Monday, October 27, 2014

Week 9 - Good Ole Rocky Top

My new favorite song
In the summer of 1984 as a young ROTC Cadet at Fort Knox, KY, I was introduced to the song “Rocky Top” by two fellow Cadets in my barracks, both students at Tennessee. In fact, I think they even made up marching cadences to Rocky Top a la Bill Murray in Stripes. Some thirty years later, that song still haunts my medulla oblongata as I will start humming it for no apparent reason at very inopportune times. On this picture perfect autumn weekend in Eastern Tennessee, I felt privileged and honored to be amongst the 100,000 + Orange revelers to hum Rocky Top and welcome back one of the Tailgate’s all time favorites to the checkered end zone: Mr. Lane Kiffin, former head coach here. For those of you that don’t remember, Young Lane was hired to be the Head Coach back in 2009. After one year, he left the Volunteer Nation hung out to dry so he could chase the glamour and glitter of Hollywood and return to USC as their head ball coach. Needless to say, the name Kiffin was less popular than the name Bin Laden in the Smoky Mountain State. Things did not work out so well in LA for the disciple of Pete the Cheat, and Lil Lane was spotted in line at a soup kitchen. Saban Clause, AKA St. Nick did a charitable thing and hired the unemployed boy genius as his OC prior to this season. And of course he would be greeted with a very warm welcome inside the imposing Neyland Stadium when the Tide rolled onto the field.
This weekend would be a reunion with my high school crew, SVHS class of 1981. Lodgings were provided by Classmate Tennessee Tony Pifer in his five star cabin in the woods. However to get to the cabin, one must travel through places that could be rift with moonshiners, cloggers, snake healers, and toothless banjo strummers. The hair on my neck stood up on alert as we made our way through the Holler. We were also joined by Maryland Mike McCabe and the good Doctor himself, Alabama Al and his family. After spending Friday night recalling just how great and cool we were 35 years prior and who could beat who up, we were ready for game day in Knoxville on Saturday. We headed to the Palace on the river known as Neyland Stadium for a 1:30 PM Tailgate party hosted by Doctor Eddie Hockaday and his wife Connie. Neyland Stadium is named after legendary Tennessee coach General Robert Neyland. Neyland was the Vols coach from 1926 -1952 with a hiatus to go serve his country in the CBI Theater during WWII. This has added meaning to me as my Father served as an Army Air Corps Officer in Burma and India during the big one. General Neyland also coached the Vols to four National Championships. With UT being a city school, tailgating space is at a premium with the orange clad fanatics setting up wherever possible. The Hockaday party was located on the top deck of the parking garage just next to the stadium with a view of the river down below. In the river there is a phenomena dating back almost 50 years called “Boatgating”. This is an event where boat owners from around Tennessee lash up together for an all day Tailgate on the water. Some of the larger boats even had live music, dancing girls and congressional hearings for entertainment. This is one of the top bucket list events to witness in all of college football. Our Tailgate consisted of a mixture of Vol and Tide families and friends. In our walkabout we found a camera man filming a sign attached to a microphone that said “What would you tell Lane Kiffin?” Many a warm hearted Vol fan stepped up to the Mic and let little Lane know they were just so ecstatic to see him again. We found the Tailgate crowd at UT to be spirited but mostly respectful.
Tennessee Tailgating!
The good Doctor seeking Legal advice
Orange Crush!

General Neyland's commanding view
Say hello to my little Lane

Tailgating with the Alabama Al family. Note the Harbaugh Mom pants on the good Doctor.

Boatgating on the Banks of the river.
As a cruel Joke, Alabama Al stuck us non partisan so called friends in the Alabama section of the stadium in the upper tier of this massive structure. Let’s just say if there was a tornado touching down in Tennessee it would have torched our seats for several reasons. This was not the same polite clientele we tailgated with during the afternoon. The Vol Nation filled the stadium for the 7:30 kickoff cloaked in their bright Orange attire accompanied with their all day tailgate glo. The Pride of The Southland UT Marching band took the field and formed a giant letter T. Smokey the Blue Tick Hound mascot led the Team out onto the field through the giant T to the approval of the Orange people. The Pride belted out Rocky Top for the first of several hundred times of the night. The sellout crowd of 102,455 fans was singing in unison at the top of their lungs. With all the pageantry and nighttime magic that Knoxville has presented so many times, the fans expected a great effort out of their underdog Vols.  Coach “Sergeant Carter” from Gomer Pyle (AKA Butch Jones) was fired up as well. 

