Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sweet Home Alabama....the skies weren't so blue

Tailgate update: The Tailgate traveled to the legendary college football bastion in the heart of SEC country that is the state of Alabama, where the skies are so blue and did you know in Birmingham they love their Governor, woo hoo hoo? The Tailgate was hosted by long time friend the good Doctor, Alabama Al, his wife Mrs. Alabama Al and their wonderful family. I was also joined by another longtime friend from my colorful youth, Tennessee Tony who is a West Virginia fan going to an Alabama game……go figure. The crowning event of the weekend would of course be the Alabama Crimson Tide hosting the undefeated MSU Bulldogs hailing from Starkville, MS in their homecoming matchup. But before we get to that event, I must share with you my indoctrination into all things football in the State of Alabama. There is more than the just the contentious rivalry between Auburn and Alabama and SEC smack talk. Football transcends generations of families, political parties, races and religions in the great State of Alabama….and it starts at a very young age. As we toured the back roads of Birmingham my eye was quickly drawn to placards in front yards with football helmets, a jersey number and a name on it. I just assumed they were for the local High School. Some were but most were for pee wee and junior football! You cannot make a trip to Alabama without also seeing the Iconic Legion Field where Alabama used to play half of its home games and is now occupied by the UAB Blazers. The great Bear Bryant won many memorable games here. It just so happens that Legion Field is also the site of the annual “Magic City Classic” matchup between Alabama State and Alabama A&M, two traditionally all black colleges from the D1 AA SWAC with the game being held the next day. So that meant the tailgating was and had been in full effect for days in the lots surrounding the stadium. The food smells were out of this world! Of course as usual, we were able to sneak into the stadium (act like you belong there and they never question you) and tour it and take pictures. As an added bonus, one of the schools was doing their walk through for the “Magic City Classic” the next day.

The legends at Legion Field

Inside the confines of Legion Field

We followed this up with some local brew at a brew pub and a dinner at Saws Soul Food. Of course to get the full indoctrination into Alabama football, one must attend a Friday night football game. Our host took us to a local rivalry matching up his son’s former team where he starred as an all state back last year and led his team to a temporary #1 ranking in the State. That high school stadium rivals some D1A stadiums I have been in.

Saturday morning came early so we powered down a pre tailgate breakfast and loaded up the tailgate wagon and headed west to Tuscaloosa to the University of Alabama campus. Game time was 7:30 so we arrived by 12:30. However, this being the SEC, the tailgating had commenced the day before. You see, the SEC does not seem to impose any silly rules such as “you can only tailgate 3-5 hours before the game and no tailgating afterwards”. They not only encourage limitless tailgating, there are very few restricted areas to set up on. As was the case in Baton Rouge four years ago, almost every nook and cranny of green space and then some was absorbed by tents, grills, generators, flat screen TV’s and shouts of ROLL TIDE and the sounds of Lynard Skynard banging out that little ditty about the state of Alabama…so listen up Neil Young you unwashed freak…these are some good folk!

The good Doctor, concerned that I put on a few lbs. since he last looked in on me, insisted that in conjunction with tailgating that I needed some cardio work. So he baited me into seeing the sites and traversing the campus with a promise that I could load up my pockets with adult beverages in the event that I became thirsty. I did. It was a classic SEC weekend carried out in Big 10 weather as the thermostat hovered below 50 degrees during the day with skies not so blue. Along the trail of tears, we walked through the quad (the main tailgate area), stopped at Denny Chimes Tower (where all Alabama football Captains have their hand and cleat prints engraved in the cement a la Grauman’s Chinese theatre, and visited the Bryant Museum where the accomplishments of the legendary coach are displayed. One can feel the spirit of the Bear throughout the campus on gameday as fans are clad in hounds tooth attire and his memory is invoked and his ghost called upon in times of need. Okay maybe not the last part, but this guy is as close to a human God as one can get in this part of the country. You will find his statue and plaques throughout the campus. We also caught the homecoming parade and the walk of champions where the players enter the stadium. The history of Alabama football is unrivaled. The program was founded 120 years ago by a carpet bagging Yankee (not to be confused with the tea bagging fan now in prison). The school boasts 14 National Champions, more hall of famers and future NFL stars and legendary coaches than I can count. Even Forest Gump played here and earned All American honors. “He must be the stupidest SOB alive, but he sure is fast”! You will see signs of their success throughout campus. The name Crimson Tide was derived from an early name when they were called the Crimson White based on the school colors. After a game in 1907 where Bama played Auburn in a sea of mud, a local sports writer said they looked like a crimson tide in all that red mud. So there ya go…some new knowledge for ya’ll. Roll Tide! But I still don’t get the elephant mascot named Al.

The Bear and the boyz
Bryant Denny looming in the background

The good doctor carrying extra medicine

We were joined by the Alabama Al’s family, Birmingham Burt and his wife Cheryl and His brother named Blue who wore a Red jacket and had a lot of green. Spicy chicken fingers, sandwiches, chips, dips and fruits and an assortment of cold beer were on the tailgate menu for the day. Not only does the SEC hold the reputation on the field as the best football conference in America, they have the best tailgating bar none in the country! I wish all schools could tailgate like the SEC does. Tailgating is beyond an art form here, it is a life style! The fans are super knowledgeable so bring your A game if you want to play some cfb trivia with these folks.

