A novel set at Louisiana State University in the Fall of 1988
By Chris Warner
Louis Stansbury Underwood has never felt more alive. He is on the precipice of realizing his boyhood dream of attending the Ole War Skule in Baton Rouge, the Bayou State’s flagship, Louisiana State University, like his father and maternal grandfather before him. On a full academic scholarship, he’s spent the summer after his high school graduation as a ten-hour a day roughneck on a remote oil rig in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, giving him the money and moxie he needs to pledge a fraternity, rent an apartment and begin a new start; living life as a young adult with a promising future for the first time, forever free from what he considers his shrinking home town’s many shortcomings, restrictions and peculiar confines. For lucky Louis, and his extended, simple, loving Cajun family and friends he’s leaving behind—he’s gone “big time”—to LSU (pronounced Ellishoe); and there’s no looking back.
The sky is the limit for Louis. His academic pedigree, rugged athleticism and boyish smile make him sought after among Greek circles, as the fraternities want him as much as the coquettish sorority girls want a handsome date to the first home football game. After much consideration, Louis pledges a fraternity, enrolls in classes, and meets the gorgeous college girls of his fanciful boyhood dreams. He is consumed by classes and the many socials and exchanges, mixing on and off campus with interesting people; like his potluck dorm roommate, like him an ardent scholarship freshman from New Orleans, also pledging one of the smaller fraternities on campus—a black one— and despite their subtle differences, the two form a fast friendship and a bond that will change everything.
The Kappa Alpha Order on campus, along with the Kappa Sigma Fraternity, two Old Row stalwarts, annually hold the Charity Bowl Fundraiser, a football game played under the lights, with paid referees, at nearby University High Stadium, pitting the two fraternity squads against one another—pads, helmets, cleats, onlookers, refreshments and cheerleaders included. For each of the young equipped and uniformed men and eager spectators it is an opportunity to relive their recent past, and again play and enjoy the game they practiced and embraced with the usual zeal and vigor during their high school days; it is a singular chance to again excel at a tough, physical game; to assert one’s dominance and impress the ladies, as everyone loves a winner. Understanding this, Louis and his newfound friend offer their fraternity officers a winning proposal.
Louis and his roommate see opportunity in a challenge—their upstart fraternities will join unlikely forces and take on a super team comprising the collective best players of the two regular foes, Kappa Alpha and Kappa Sigma, creating much more campus and local media interest and potentially a much bigger symbolic take for the winners. Keen interest in the novel contest spurs a hard sellout, everyone begging the obvious question: “Can an all-white team take on and defeat a team with black players?”
Big Time is a raucous, romantic, retro tale seeking to draw semblance to Southern living, failed politics and pop culture from the not-so-distant past; now a faded, unframed memory.
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