Separated at Birth - Sgt Carter and Butchy

Nonetheless, Alabama sucked the rarified air out of the behemoth bowl before the first quarter ended. Apparently, Lane and Nick drafted up their own script for how Lane’s return to Neyland would be. Bama ended the first set with a 20 - 0 lead spearheaded by spectacular play from All American Amari Cooper and QB Blake Sims and a stout D. LK was seen running up and down the sideline in his visor encouraging his boyz to show em who the boss is. Bama scored again to start the second quarter before Tennessee had decided to give us our money’s worth. From that point on, UT outplayed Alabama by outscoring the Tide 20 - 7. But as higher math will learn ya, 27+7 is still more than 20. I will say that even though Tennessee has seen better days, the atmosphere, passion and traditions that the Vol Nation brings to game day is amongst the best in the country. This is a program that claims six national titles throughout time. They will rise again much to the chagrin of the rest of the SEC.
The Grandiose Neyland  Stadium with the unmistakable checkered End Zones

As an added bonus, I was also able to catch the Thursday night ESPN game in Blacksburg, VA between The VA Tech Hokies and the Hurricanes from the U. I met up with my College buddy and Rugby Teammate Terry Kernan who drove in from D.C. to join me because he heard I would score us some free turkey legs. After illegally parking at the Holiday Inn across from Campus we snuck on their shuttle bus that took us to campus. We learned the first stop was the Tailgate party sponsored by the Holiday Inn. So what are two grown men to do when presented with an opportunity to crash a party, eat someone else’s food, drink their beer and insult the guests? You answered correctly if you said “tailgate crash”. We also met up with Terry’s friend John Malone at his Beergate in Lot 1 along with his Fraternity crew that graduated from VT in 1983. They have been doing a Thursday night game reunion annually in Blacksburg with guys coming in from different parts of the country for 30 years. The Hokie faithful have grown restless since their week two upset of Ohio State who at the time was ranked #4 in the country. Since that time VT has been on a downward spiral. Some even have spoken the unspeakable and are calling for legendary Coach Frank Beamer’s resignation.
John Malone and Terry with me at the Beergate.

I'm not a Tailgater but I did crash a Holiday Inn Tailgate last night.
Thursday night games at VA Tech are legendary. The Hokie fans are as passionate as any and pack the 65,000 seat Lane Stadium for home games and provide as hostile an atmosphere for opposing teams to play in as I have seen. They have a ritual when the team takes the field before the game where the whole stadium bounces up and down to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”. The crowd erupts and the players stream out on to the field and fireworks go off beyond the south end zone.  

Enter Sandman
VA Tech is also one of only two non-military colleges that have a Corps of Cadets. They packed the south end zone while the students and the Marching Band occupy the North. Another unique feature at Lane is hearing a Turkey gobble over the PA system to get the fans fired up throughout the game. However all of the pageantry and non game activity was the most action the Hokies would produce on this night. Miami’s Duke Johnson ran roughshod over VT for 250 yards and 2 TDs on the night as Miami feasted on the Hokies 30 - 6. Regardless, this venue still provided an awesome week night game atmosphere.

