COLUMBIA — Two years before retiring from the ConocoPhillips refinery in Lake Charles, La., Bob Alleman needed a new car. He wanted a comfortable ride for his daily commute, but with his retirement in sight, Alleman knew the car would serve another purpose.
He decided on the tiny, two-door Hyundai Accent because it had good enough gas mileage to make traveling around the country for McNeese State football games affordable.
Since retiring in April 2009, Alleman hasn’t missed a game.
The white hatchback has become something of a "McNeese-mobile." Its doors are plastered with two large McNeese State stickers, and blue-and-gold Cowboy flags wave on each side of the car.
Alleman made the 750-mile drive to Columbia with his friend and neighbor Ron Broussard. It took two days to complete the 14 hours of driving, but the two Lake Charles natives were excited to explore a new college town.
“We like to tailgate, meet the people, go to the restaurants,” Broussard said.
Maybe most importantly, Alleman and Broussard were excited to finally discover what exactly a “brat," or bratwurst, is.
“We don’t know what a brat is,” Alleman said. “Maybe up here you guys know what brats are. We’ve never heard of brats … except on TV.”
The two were planning on exploring the tailgating scene but knew they wouldn’t find their typical Cajun tailgate food.
“We do gumbo, red beans and rice, jambalaya, sauce picante, the typical Cajun type foods,” Broussard said. “People start getting there Friday morning with all the motor homes and campers. They’ll stay Friday night, and then first thing Saturday morning they start cooking. Get the ribs on the grill and get the beer cold.”
In terms of the game, Alleman said it’s a win-win situation. If the Cowboys pull off a victory, it goes down as the greatest win in school history. Losing is basically expected anytime a Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division 1-AA) team faces a BCS program — they’re just looking to have a good time.
“I want to see that we play well and don’t embarrass ourselves,” Alleman said. “Because, I think our first teams are probably comparable to any first teams, but where the difference comes because FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) has like 20 more scholarships than FCS schools, by the time you get to the second- and third-level teams they’re way better. We can play with you for maybe the first half or something.”
For Broussard, it’s important that Missouri shows respect for his hometown team.
“What I except at the end of the game is that y'all coaches and players respect us. We really hope that happens. We came to win, we might not have the caliber players, but we came to win and did the best we could.”