sonics in Seattle for their twenty-fourth win. They won 24 games last year too. With 55 more losses. Symmetry, and its eye-opening implications, that’s the first reason for the timing of this piece. Second is the fact that with 27 games now in the books and the C’s standing at 24-3, they have played exactly one-third of the season and are squarely on pace to tie the ’96 Bulls single-season NBA-record of 72 wins. Last, and most jaw-dropping, is this: no team in Celtics history, not a single one of 16 world champions, has ever begun a season better than 23-3.

Two obvious questions have emerged: 1) Can the Celtics win 72 games? and 2) Can the Celtics win the NBA title? After the Celtics-Sonics game, which aired on TNT, Charles Barkley and his sidekick Kenny Smith debated basically that. Actually, Smith started it by saying that Boston is officially “flirting with the Bulls.” That innuendo set off Barkley, who vehemently objected to such a proclamation, retorting that, “If they win 72 games I’ll walk from here to Phoenix…in a speedo.” Let the record show that TNT headquarters are in Atlanta (and who’s to say Barkley doesn’t walk from his hotel to the studio in a speedo everyday?). But I digress.

The fact is that this discussion has reached the highest echelons of the NBA media–for the uninitiated, Sir Charles sits alone on his throne at the top while Smith is his most esteemed dignitary–which is a good thing not only for the Celtics, but for basketball. Back to the original questions. Yes, the Celtics could win 72 games. Yes, the Celtics could win the NBA title. No, there’s not a shot in hell they could do both.

First, let’s show why they are capable of attaining greatness in some form. For the sake of argument, we’ll agree that 72 wins and a loss to the Spurs in the Finals is still a type of greatness, even if it’s an obvious notch below 60 wins and a championship (I believe this idea has been exhausted by the whole what-if-the-Patriots-are-18-0-and-lose-the-Super Bowl brouhaha).

You often hear coaches and analysts saying, it’s not just that they’re winning games, it’s the way in which they’re winning them. This couldn’t be more applicable. The Celtics are tops in the NBA in arguably the most important category, opponents field goal percentage. Teams are converting only 41 percent of their shots against Boston, while the C’s overall field goal percentage is 47 percent (3rd in the NBA). They are also shooting the ball exceptionally well from beyond the three-point arc, a vital aspect of championship teams since the shot was invented about 25 years ago. At 39 percent, the Celtics’ long range shooting is bested by only Toronto. They are also sharing the ball with the fluidity and unselfishness of a throwback team. As a squad they are averaging almost six assists more than their opponents, good for second in the league.

That all adds up to 24 victories in 27 tries by an average of 13.9 points per game, far and away the best in the league (Detroit is second at 9.4). Let’s also not forget that their three losses came 1) at Orlando, a game in which they were down 20 and came back only to have Paul Pierce miss a potential game-winning shot, 2) at Cleveland, when they succumbed in overtime after Lebron dropped 11 in the extra session, and 3) in Boston against Detroit by two points earned at the charity stripe by Chauncey Billups, an NBA Finals MVP. In other words, this team is either going to beat you into submission or make you work 48 grueling minutes (or more) for a single win. That’s the mark of a dominant team, a history-making team. And that’s the reason the 2007-08 Celtics could win 72 games.


Unlike football, where the Patriots will have the benefit of a bye-week in the postseason to justify playing their starters in a ‘meaningless’ regular season finale, the Celtics will be granted no such luxury come April. The NBA playoffs are long. Very, very long. Fittingly for the Green, it will take 16 wins to pave the way to and make official that elusive championship number-17. The “16 to 17” mantra will assuredly be collectively tougher to harness than the “three games to glory” blueprint the Patriots have established and replicated this decade. Don’t get me wrong; winning even a single game in the NFL Playoffs, let alone three, is supremely difficult (but the Patriots are the Patriots).

In the case of the Celtics, beating four different teams four times is harder. Age is absolutely the deciding factor. If Paul, KG and Ray were 27, 28 and 29, and surrounded by a couple of crafty veterans, I’d say the Bulls’ 72 and 16 was matchable. But Pierce is 30, Garnett is 31 and Allen is 32. That makes a huge difference when talking about a minimum-100 game season. So the easy answer will be to get the three stars some time to collect their breath before the real games commence.

