At the risk of sounding really, really old, I’m going to voice an opinion that makes me sound really, really old.
THINGS WERE BETTER BACK IN MY DAY.
You saw the Mardi Gras field the other day. I’m not going to waste my time, nor yours, on a preview. As far as I can tell, nothing has changed as of this morning. I’m not sure if there are behind-the-scenes changes to the schedule until the LSU folks update the score reporter, but I doubt any changes would include, you know, better competition.
I’m going to be brutally honest here, and it’s not a take-down of LSU Ultimate or Baton Rouge Ultimate. I owe my entire ultimate existence to that community, and I’m eternally thankful for the great people and players of Baton Rouge Ultimate. But the fact of the matter is that, to put it in corporate lingo or coach-speak, Mardi Gras is what it is. And nothing more.
The annual Mardi Gras tournament, once a pivotal, important, challenging and exciting college ultimate frisbee tournament is now this: A tournament that barely passes as anything more than a “B” team tournament.
Go back to the early 2000s, just pick a year really. I’ll save you some work and look at the 2004 field, which including the following teams: Wisconsin, Georgia, Texas A&M, Iowa and LSU. And those were just the five teams in Pool A.
So much can change in 10 years. This year’s field is headlined by LSU, Alabama, Davidson and … wait for it … Texas-B.
Teams that competed at Nationals on a yearly basis made pit stops in Baton Rouge every spring for Mardi Gras in the early part of this century. The tournament was on par with Centex, Trouble in Vegas and other big name tournaments in the sport. Mardi Gras was a bellwether tournament. It was a precursor to the field at Nationals, a modern-day Stanford Invite, Warm Up or President’s Day.
Now? Mardi Gras is just an afterthought. Notoriously so.
The why is, like I said, not necessarily the fault of those in charge. For one, weather has wrecked the Mardi Gras tournament as far back as most current college students can remember. The relocation to St. Francisville, which could be indirectly (or directly, according to whom you speak) attributed to the Baton Rouge ultimate community, certainly is prohibitive to teams looking to attend for more than just ultimate.
And maybe, just maybe, we are seeing a culture change in ultimate. Back in 2004, college teams took ultimate and partying seriously. The best teams in the country also had the best parties. Now, more college teams than ever before are taking the ultimate seriously, but not so much the partying. Mardi Gras being viewed as a party tournament in the middle of a serious college season means less quality teams migrating south.
There is hope yet for Mardi Gras. The current core of LSU players — young, hungry and driven — have high-reaching, competitive aspirations. Which include hosting a more competitive tournament in their own backyard.
Plans also are underway to move Mardi Gras either back to Baton Rouge or, even better, closer to New Orleans within the next few years.
But the best hope for Mardi Gras in the future might come via this weekend’s weather forecast. Right now, the forecast looks ideal. Two days of nice-weather ultimate will go a long way toward erasing the obnoxiously moist memories of yesteryear.
At the very least, good weather — and therefore, good memories and good ultimate — would be a great place to restart for the once-wild, yet prestigious, Mardi Gras tournament.