It was the mid-1950s, and Danny Bourne really wanted to look inside Tiger Stadium for the first time. At age eight, he had already fallen in love with the spectacle of LSU football, listening to John Ferguson call matches on the radio from his home in Thibodeau, Louisiana. WWL, that old 50,000 watt AM station in New Orleans, was crystal clear at night.

Now his aunt Doris has taken him to see it in person. At the time, the interstate system wasn’t as developed, so Borne, Doris, and her two boys boarded a ferry to take them up the Mississippi River to Baton Rouge. Stepping onto campus, walking among the oaks and magnolias, and climbing up the massive stadium of concrete and steel before kickoff at 8 p.m. was like a dream.

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The opponent was random. The experience was intuitive. Not to mention the lighting was terrible. It doesn’t matter that LSU wasn’t very good. Sitting inside the bowl, listening to the shrill horns of The Golden Band from Tigerland and the low tones of Syd Crocker shouting out pieces over a loudspeaker, Bourne was swept away. The smell, the atmosphere, the roar of the crowd – everything is interconnected.

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Doris leaned over and said to Borna, “It never rains at Tiger Stadium.” He didn’t know what she meant, but it seemed right.

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Shortly after the start of the match, he saw the fog begin to creep over the river about half a mile to the west, slowly surrounding the stadium.

“It gave it an ethereal effect,” Bornet recalled. “It gave me an unearthly experience that I grew up to be part of my body and my soul. It’s just always stayed with me all these years.”

Then he could not imagine what awaited him in the future. He couldn’t have known that his voice and his connection to Tiger Stadium – deeper and brighter than other boys his age – matched perfectly.

LSU night games have always had something special. Bourne managed to make them sound even more magical.

His voice will be one of the first things Alabama players will hear when they take to the field to play against LSU on Saturday night (7:00 pm ET, Sportzshala). Echoing across the 102,321-seat arena, Borne will be the unseen narrator of a game that will either decide success or break every team’s season.


IN NORMAL year, half the Alabama roster or more would know what to expect before a Saturday night trip to LSU. But the freshmen and sophomores have never been to Tiger Stadium, and the juniors and seniors only have a 2020 game under their belts when the stadium was mostly empty due to COVID restrictions. Of course, they may think they know what they are about to get into. LSU has an exceptional reputation. Paul “Bear” Bryant only lost there once in his 25 seasons as head coach at Alabama, and yet he called it “the worst place in the world for an away team.”

Former Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson remembers how close the stands were to the touchline and the feeling of having so many raucous fans right above you. “Electricity,” he said, “is something that cannot be reproduced.” AJ McCarron, another former Alabama QB, recalls the trip to the stadium and how she set the tone. “Driving up, game night, everyone is throwing you,” he said. “They rock the bus, throw eggs at the bus, beer bottles at the bus.”

“They have a great tradition there,” said Alabama coach Nick Saban. “They have a great vibe.”

Saban must know. He coached at LSU from 2000 to 2004. On Monday, he said his team would have to focus on the road, which hasn’t been done easily this season after a failed run in Texas and a loss in Tennessee.

“We have to have enough balance to work in such an environment and not let it affect us,” he said.

Quarterback Bryce Young, who backed up in Baton Rouge two years ago, said: “We understand that it would be extremely hostile to play in a place like LSU.”

But hostility is only part of the equation. Other stadiums have loud and sullen fans. What sets Tiger Stadium apart from others is its mystique, especially at night. It has a living, breathing, haunting quality that few have been able to accurately capture.

Borne is one of those people. For the past 36 years, in his high seat at Tiger Stadium, he has been a storyteller helping to develop the legend of Death Valley, the college football cathedral where rivals’ dreams are said to die.


BORN TAKES The elevator upstairs to the PA booth at Tiger Stadium on the Saturday night before the game against Alabama. But the truth is that fate brought him there a long time ago.

He listened to Ferguson on the radio. It was Aunt Doris and their trips to Baton Rouge. It was Sid Crocker and the idea that such a work existed. And it was a voice that Borne called “a gift from God.”

He is a deacon in the Catholic Church. So yes, there is modesty in this statement.