Then there’s the point guard factor. Rajon Rondo has already made strides through the first third of this season, but don’t be fooled; he still must make half of a quantum leap if he wants to entertain any notions of piloting a championship team, head to head against Billups, Steve Nash and Tony Parker (two of whom he’ll inevitably have to clash with).

I’ve said from the beginning that the Celtics would be back in the NBA Finals this year, and obviously have no reason to waver from that assertion. But 72 preceding 17? Well that’s still a whole other thing. Those pertinent questions won’t even hint at being answered until March, and ultimately, June.

Kenny Smith, even if he was justifiably shot down by Sir Charles, probably summed it up best: the Celtics are flirting with the Bulls. As the final hours tick down on 2007, that much is undeniable. While flirtation is usually fleeting, let’s be real: these days, even cynics would find it difficult to contend that the Celtics’ run is destined to be short-lived.

NFL Playoff Picture

Two weeks left. Lot’s to be hashed out, except at the top. In the AFC, the Patriots have clinched home field throughout the playoffs and the Colts have secured the vital second bye. The Packers and Cowboys have both clinched byes in the NFC, but with identical 12-2 records, home field is still up in the air. Dallas owns the tiebreaker against Green Bay by virtue of its head to head victory, so if the Cowboys win out (at Carolina, at Washington), the top spot will be theirs.

After that it gets complicated. Eight teams will be playing wild card weekend, with three (Tampa Bay, Seattle, San Diego) already clinching their respective divisions. While the Bucs, Seahawks and Chargers are in, it remains to be seen whether those teams will end up with #3 or #4 seeds. That leaves four teams (Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Jacksonville and Tennessee) battling for three spots in the AFC, and four teams (New York, Washington, Minnesota and New Orleans) duking it out for two spots in the NFC. So who’ll still be playing football on the first weekend of 2008?


Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-5) at San Francisco; versus Carolina

Best case scenario NFC #3 seed

It’s likely that…The Bucs will be the #4 seed and host a wild card game. They’ve already capped off another zany NFC South season in which the last place team from the previous year wins the division. Though even at 11-5, if they want the third seed they’ll still need help from Seattle, a team they lost to in Week 1. The Bucs defense has a few of the usual suspects (Derek Brooks, Ronde Barber, Greg Spires) from past squads, as well as some new faces (Cato June and Kevin Carter). Combined they’ve led a unit that is tied for best in the NFL in points allowed (15.6) and third in total defense.

Seattle Seahawks (9-5) versus Baltimore; at Atlanta

Best case scenario NFC #3 seed

It’s likely that…The Hawks will beat the NFL implosions better known as the Ravens and Falcons and snag the third seed. Who would have thought that a 20-6 Week 1 victory over the Bucs would be the difference between the #3 and #4 slots in the NFC? Not many. What is established is the Seahawks have proved themselves to be the NFC’s best closing team. Their success over the last four years makes it difficult to label them a “dark horse”, but let’s be clear about one thing: Seattle doesn’t lose postseason games at Qwest Field

Washington Redskins (7-7) at Minnesota; versus Dallas

Best case scenario NFC #6 seed

It’s likely that…A promising season turned-tragic after the loss of Sean Taylor will end just short of the playoffs for the Redskins. To mentally and emotionally regroup enough to win two of three football games after such a trying time is remarkable. Taylor was the probably the team’s MVP before his murder, which has made it even more difficult to bounce back for Washington. For the Skins to have a realistic chance they have to win both of their remaining games. Right now it seems like even a split is implausible.

Minnesota Vikings (8-6) versus Washington; at Denver

Best case scenario NFC #5 seed

It’s likely that…The Vikings beat Washington and lose to Denver, securing the final NFC playoff spot. Behind Adrian Peterson, Minnesota has looked downright frightening throughout their current five-game winning streak. Included in that run were decisive wins against the Giants and Lions, which primed the Vikings for the playoff push they’re in the middle of. It’s tough to sustain that high level of play for an extended period of time. It’s possible the Vikings will sew up a playoff spot this week. Either way, a game in frosty Denver at Mile High against a bitter Broncos team will be a tall order for a young Vikings team.

