Bob Greene's had a bumpy career, but I always enjoyed reading him in his glory days when he wrote for Esquire as well as turning out a nationally syndicated column for the Chicago Tribune. Now, Greene writes frequently for The Wall Street Journal, and the old populist still shows a deft touch with a pleasant,
amusing newspaper piece.
In Friday's Journal, the native of Bexley, Ohio, looks back on famed Ohio St. curmudgeon coach Woody Hayes, conjecturing that Hayes would not have allowed the Rolling Stones to play their concert in Buckeye Stadium, part of the band's current U.S. tour. Greene points out that Woody was a bulwark against 1960s culture and tightly controlled every aspect of the Buckeyes program. But now the Rolling Stones would be the old fogies, not Woody, Greene says at the piece's end. When the coach was forced out after 28 years for punching a Clemson player in a bowl game, he was 65, younger than the Stones, who are now in their 70s.
The piece reminded me that in the 1970s, the Stones began a U.S. tour with a concert at LSU's campus in Baton Rouge. They performed at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, not Tiger Stadium. In those days, the PMAC frequently hosted rock concerts. I saw several shows there, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and the Band, but not the Stones, because of some odd non-snob snobbism and loyalty to the Beatles. That Stones concert in my hometown was the subject of an essay by Frank Conroy, a more substantial writer than Greene.
I don't know if the Stones would be allowed to play Tiger Stadium, but the football palace is the site of annual Memorial Day weekend concerts featuring big country stars. Last week, Taylor Swift, now more pop than country, and Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert performed there. I wonder how Woody would have felt about Taylor Swift.
Thinking about Greene's hometown, I have warm personal memories of Bexley and Columbus from several trips there to visit my sister-in-law and family. We attended our niece's graduation from Bexley High - she was the valedictorian - and her wedding in Columbus. There was also an odd world's fair type of event involving flowers, which our children enjoyed - they got to play in the mud. Truth be told, I enjoyed it too (not the mud), but the nationally hyped extravaganza turned out to be a bust.
As a native of Baton Rouge and LSU grad, I liked comparing the cultures of the two cities and universities. Both cities are large, prosperous state capitals with an all-American mix of party hedonism and work ethic. Both are crazy about football.
Columbus is blander, Germanic, brats and beer. Baton Rouge is more industrial, French-Cajun, crawfish and beer. Columbus claims Wendy's hamburgers, James Thurber, Jack Nicklaus. Baton Rouge, Community Coffee, Johnny Rivers, David Toms.
Yes, Columbus comes out ahead here, but may I point out that the last time LSU played Ohio St. in football, the Tigers won the national championship over the Buckeyes, and a Michigan man was coaching LSU.