We have a new obsession – college football tailgating. You might say, we are born again tailgaters. Not because we have become Oral Roberts’ fans, rather we have rediscovered the joys of heading out onto the open road with food, drinks and spirit wear in tow, to cheer on our favorite college football teams. There’s nothing like the energy and pandemonium on campus before, during and after a game. As later-in-life parents, we’ve spent the past several years as arm-chair quarterbacks, enjoying this phenomenon from the comforts of our own home. Well, this year, we got the seven-year itch and decided to venture back out onto campus and we can’t get enough.
We got “forked” in Wisconsin.
The game that rekindled our affair with tailgating was Arizona State University vs. Wisconsin at Camp Randall, one of the tailgating meccas of the college football circuit. We arranged to meet friends who are serious tailgaters. They just also happen to be in a similar mixed marriage (he-ASU, she-Purdue). After the inevitable family squabbles over running late and getting lost on campus, we ended up in a great tailgating spot on beautiful Lake Mendota. Amongst the sea of red Bucky the Badger supporters were die-hard Sun Devil fans sporting their maroon and gold. Our crew was no exception. And no, I did not cheat on Purdue Pete. I wore my Purdue shirt closest to my heart under an ASU jacket. Pete, if you are reading this post, the jacket was strictly for warmth!
We put up the ASU flag, spread out the chairs and pulled out the coolers. Coolers that were meticulously packed with a variety of carefully hand-picked beers, sodas, juices and water as only a mature, more responsible tailgater would prepare. (Note: You know you are “in the elderly” when you spend your whole Friday night packing coolers and then you ask every 5 minutes if everyone’s drinks are cold enough.)
After our friends arrived, they spared no time setting up their spread. Their minivan was like a clown car fully equipped with a full size Weber grill, banquet hall size folding table, hamburgers, hot dogs, brauts, chicken, salads and all the fix-ins. Also included were games for the kids and an amplifier cranking out country music classics. Gone are the days with just a keg and a bag of chips. This was serious, more mature tailgating.
Finally, it was time to catch the shuttle to Camp Randall. As each Sun Devil fan passed, the guys would politely show them the “fork ’em” hand gesture as a sign of solidarity. Somehow with each beer, we were transformed from middle-aged parents, to college students in our late teens. This was especially true as we stepped off the shuttle onto Breese Terrace, a main entrance to the stadium lined with fraternity houses and hundreds of Badger student supporters, as we used to say, “flopping around everywhere.” I knew we were in trouble when we spotted a kid wearing a “Bucky F’ed Your Mother” t-shirt. We were all in awe of the 3 story beer bong hanging from one of the houses. As the adrenalin increased, so did the “fork ’em” the signs. Let’s just say, the students would let a bird fly each time they saw a devil.
The sea of red was overwhelming in the stadium. The fans are serious, and at times, quite rude about their Badgers. My husband got “the tap” after some innocent cheering for his Devils and I was booed because of my Purdue shirt. Unfortunately, the Devils fell short and did not come away with a victory.
As we walked down Breese on the way to the shuttle, Bucky’s disciples got one last dig when a Ryan Seacrest wannabe with a Mr. Microphone, dedicated the easy listening classic “Brandy” to “The old guys.” Brandy? Really? They could have at least picked something from the 80’s. Well, the forks turned into birds and we were on our way. We continued our tailgating well into the evening and agreed to meet again in West Lafayette the following week.
Lost Some Tupperware in West Lafayette.
It was a beautiful, crisp fall day as we headed up to West Lafayette with our ultra chilled coolers, homemade brownies and a big Tupperware bowl of spicy snack mix. After a little drama involving a child with a belly ache and not remembering how to navigate through campus after 25 years of new construction, we finally arrived at the Gold lot. The cars were barely in park before the tailgaters started claiming boundaries by ripping out grills, putting up tents and setting out games in record speed.
Ironically, the intra-fraternity council declared a moratorium on drinking alcohol for a period of one week due to serious underage and binge drinking related incidents on campus. This certainly was not the case in the alumni tailgating area. Camouflaged in the middle of the old folks was a group of students doing keg stands. I’m sure they were all of legal age. (cough, cough)
I knew it was going to be a great day when Purdue Pete followed us into the tailgating lot and stopped for photo ops with all the fans including yours truly. What a thrill. Finally, I was among my own kind and could wear my Purdue shirt proudly. I was sporting the old lady, blinged up better wear version of spirit wear. Even though I was bedazzled, I thought I looked good. That was until I saw about 10 other old ladies wearing the same shirt.
Well, let’s just say the libations went down a little too smoothly before the game. Good thing I have matured. There were no Macon County Line incidents with the P.U.P.D., no whiskey tongue, no one was tackled on the pavement, no one was swimming in the fountain and no fried chicken bones were being thrown. Just a bunch of adults enjoying a few beers and burgers before the game.
However, some things don’t change, like never making a kickoff or seeing a halftime show. Halfway through the first quarter, we finally made our way up the hill to the stadium. No flopping around, just good old-fashioned huffing and puffing. As we made our way inside, the stadium started spinning a bit and I found myself involuntarily looking for my student I.D. We sat in the horseshoe behind the goal post, a prime spot for baking in the sun all day. I fondly remembered the time I wore my girlfriend’s cute I-Zod to the season opener sophomore year. I happened to sit next to an anti-preppy who ripped off the alligator and set it on fire with his Bic lighter as she looked on. Ahhh, those were the days.
The vibe in Ross Ade was much more subdued than the one we experienced in Camp Randall the week before. It doesn’t help that the Boilers are struggling a bit this season. As the game dragged on, the pregame buzz was beginning to wear off. I think the bling on my shirt amplified the rather warm rays of the sun causing a bit of dehydration. As we returned to the lot, the clouds took over for the after game portion of the tailgate. The folks behind us started a rousing game of beer pong while I was wishing for my bed. Now I found myself sitting with a blanket around me actually feeling twice my age.
On the ride home, let’s just say that the professionally chilled beers, hot sun reflecting off my bling Purdue shirt and speeding down a country road while watching Hannah Montana did not settle well with my stomach. The tailgate was about to make an encore appearance and a combine was taking up both sides of the road so there was no sticking my head out the window. I grabbed the Tupperware container, rolled down the window and threw out the spicy snack mix. The good news is that the interior of the car was saved. The bad news is we are down a Tupperware bowl and the silver Honda that was riding our bumper may have suffered a cracked windshield from the snack mix pelting it at 70 mph.
This week it’s off to Bloomington for Michigan vs. Indiana University. I’m only going into enemy territory because it is a work-related tailgate. A perfect excuse to act my age. Only because I have to be the designated driver. Will our love affair with college football tailgating continue? You can bet your “fork” on it. Boiler Up!