New Orleans Saints (7-7) versus Philadelphia; at Chicago

Best case scenario NFC #6 seed

It’s likely that…The Saints will break even at 8-8 and end up on the outside looking in. Very rarely does a team start 0-4 and even sniff the playoffs, but that’s exactly what the Saints have done. However there is truly no room for error when trying to rebound from such a horrid first quarter, and the Saints erred big time two weeks ago. When the season is over, they’ll look back at the game they gave away against Tampa Bay as the death blow to their improbable turnaround.

New York Giants (9-5) at Buffalo; versus New England

Best case scenario NFC #5 seed

It’s likely that…The Giants will knock off Buffalo and clinch a playoff berth before using the Patriots game as a bye week to prepare for the playoffs. There has been endless debate in New York about whether or not the Giants should try to prevent history and load up the chambers for a war with the Patriots. While a full-strength Giants team could present a formidable challenge to the Patriots perfect season quest, it makes no sense. Preparing a team to advance in the playoffs is all that matters. Expect Tom Coughlin to follow that script.


San Diego Chargers (9-5) versus Denver; at Oakland

Best case scenario AFC #3 seed

It’s likely that...The Chargers take the #3 seed after rolling over Denver and Oakland. Lest we forget these are the same players that went 14-2 last year. Norv Turner may not be as good of a regular season coach as Marty Schottenheimer, but there’s no way he can be as bad of a playoff coach as his predecessor. If there’s one divisional round game I’m already looking ahead to, it’s Colts-Chargers. Remember, San Diego is the only team other than New England to beat the Colts this year, and they are playing much better football than they were when the two teams last met, in early November.

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5) at St. Louis; at Baltimore

Best case scenario AFC #3 seed

It’s likely that…The Steelers recover from their lull, put Anthony Smith’s ludicrous and juvenile “guarantee” behind them and hold off the charging-Browns in the AFC North, which will give them the fourth seed and a home game in the first round of the playoffs. The Pittsburgh “Steel City” defense has let them down in both crucial facets of the game the last two weeks, against the Patriots and Jaguars. First they watched Tom Brady throw for 399 yards, then they got run over by Jacksonville’s rushing offense, which gained over 200 yards on the ground. Troy Polamalu will be key to the Steelers righting the ship defensively.

Cleveland Browns (9-5) at Cincinnati; versus San Francisco

Best case scenario AFC #3 seed

It’s likely that…The Browns wrap up the final AFC playoff spot with a win against the 49ers. If they hadn’t lost twice to the Steelers, Cleveland would be controlling its own destiny in the AFC North. Regardless, it’s been a special season for Romeo Crennel and Derek Anderson in the city that rocks. It’s appearing more and more unlikely that the Browns and Steelers will meet for a third time in the wild card round, but if that ends up being the case, an old rivalry could really heat up.

Jacksonville Jaguars (10-4) versus Oakland; at Houston

Best case scenario AFC #5 seed

It’s likely that…The Jaguars will again be a 12-win wild card team because they’re in a division with the Colts. Most recently, in 2005, the Jags won 12 games (more than each wild card team) and were forced to go on the road to New England in the first round because of the Colts. Even on the road they will be a tough out, as they proved with their win in Pittsburgh last week. Fred Taylor is the most under-appreciated running back of the last decade and David Garrard runs as efficient an offense as there is in the league.

Tennessee Titans (8-6) versus NY Jets; at Indianapolis

Best case scenario AFC #6 seed

It’s likely that…Like last year, the Titans will end up being the AFC team with too little too late. Like the Saints, Tennessee committed the cardinal sin in the NFL by blowing a playoff-like game late in the season. Against San Diego, the Titans had a chance to kill the clock and secure a victory, but failed. Now, unless they win out and get some help, they too will be scorning an opportunity lost.

Stretch Run for the Patriots

And so the rat returns to face the perpetrator. Now it’ll get interesting.

Or perhaps not.

