Saturday night lights

'It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium' explores terrain author John Ed Bradley knows well – Louisiana State University's world-renowned football program.

New England's Red Sox Nation has nothing on college football fans in the South, particularly those in the rabid Southeastern Conference. Its membership includes the Louisiana State University Tigers, currently the No. 1 team in college football. John Ed Bradley knows the terrain well: He grew up in Cajun Country – tiny Opelousas, La. – and went on to become an all-conference lineman at LSU during the late-1970s. The scars, literal and figurative, of such a heady experience form the heart of "It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium." Though adoration of LSU's purple-and-gold tradition sometimes devolves into purple prose, this "those were the days" account bears searing emotional depth. Giving up Saturday glory proved so painful that Bradley eschewed former coaches and teammates for two decades. He reconnected by visiting his cancer-riddled former coach on his deathbed. That led to more visits: one with a teammate paralyzed in a freak accident, and another with a teammate serving a prison term after becoming a crack-cocaine addict. The melancholy haze of long-gone football frisson resonates in Bradley's description of every LSU player's most privileged experience: roaring onto the field at Tiger Stadium with 80,000 fans screaming in the night. "If every kid could," he writes, "then it wouldn't be what it is. It's because so few get there that it has such power." Grade: B – Erik Spanberg

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