The Fan Cave
● By Robert Frey
Locals’ Impressive Memorabilia CollectionBy Patrice Doucet | Photos By Lee Ball
If psychologists are right and our homes are deliberate statements about ourselves, then the beautifully-appointed New Iberia home of Pam Darden and Rose Migues says they have good taste, that they are extremely neat and organized. A beautifully landscaped yard is telling of a love for flowers and plants; and the lush pool area would indicate they enjoy relaxing and entertaining. Their perfectly groomed tea cup Yorkie, Cooper, gets the message across that she is loved. And just when you think you have their personalities pegged, a walk upstairs reveals another side to their interests.
Entering the “fan cave” aka Rose’s Bar, you first focus on the pool table in the center of the room resting on a faux fur rug. Straight behind that, on the backside, is a bar with a TV overhead. Framed jerseys peer over your shoulders from the low-vaulted ceilings. One glance into the custom cabinets that flank the room and that’s when you pick up that there’s a sports fanatic living in this house.
Pam and Rose are among a growing number of female sports enthusiasts enjoying a still male-dominated hobby of collecting sports memorabilia. Although this trend should come as no surprise because female viewership of most sports has been growing greatly over the last decade.
“We are a house divided,” smiles Pam “Rose is an LSU fan and I like University of Tennessee.” The cabinets reflect that, each arranged by team: UL, LSU, Saints and the orange-themed cabinet for Tennessee Lady Vols.
Inspired by family and friends who are avid sports collectors, the women began their collection in 2007 while attending an LSU/Tennessee women’s basketball game in Baton Rouge. After the game, Pam approached then Tennessee Lady Vols head coach Pat Summitt and asked her to sign the jersey she was wearing. Pam was a big fan of Summitt’s, who was head coach for the Lady Vols from 1974-2012 before dying from early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. She accrued the most wins in college basketball history, including eight NCAA championships (an NCAA women’s record when she retired and the third most all time).
When Pam and Rose built their home, they had the luxury of designing a designated room for their collection, again inspired by a friend who had one that they loved. There are some 30 pieces at this point, each holding different meaning and uniqueness, like the orange Converse high top signed by current Tennessee Lady Vols coach Holly Warlick. There are two prized footballs signed by Drew Brees – and two unopened bottles of Saints wine. From the UL case, there are baseballs signed by the men’s team, a wooden bat signed by the entire team in 2015.
There’s also a UL football from 2015. From the other side of the basin - a basketball from LSU’s women’s basketball team signed by Coach Van Chancellor. The most recent purchase is an LSU football signed by Billy Cannon. A pink baseball, supporting breast cancer, is signed by medal-winning softball pitcher Jennie Finch, who played in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics - a gift from Rose’s sister.
Asked about their favorites in the collection, Pam says for her it’s the Saints helmet from the team that won the Super Bowl, signed by nearly every player. Rose is partial to the five softballs signed by different members of the USA Girls Olympic team the year they played in Beijing.
There are pieces not so acclaimed, but with more personal meaning: two toddler-size baseball mits given to Pam and Rose at 5 and 9 years respectively and Pam’s throwback jersey and two softballs from her playing days at Northeast Louisiana University in Monroe.
Then…there are the random little gnomes resting on top of the cases, as if guarding the collections, that put everything in the perspective of enjoyment, rather than status symbols. The story is that the girls secretly took a friend’s gnome to an LSU game, taking pictures with it and then mailing the photos of the “roaming gnome” to friends. They’ve been collecting them ever since. NOTE: They’re looking for a UL female gnome to go with the male they have.
For the women, half the fun is looking for items -within their budget, which has been from $300 for single items to $2,500 for a package. They search autographed items and packages on eBay and other sites online and have shopped memorabilia stores like Field of Dreams in Houston, while Pam’s brother also peruses the Internet. Several of the finds were winning bids at charitable auctions like Rose’s favorite, the annual Angel Paws’ Paw-T auction where proceeds go to the Angel Paws Adoption Center. “Rose always wants to bid more than she should at this auction because of the cause,” smiles Pam “so I’m always keeping an eye on her.” Some are gifts from family members - like the autograph from former LSU Safety, gone pro Harry Coleman, gotten by Pam’s mom when he went into their family restaurant, Chick’s Burger, in Baldwin to pick up an order.
Of course, the women are always looking to expand their collection. In a perfect world, with a limitless budget, Rose’s wish list would include helmets or jerseys of Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, “Mean” Joe Greene and, of course, the Saints, (At this writing, word had it that there would be an autographed, black Drew Brees jersey at the Paws’ auction.) Pam, a huge tennis fan, would cherish a racket signed by Roger Federer along with a rare autographed Wheaties’s cereal box sporting Pat Summitt’s picture. (She was the first female coach to ever appear on the cereal box.) They’d also like a few more notable football helmets.
While many sports fans buy and sell memorabilia, some, like Rose and Pam purchase them for the love of the sports and teams and because they represent a piece of sports history.
“It’s part of our comfort zone; we surround ourselves with things that make us feel at home, comfortable and happy,” says Pam.