The Patriots are 13-0, one win away from joining the ’72 Dolphins as the only team to win fourteen regular season games without a loss. Unforeseen nail-biters against Philly and Baltimore are in the rear-view; so too is a dispatching of the Steelers, formerly billed as “the last hurdle”. All that’s left to tackle (among an assortment of Jets, Dolphins and Giants) is history. The formality of formalities.

While Patriots-speak forbids peering down the road at what may be, it’s nearly impossible not to see the finish line taking form. On Sunday against the Jets, be it rain or shine, well predicted-Nor’easter or meteorological hype, the Patriots are going to hand Mangini’s boys a beating. It’s going to be fun, for sure, but interesting? All the media wants to know is what will ultimatley be icier: the conditions on the field in Foxborough or the post-massacre handshake between coaches. While Coach Bill would never reveal a goal loftier than winning one football game that’s next on the schedule, the eternally curt-Belichick gave writers and fans a singular slice of something other than humble pie during his midweek press conference leading up to the Jets game.

The questions were naturally focused on how “the handshake” would go down, to which the monotonous guru responded predictably: “Right now my focus is on getting ready for the New York Jets.” Mmm hmm.

Anything else, coach?

“High-fives, I haven’t really thought too much about that,” he continued. “Cartwheels.”

Whoa, rewind that. Was that (gulp!) humor emanating from the robotic minister of Patriots information? Did the coach’s inner comedian suffer a Freudian slip? Uh, no. Judging from the wily smirk that followed the quip, in a moment that brought brief but distinct animation to an otherwise insipid public persona, it sure as heck seemed like Bill was temporarily deviating from the token replies established by his personally accumulated guidebook to press conferences, “Belichick Media Responses 1A through 999Z”. In a split second Bill delivered a one-two punch that left the press corps reeling. First a joke…then a grin??

Since it is common knowledge that at the podium Belichick doesn’t so much as scratch his nose without calculation, one could only wonder what he was really trying to say. I mean we are talking about a guy whose total number of recorded smiles in his Patriots-tenure could be counted on one hand.

Was he foreshadowing a rehearsed post-game routine that would involve pirouettes and would thoroughly rub bitter defeat in the face of his protege-turned-squealer? Nah, Bill’s never really been the melodramatic type. More probable is the possibility that he was using some media-driven triviality to express his general feelings about the state of Patriot-affairs at this point in the 2007 season. Because from a Patriots point of view, things are looking so downright peachy these days, apparently a smile was in order.

The goal of Belichick’s Patriots since he took over the team in 2000 has always been the same: get to the games that matter, the games in December and January, and enter those games as the stronger and more meticulously prepared team. When the weather gets colder and the season is already 12-odd games in the books, it is schemes, game-planning and the mental toughness to go sixty minutes that come to the forefront. Under Bill, with countless different inserted-working parts over the years, it is in those circumstances that the Patriots have thrived.

Since 2001, New England has gone a combined 38-7 (.844) over the last month of the regular season and through the playoffs. Belichick and Brady are 12-2 in the postseason together. Translation: this is their time. So what does this have to do with one smirk from Belichick in relation to a very specific topic? In this sportswriters opinion, everything.

What Belichick now sees, even if he’ll never come close to admitting it, is the perfection he’s sought since before this latest Jets game, before CameraGate and even before the start of the ’07 campaign. It all began back in Indy last January, in the AFC Championship. The Patriots were supposed to win that game. Belichick knew it. Brady knew it. Josh McDaniels and Scott Pioli and the Kraft’s knew it. We all did. The Patriots were up to their old tricks: they were beating a team with superior talent on the biggest stage simply by being mentally and physically tougher, by being better-coached, by making fewer mistakes, and by collectively knowing that they’d make the one game-changing play required to advance or win a championship.

But they didn’t. They couldn’t. For once it was the Patriots’ opposition that was able to make the adjustments. For once it was the other team making the championship-clinching play. For the first time since Belichick and Brady hooked up, the “inferior talent but superior team” factor that had defined the glory of their improbable triumphs against the Rams and Steelers and previous Colts’ outfits had finally come back to bite them in the rear. Against Indy, they were again outmatched skill-wise, but the difference was this time they actually lost the game.