Lane Stadium on a Thursday Night
My former basketball player Erika Perez
 Around the Country – Despite what ESPN would have you believe, there is more to CFB than the SEC West. That is why you come to DFT for your information. That being said, LSU proved once again that Death Valley is the place where not only opposing team’s dreams come to die, but national championship aspirations also meet the same fate. Ole Miss found this out the hard way Saturday night as they came into Baton Rouge undefeated and walked out with a blemish on their record. The Hat (Coach Miles) asked the Rebs “how’s that grass taste boys?”  The TCU Horned Frogs Basketball squad beat up on the Texas Tech Red Raiders Football squad 82 - 27. And it pains me to say that our beloved Trojans from USC dropped another one to Utah 24 - 21. Mark Dantoni put one more stake in Big Brady Hoke’s inevitable fate as Sparty won Big against Big Brother Michigan in the Big House 35 - 11.
Bieber Award – After consulting with my Bieber committee we decided it was a light week in bad Biebhavior. However if we go back to last Saturday after WVU upset Baylor, I think we found our winner. You see, it is normal behavior in Morgantown, WV to burn couches after a big Mountaineer victory. I am not sure why, other than maybe them boyz drop their fatties on their moonshine soaked couches and voila, you have your instant heat source all by accident. Nothing new, right? Well, after the Baylor win there must have been extra moonshine and bulletproof liquid courage as the hillbillies burned everything in their path including the traditional couches, pulled down lamp poles and rioted like anarchists. The MOTO PO PO had to be brought in to get the town under control to calm the LA Laker fans down. Reports indicated that the town looked no different the next day then it normally does. The ironic part is past Bieber Winner the bow tied smug dork Gordon Gee, former Chancellor at Ohio State now the Cheese at WVU had to lecture the students on their unsportsmanlike behavior. So to the fans of WVU, not only do you get College Gameday next week, you are this week’s winner of the vaunted Bieber Award!
Next Week - The Tailgate will make its way to the Palouse for the first time to watch Wazoo host USC, I will be joined by USC die hard Major Mark Rodrick, USMC (R) and he is making me sit with the USC section. I think I will wear my Notre Dame Schwag.
Happy Tailgating!

Our classless reunion - McCabe, Dan, Al & Tony
The BC Eagle crew celebrating a victory at Wake with the Mother of All Foxes, my sister Pats!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Week 8 - I've never been to Heaven, but I've been to Oklahoma

Mrs. Tailgate's theme song

The last time I attended an Oklahoma Sooner home football game Ronald Reagan was President, I had no daughters, was engaged to be married and donned a full schlock of follicles on the now ever present dome. Barry Switzer wore mink and graced the sidelines of what was then simply called Owen Field. I attended that game in 1988 with my bride to be and now wife of 26 years and my more senior sister Patricia. We were treated to an Oklahoma thrashing of a then hapless Kansas State team. Oklahoma’s Star QB was a young man named Charles Thompson whose escapades would eventually land him in jail and help lead to the demise of Barry Switzer as Head Coach at OU. We were also treated to a heavy dose of plumber butt a mere five rows to our front.

Fast forward to present day...I attended the Oklahoma - Kansas State Homecoming game this past Saturday. Also in attendance was my bride of 26 years, affectionately known as Mrs. Tailgate, my # 1 daughter and recent Boise State grad, daughter #2, a Freshman at OU and my college fraternity brother Buck Hampton. The stadium is now named Gaylord Family Memorial Stadium. Barry Switzer has a museum named after him, Charles Thompson’s son just transferred out of OU, and Kansas State is pretty darn good these days under Coach Bill Snyder.  And did I mention, everyone covered their plumber butts this game….at least from where I could see.

Oklahoma football is rich with tradition, history and a quench for victories and championships above all else. Since the end of World War II, Oklahoma has won more games (598) than any other College Football Team. Among the wins are seven National Championships (second only to Alabama during that time), thirty five 10 win seasons, a 47 game win streak (Longest in Division 1 CFB history), five Heisman Trophy winners, and too many bowl victories and All Americans to mention. The Sooners have been coached by Legends Bennie Owen (stadium formerly named after him), Bud Wilkinson, Barry Switzer and now Bob Stoops for the last fifteen years. The key is obviously to get a coach whose first name starts with the letter B. Duh! Country superstar Toby Keith regularly paces the sidelines on game day. The campus is historic with old buildings and new buildings that mesh perfectly. An assortment of greenery, flowers and statues adorn this beautiful incredibly massive campus. The Greek Row is one of the most amazing you will ever see. The passion the school and the community have for its Sooners is unmatched in most parts of the Country. Oklahoma football is a deity in these here parts!
The Mundings start the indoctrination young!

