It started as a story so familiar to those in Louisiana: Frank Loupe went on vacation with his family to Orange Beach to enjoy the sun and surf.
“We tell people Gulf Shores instead of Orange Beach, sounds less trashy for some reason,” said Loupe, a married, 45-year-old father of two.
Everything was proceeding as expected, according to Loupe, a lifelong Baton Rouge resident, as he started to tell his harrowing tale.
“It was at this point my heart just sank when I realized I was wearing an LSU shirt. A purple one.”
“All my 8-year-old eats is hot dogs, it seems like. So I headed down to the Publix to pick up some to grill later that night. So I’m walking down the frozen aisle, minding my own business, when I saw him.”
Loupe was referring to another middle-aged man, wearing a crimson shirt with the word “Bama” emblazoned in white across the chest, walking toward him.
“Our eyes accidentally locked for less than a second, but it was too late. He looked at me as if he recognized me, but I didn’t know this guy. It was at this point my heart just sank when I realized I was wearing an LSU shirt. A purple one.”
Loupe lamented, “Man, I could’ve picked any shirt to wear that morning, any shirt: my Columbia fishing shirt, my Harley-Davidson shirt, or my nice Harley-Davidson shirt.”
Loupe said the man started to approach him and his anxiety grew. “I know the stories. I know about the ‘Wrecking Ball’ mom at the Sugar Bowl, the Harvey what’s-his-name, and the others. I read about Zach Mettenheiser just the other day.”
In misnaming former LSU QB Zach Mettenberger, Loupe referred to an incident in a Nashville bar recently when Mettenberger was sucker-punched by an Alabama fan.
Loupe said the man locked on to his path and headed right for him.
“You think about this kind of stuff and what you would do if it ever happened to you. I don’t know if I was just operating on instinct or what, but my ‘fight or flight’ kicked in and I tried to turn around and go the other way.”
For Loupe, things immediately went from bad to worse. “I try to turn around, and this old bat is blocking the aisle with her cart turned sideways contemplating which fish sticks to buy. I say ‘excuse me,’ but she doesn’t hear me. I can’t believe this! Lady, just go with Mrs. Paul’s or Gorton’s. This isn’t that hard. Just pick one, as long as it’s not that Van De Kamp’s horseshit.”
Loupe leaned forward and looked directly at me, and his tone changed as he lowered his voice.
“If an LSU quarterback can get sucker-punched in Nashville and another Tiger fan can get teabagged in New Orleans by Bama fans, I mean, just think of their powers within their state lines.”
“You never want to think about how it’s going to all end,” he said. “But in that moment, my mind was racing. A few seconds seemed like an eternity, and I wondered how this crimson monster would deal my doom. Beat me to death with a bag of Mary B’s biscuits? Bludgeon me with Blue Bell Moo-llennium Crunch? All I knew was I had surrendered all hope. I mean, if an LSU quarterback can get sucker-punched in Nashville and another Tiger fan can get teabagged in New Orleans by Bama fans, I mean, just think of their powers within their state lines.”
Visibly shaken, Loupe ascended from his chair and produced a pack of Marlboro Reds unsteadily from his pocket before lighting up and taking a few calming puffs. “I quit smoking 11 years ago. You know, for my kids … but I dunno.”
Loupe collected himself and sat back down to continue.
“So this is it, I’m thinking. He’s eight feet away; these are my last moments. All I could think about were my wife and kids. Well, that, and also that I’m going to die in a fucking Publix holding hot dogs. Can you believe that? At least it wasn’t corn dogs. Thank God. That’s what they would’ve wanted. Could you even imagine an LSU fan being found dead clutching corn dogs?!” Loupe informed me that, luckily, they were well stocked up on corn dogs thanks to a pre-vacation Costco run.
“So then he starts to smile. The kind of smile I’d imagine a predator wears before he snuffs out the glowing light of life of one of his victims. He then extends his hand to me. But not in a ‘the meatloaf was dry’ kinda way my Granddad did to my Maw Maw back in the day. He was reaching out to shake my hand.”
“What was he going to do? Poison me like the trees in Auburn? Take a Delorean back in time and leave the toddler-aged me trapped in my father’s ’68 Plymouth Fury in July like that Bama fan did to his son in Georgia?”
Loupe leaned back almost slouching in his chair with a crooked smile, “Oh, this guy was good. Obviously, I wasn’t dealing with some brute meaning to end my life in some straightforward way; no, it was to be a much more sinister method. It was absolutely terrifying.
“What was he going to do? Poison me like the trees in Auburn? Take a Delorean back in time and leave the toddler-aged me trapped in my father’s ’68 Plymouth Fury in July like that Bama fan did to his son in Georgia? My thoughts screamed across my mind so much that I missed his words … his vocal harbinger of my impending demise.