Borne, as it turned out, was never afraid of public speaking. In high school, he led meetings. Calling the members of the honor society, the teacher approached him. “Danny,” she said, “when you speak into the microphone, the speakers do something to your voice, and I’m not quite sure I understand what it is.”

He too. But it served him well as he played baseball for Nicholls State, went to graduate school at LSU, and landed a job on WAFB, which covered sports and news.

One September afternoon in 1968, he found his seat in the press box at Tiger Stadium when Crocker called him over.

“Come and see where I work,” Crocker told him.

Borne admired the room with the view.

“Look at this,” said Crocker. “Perhaps you will do it one day.”

Borne laughed and didn’t think about it anymore. But then, in 1985, Crocker announced that he was retiring. Borne, who had retired from the broadcast business, called Crocker and asked him why he was leaving.

“He said he wants to do things in the stands that he can’t do in the booth,” Borne said of Crocker wanting to be a fan. And I knew exactly what he was talking about.

Some things cannot be done or said in front of a microphone. It’s college football, but it’s still a decent society.

Borne wrote to then athletic director Robert Broadhead expressing interest in the job. And for eight long months he received no answer. But then, two weeks before the start of the season, Broadhead’s assistant called him in for an interview.

Broadhead came from Miami and still felt Louisiana. His question to Bourne was simple: “Can you pronounce these names?”

There was a list of Boudreaux, Broussards and Héberts.

“Pronounce them?” Borne said. — I know their dads.

He got a job on the spot. The little boy who arrived by ferry two decades ago, saw the fog coming off the river, and experienced the glory of LSU football became the voice of Tiger Stadium.

Ask any cook, he said, and almost as important as the ingredients is the pot you cook it in.

“This stadium is a cauldron in which LSU football boils, lives, scores and takes off,” he said. “And that’s why it’s so important, the stadium itself. The stadium is made of steel and concrete, but it has a life, it has a history, it has a presence and it has a future.”

With that perspective and that kind of vocabulary, Borne could certainly do more than say who caught which pass and who scored which touchdown. He would add some spices of his own.


BORNE SAID HE takes advice from William Shakespeare. “A play,” he said, “is a thing.” Anything that detracts from this should not be in a PA employee’s portfolio.

He used to make a simple version of the pre-game weather forecast, showing temperature, humidity, wind direction and strength. Finally, it will provide the opportunity for precipitation.

He swears it wasn’t planned, but one day in the 1990s, he must have thought of his Aunt Doris, because at the end he blurted out, “Can it rain? Never”.

He thought he could get the fans listening for it. And he did. But this was not the negative reception he expected. They liked the LSU fan saying that “it never rains in Tiger Stadium” – origin story unknown.

By saying these words aloud, Borne drew even more attention to this tradition. He will be walking down the aisles of the grocery store, minding his own business, when a stranger comes up to him, smirking. “Hi Dan,” they say. “What is the probability of rain?”

“Who knows why these things take root?” he said. “But now, I mean, you don’t say it and they come looking for you.

“Now everyone yells it back at me before I can even say it.”

But that’s not the only time Borne excelled at Tiger Stadium.

It was an afternoon game—again in the 1990s, when Borne was clearly at his best—when the third quarter ended and the band began playing their signature song before the game. The drums came on, and then the brass section took over.

Boo-boo-boo-boo!

Captured by the moment, Borne noticed that dusk had fallen and saw the ground crew lowering the flag.

“And I just looked at it,” he recalled, “and said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, the colors are retiring and the sun has found its home in the western sky. It’s Saturday night in Death Valley.”

Again, this was not the plan. But it resonated. John Parker Wilson in the middle of the game noticed the reaction of the fans. “People are going crazy,” he said.

More recently, Bornet’s influence has become more prominent. Before Alabama and LSU take the field — as they have done before every home game since 2010 — Bourne’s words will be told on the pre-match video on the scoreboard.

His last ominous words – “Saturday Night in Death Valley” – will send fans into a frenzy.

Borne called it a “mystical experience” as the sun sets at Tiger Stadium.

He knows that people will read this and call him crazy.

But he said, “People have been and felt it, they know what I’m talking about.”

“Even to this day, it’s bigger, brighter, louder,” he said. “It’s the hidden current of Halloween that almost drifts over the stadium from the west – almost like that mist when I was a kid.”