Flock of Seagulls lead singer Tennessee Tony

The Tailgate crew

Seneca Vallley class of 81

Mr. and Mrs. Alabama Al with Dan

Everybody's All American Mark Rector with Dr Alabama

Homecoming in Tuscaloosa

Bryant Denny stadium is as beautiful of a stadium as you will see anywhere. With its recent additions, the cathedral seats close to 102,000 passionate fans. You can see why so many top high school players choose to play here; simply awe inspiring. As far as the game goes, the Tide silenced the cow bells of MSU early by racing out to a 21- 0 lead and cruising to a 38 -7 victory led by a dominant defense and a steady offense commanded by AJ McCarron. As interesting as the game was, many tide fans found it equally entertaining keeping tabs on Auburn getting thumped at the same time by Texas A&M. Oh the joy it brings them to see their neighbors from the East suffer so.

Taking in one of America's best cathedrals 
Liliybelle and the girlz!

Around the Country – The Fighting Irish stormed into Norman, Oklahoma (land of my In Laws and their extended family) and did as Nostrildanus predicted: they won by three scores and stifled the high powered Sooner offense. Manti Te’o had a monster game. He is second right now in my mind for the Heisman. I won a few bets on this game, but I will not spike the football and celebrate. Instead I will do this with class and integrity and stay professional…….(darn this is hard to be so grown up). The Irish have three winnable games coming up followed by the big showdown at USC on November 24th. (The Tailgate will be there if you want to join us). I will not get ahead of myself, but how cool would a championship matchup between the Irish and the Tide be? Kansas State and Heisman leader Collin Klein obliterated Texas Tech. Hey guess what, the Mountaineers did not give up 50 + point this week! Oh right, that’s because they had a bye week.

The Florida Gators got chomped at the World’s Largest Cocktail Party by UGA and the Dawgs. UGA the dawg said “Gator meat tastes like chicken!” The lack of offensive imagination finally caught up with Muschamp’s swamp rats. For those of you watching the South Carolina- Tennessee game, you witnessed one of the most gruesome injuries since LT broke Joe Theisman in half. The Tailgate sincerely wishes Marcus Lattimore a speedy recovery and hopefully we will see him at the next level on Sundays. And the biggest news out of Baton Rouge this weekend involved the Honey Badger in another off field incident. You see, when the Honey Badger (he really don’t care) plays in the weeds, he becomes Honey Boo Boo. Do you think he will look good in a tiara in the loseiana state penn? Say hi to Maurice Claret for us in your future endeavors. Bad Bad Badger!

    + Po Po  =

Congrats to the University of Misery as they score their first SEC win against the lowly Kentucky Mildcats.

Over at the Big 10 in the Probation Bowl, the Bucks clipped the Nitts at the Shoe. Sparty gets it back on track with a mild upset over the other Badgers, and Dennard goes down as do the Wolverines to the Corn Shuckers. In the PAC 12 Oregon rolls over the Buffs, OSU loses its first game and Rich Rod and the Wildcats shock USC and Lame Kiffin with a win in the desert. I will not point out how badly Lame Kitten was outcoached as others may stoop to do. See, I am staying mature on this embarrassment. Elsewhere, BC gets win # 2 over Randy Edsall and the lemons from College Park, MD. The Boise State Broncos take in the rarified air of Laramie, Wyoming and bucked the cowboys 45 -24. Hey Coach Christensen, how did you enjoy watching the game from home…mister integrity my arse. San Jose State is one win away from becoming bowl eligible with a win over Texas State (right I know, who the hell are they?).

Tradition of the week – The typical greeting in the state of Alabama as I heard it all weekend was a simple “roll tide”; response back was “roll tide”. I can’t quite get the accent down but it become more entertaining to hear the more beverages people consumed and then yelled it out.

Hit of the week:

Gripe of the week – Where is this “conversation” being held that the pundits always talk about? I hear about so and so “should now be part of the conversation” for the Heisman race. Such and Such a team should be part of “the conversation” for the National Championship. Coach X should be part of the conversation for the Vacancy at State U. I am really upset because I want in on this conversation….I have searched high and low, far and wide, to the ends of the earth and back for the location and people of this “Conversation”, but as it turns out, it is merely a figurative mythical conversation that has never been, is not, and will never be held. It is just more predictable speech from un-original pundits in the world of CFB who can only regurgitate what others have already said. Yeah that’s right; I am calling you out on Gameday and Fox Football and of course the schmucks on CBS and ABC. What happened to inventiveness and originality? Did it disappear with the deaths of Warner Wolff, Vin Scully and George Michael? Or perhaps Chris Berman & Keith Jackson may be the last original talking heads of our time. Okay, now that I have alerted you to this annoying issue I have a game for you to play: Every time you hear a talking head next Saturday utter the words “In the conversation” I want you to take a drink of scotch. Let me know the next morning how you are feeling. It should be fun and a good social ice breaker at whatever scene you are into!

Next week the Tailgate will be in Sacramento tending to my daughter’s youth soccer (partially) and locating a good table in a sports bar to catch all the action. I will not be making the trek to Boise as was previously planned.

I am looking for a guest writer to take over the blog the weekend of 11/17 as I will be on Vacation that weekend surfing, parasailing and scuba diving. Or I may just be sitting on the beach with a few libations. Nonetheless, I need someone to cover for me. Give it a shot, it’s a hoot.

Happy tailgating!