“He said, ‘Hey, how ya’ doing? Love seeing SEC fans round these parts. How those Tigers looking this year?’ And honestly, I never really even heard his words much less comprehended them.
“But my voice answered, ‘Uh, OK, I guess.” Loupe leaned forward again and put his head in his hands.
“Once again, my failure to think on my feet during this chaos got the better of me with his next question.
“He asked, ‘So, where ya’ from?'” Loupe pulled the last cigarette from his pack and pondered it.
“I could’ve said anywhere. Anywhere besides the den of the enemy. I could’ve said somewhere far away. Or somewhere like Shreveport, where he would know I was only wearing this shirt because all my Dallas Cowboys stuff was dirty. But still in shock from continuing to exist, I uttered ‘Baton Rouge’ like an idiot, almost inviting harm to myself.”
Loupe said the man told him, “Oh, that’s great. We always have a great time in Baton Rouge. The people and food there are wonderful. We barely escaped with a win a couple years ago. Don’t know how we won that one. Tiger Stadium is so tough.”
Loupe turned incredulous. “What the hell is this guy’s fucking problem?! Am I just a mouse in a snake’s cage? Is he toying with me??
“Thank you, Mr. Reaper, for helping me shuffle off this pesky fucking mortal coil, which can finally happen once this cruel psychotic maniac puts a script A trailer hitch upside my dumb head!”
“What’s worse is, I just stupidly said, ‘Thank you,’ like some schmuck who places a welcome mat out for the grim reaper. Thank you! Thank you, Mr. Reaper, for helping me shuffle off this pesky fucking mortal coil, which can finally happen once this cruel psychotic maniac puts a script A trailer hitch upside my dumb head!”
After taking a few breaths to consciously calm himself, Loupe continued, “Little did I know the end was near. He just smiled and nodded and said, ‘Well, good luck to y’all this season, and Roll Tide!’ And then I thought, here it comes. I wondered just how many sets of ears took in the echoes of a ‘Roll Tide’ before digesting their owners’ final screams of agony.
“But that was it. He just walked away.”
Loupe sat quiet for about 10 seconds, which felt like well over a minute, before questioning me: “You ever get pulled over by a cop for speeding?”
I answered that I have.
He continued, asking me, “You ever on the interstate and have a cop hit his lights right behind you? And you think he’s coming for you, but then he speeds around you for someone else?”
“It’s a good feeling. This was that times 10 million. I’ve never won the lottery or survived a lightning strike or a shark attack, but initially, there has to be this denial of reality for most folks, I would think. I think that’s where I was mentally. I walked to the checkout line, looking around every corner for danger, but somehow, I felt born again. Like every moment from now on would be some kind of bonus.”
Finishing his story, he added, “I’m not gonna lie. I do wonder if that guy is following me or hiding under my bed ever since this happened. I’ve had a few cold sweat nightmares the last couple of nights. It’s why I started back smoking.
“But I dunno. I tend to be optimistic, so now I’ve been thinking and have this crazy notion: What if this guy was just a nice, normal guy? I mean, is that even possible?”
“Can an Alabama fan and an LSU fan actually have an encounter without someone’s ball skin invading someone’s facial area?”
“I mean, can an Alabama fan and an LSU fan actually have an encounter without someone’s ball skin invading someone’s facial area?”
I assured him that it was possible, maybe even probable. It seemed his account had reached its end, and I stood and put my hand out for a handshake and said my goodbyes.
“Do you want to know what’s ironic about all this?” Loupe asked before incorrectly displaying irony. “I’m not even that big of an LSU fan. I kinda keep up with the team and watch most of the games, but basically, I just get on message boards and tell everyone how much Les Miles sucks and how he should be fired so we can hire Bill Belichick or Mike Leach. Oh, or Bill Cowher.”
It was on that note that I left his Orange Beach condo and made the trip back home.
I followed up with Loupe earlier today, and he informed me that everything was still fine, and he and his family were back home and safe, surrounded by the familiar hues of purple and gold. He has given up smoking for good and told me that he’s in the market for a boat.
He then said, “It’s kind of given me a new lease on life. I’m so appreciative of my family and all the things I have now that I came so close to … well, you know.”
Seems Frank Loupe was forever changed by this run-in with an Alabama fan.
“You only live once. Every day is a gift, and all that other crap you hear is true. Especially after you’ve been through what I’ve been through. My message to everyone out there is live every day as if it’s your last. Because you never know when one of those dirty, Skoal-smelling, sister-fucking Bammers might cross your path. You might not be as lucky as I am.”