Thus commenced an entire shift in the modus operandi of the Patriots’ brass. Never again would a lack of talent thwart the Patriots in their quest to become the franchise that redefined NFL-history. So in trotted Adalius Thomas, Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte Stallworth. Perfection was the un-divulged goal from square one. However, before this new team even had a chance to come together, Eric Mangini broke an unspoken coaches code–throwing kerosene on a fire that had started burning in Indy last year–and morphed a New England goal into a Patriot-vendetta.

No one said it would be easy, and as much as Belichick and his team believed it could happen, perfection would still have to be earned. After storming back against the Colts and surviving the Ravens, the Patriots have shown they are up to the task.

Yes, they still have six more games before goals can be achieved and vendettas settled. But the point is, this is their time. Games against the lowly Jets, the hapless Dolphins and the Giants jayvee squad will formalize a perfect 16-0 season and put the Patriots exactly where they want to be: in Foxborough with two games at Gillette for the right to return to the Super Bowl.

Indeed, I gleaned all this conjecture from a single smirk. But I’ll ask you this: if we’ve already seen Belichick crack a smile this season, a happening that in past years has only been witnessed after an Adam Vinatieri title-winning kick, what could still be to come?

I for one have a feeling he’s saving the cartwheels for Phoenix.

LSU’s Wild Ride to the Big Game

As soon as LSU conquered the land’s toughest football conference last Saturday, the Tigers and their loyal pack were resigned to the hard truth that a possible BCS crown had already been lost. SEC champions for the first time since its last national championship in 2003, LSU knew it wouldn’t be enough. A computer–in conjunction with writers and coaches–had decided that a couple of one loss teams, West Virginia and Missouri, were superior to the twice-downed-in-triple-overtime Tigers. And that was that.

Only a miracle could save the Tigers. Actually two.

Check that, two and a half.

Miracle number one came in the form of the formidable Oklahoma Sooners. Oklahoma too had seen its title hopes crushed after a loss at Texas Tech. Oklahoma still found its way to the Big 12 championship game, where the perennial conference power-Sooners faced Missouri, a team it had already beaten by ten points earlier in the season. Accordingly Oklahoma was favored entering the rematch with the top-ranked Tigers. They pummeled Missouri for a second time, this bout by three touchdowns, which ultimately raised the question: which occurrence was more miraculous–Oklahoma beating the number one team in the country or the number one team in the country being Missouri? Subjectivity aside, Missouri was out but all that meant was Ohio State was in.

LSU needed miracle number two, the true miracle, to have a realistic shot of leapfrogging the five teams necessary for securing second place in the final BCS standings. The game in question was #2 West Virginia hosting unranked Pittsburgh. Also known as “The Backyard Brawl”, WVU-Pitt is traditionally adequately summed up by its joint-nickname. The key word being “traditionally”. This season West Virginia, led by quarterback and Heisman-candidate Pat White, had staked its claim as a national contender while Pitt had languished as Big East bottom-feeders. With the line Las Vegas had set, West Virginia by 29 points, it appeared that a backyard beat-down was in the cards. Didn’t happen. The Panthers shocked the mortified Mountaineers and their rugged fans, 13-9. By the time LSU’s charter flight from Atlanta had landed in Baton Rouge, the table was set.

What needed to happen next was for the Tigers to get the official invitation to dinner–a summons that would only be proposed at the behest of a computer.

Due to the convoluted nature of the BCS mathematical formula and the fact that the entire system was being tested by a handful of teams all vying for the desired permutation that would spit them out in the top two, the human element was going to be crucial. Since the polls (Harris and Coaches) represent two-thirds of the BCS compilation, the six computer rankings used as the other third of the BCS formula were going to hold far less weight. As long as there was a consensus between polls on the number two team in the country, the BCS do-dad would likely concur.

So LSU had to wait for one more small miracle by putting its fate in the hands of the voters, who as we all know can be fickle at times. One of four teams–LSU, Georgia, Oklahoma or Virginia Tech–would have to be number two. Voters tend to stick by the guiding principle of “it’s not about losing, but rather when you lose”. In respect to the teams LSU was contending with the Tigers couldn’t feel very confident considering they were the most recent of the four to be defeated, and at home no less on the day after Thanksgiving. Oklahoma last lost on November 17; Virginia Tech on October 25; and Georgia way back on October 6. However, with a little deeper digging you could toss aside all conventional wisdom.

Oklahoma lost its two games to unranked teams (Colorado and Texas Tech) and only beat three ranked teams (Texas and twice Missouri). Virginia Tech lost to LSU by 41 points at Tiger Stadium. And Georgia, although beating four ranked opponents (including Kentucky, who beat LSU), couldn’t get by Tennessee, which was precisely what prevented them from gaining a head to head shot against the Tigers for the SEC championship.

The resume of LSU dwarfed those of its three competitors. Of the Tigers’ 11 wins, six were against ranked teams (Virginia Tech, South Carolina, Florida, Auburn, Alabama and Tennessee). Each of their two losses came in triple-overtime in true SEC-blood games against Kentucky and Arkansas. And to compound the drama, in the hours leading up to the SEC championship against the Volunteers, LSU was thrust into pondering life in the near future without its head coach Les Miles (who had been granted permission to speak with his alma mater, Michigan, about its coaching vacancy) and its defensive coordinator Bo Pellini (who appears headed to Nebraska). Then the Tigers had to play the game itself without their starting quarterback. The injured-Matt Flynn was replaced by sophomore Ryan Perrilloux, who in an MVP-performance, won the game despite playing through an injury on his throwing hand sustained during the contest.

LSU’s immediate reward for reclaiming the SEC? A birth in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. Any other year an LSU appearance in the Sugar Bowl would have the state of Louisiana thumping. After Saturday’s game though, the sugar wasn’t tasting so sweet. While the Tigers were assured of playing a BCS game in the Superdome, it wasn’t the one they had envisioned throughout the ’07 season. This year, so it happened, was New Orleans’ turn to host the BCS National Championship and it sure seemed like the Tigers were going to miss the party.

Not until the finishing touches were put on one predictable and one epic choke, and not until those chokes were assessed by the voting powers-that-be were Tiger fans finally rewarded with that invitation they’d been expecting since two-a-days began last summer. An invitation to travel into their backyard and compete for a national title.

While the reality is LSU will likely win the national championship in a de facto home game, the simplicity of one winner-take-all game that has evolved from the chaos of an unprecedented and enthralling SEC campaign is almost an anticlimax for LSU fans. Between two triple-overtime losses and three other games in which the Tigers rose from the ashes (against Florida, Auburn and Alabama, all games in which the Tigers came from behind in the waning minutes or seconds) Tiger fans must feel as if they’ve been stuck in a centrifuge since the beginning of October; they may no longer be plastered against the wall but their heads are still spinning.

Once they regain their collective equilibrium they’re going to realize that no one game could compare to the five heart-stopping battles they waged within their own conference. I chronicled one of those struggles, the Auburn game, which I attended while the Red Sox were simultaneously making a fierce ALCS comeback against the Indians. Much like LSU after the Arkansas game, the Red Sox were all but written off after falling behind three games to one against Cleveland. When the seemingly impossible finally happened and the Sox clinched the pennant after three straight wins, Red Sox Nation gleefully looked ahead to the grandest stage in baseball, the World Series. But deep down we all knew the true trials of willpower were behind us. All that laid ahead was business. The business of winning a championship.

LSU ran the gauntlet that was the SEC this year. Like the Red Sox in the ALCS, the Tigers escaped battered and bruised if not preciously close to knocked out, but they escaped nonetheless. Boston, after finally putting away the Indians in Game 7 at Fenway Park, took four straight from the Colorado Rockies to win its second World Series in four years.

Expect the Tigers to follow in kind with their second in five.

It’ll all take place on January 7 in N’Awlins, in a Dome inhabited by Saints but at times destined for Tigers. And even if the game doesn’t end up shaving additional years off the lives of LSU fans, only when the purple and gold confetti starts flying will the path traveled be fully appreciated.