With an 11 AM start time we missed the annual homecoming parade in which # 2 was a participant with her Delta Gamma Sorority and their float: “The Giving Tree”- very fitting for those of us paying for their tuition! Instead, we opted to head to our Tailgate that was hosted by Mike and Lauren Mullica, and was attended by many of my extended family members and friends, mostly OU diehards. Mike is the proud owner of one of the sweetest Tailgate rigs known to mankind: The half ton, 20 foot rig contains two grills, a deep fryer, warming drawer, Tailgater satellite dish and two flat screen TV’s.  Great grub was served including something called “Man Candy” (see recipe of the week on the sidebar), cross cut ribs, breakfast burritos, sausages and many more items I can’t remember. We mixed up several batches of modified “Bawstun Pops” Bloody Mary’s that elicited instant grins on those who partook in one, two or more.
Master of Ceremonies Mike Mullica and his magical Tailgate rig

The In Laws and their Outlaw
The Men of DFT going all out for Sooner Nation
The Ladies of the DFT OU Chapter
Boomer Sooner!

Good lawwwd Mrs Tailgate, it's only 9 AM and there are children watching!

OU Matt and Sooner Mav Chris having the first beverage of the day with me

Outstanding Chow was prepared and served.

4/5ths of the Tailgate family.
A true family gathering
Can you pick out the real Sooners and the OSU imposters?
What are these called again asks the Colonel?
The fellas enjoying the short ribs.

Three Kicks, two picks and a DC who can’t coach a lick!

At 10:40 AM we headed into the majestic Cathedral amongst a sea of crimson and cream for the 11 AM kickoff. Although the fan base was confident in their Sooners, they were also respectful of their opponent coached by the great Bill Snyder. I mean come on man; he is the only active coach who has a stadium named after him! Another spectacular day in Norman, OK weather wise as blue skies provided us a perfect overhead fresco along with temps in the low 70s. Seats provided by our Tailgate’s Hosts were on the 20 yard line, 21 rows up. When I attended games at OU in the 80s, the crowds were docile and entitled as they expected to win every game by 40 or more. Not the case anymore. The student section was engaged in chants and shenanigans throughout the game. The Band belted out catchy tunes and the rest of the stadium was very vocal and animated during the contest. 

A classic Cathedral in all its glory.

Oklahoma jumped out to a 7-0 lead and then KSU took the lead with a few scores against a talented but under coached OU defense. Time and time again, the Wildcat offense ran the same set of plays with success in the first half. OU QB Trevor Knight also made one crucial mistake on the day with a pick six from his own one yard line early in the game. Other than that mistake, T Knight played brilliantly throughout the day. With seconds remaining before half, the usually reliable OU Kicker Michael Hunnicutt missed a chip shot that would have cut the Wildcat lead to 1 point going into the locker room. In the second half with OU still chasing, the Defense finally tightened up and only allowed 10 more points. However, it was not meant to be for the Sooners with a blocked PAT, an untimely pick on a trick play and a complete shank on a 19 yard game winning attempt by Mister Hunnichoke. Apparently, the FBI has been sent game film to further investigate the normally Mr. Automatic. Along with T Knight, OU’s stud receiver Sterling Sheppard had an outstanding game with 15 catches for 197 yards and a touchdown. Final outcome: KSU 31 – OU 30. So back to the Tailgate we headed to drown our sorrows.

Around the country (in games that matter) – In a game that lived up to its billing as game of the week, The Criminoles bested the Irish in Tallahassee after a controversial call negated the apparent game winning TD for ND. Jameis and the fellas went out and celebrated with free crab legs and jumped up on tables and shouted out with glee.  These Irish eyes are still crying. A scorned Nick is a dangerous Nick as coach Saban and the boys from T Town turned Kenny Trill into Kenny Nil with a devastating 59 - 0 beat-down at Bryant Denny Stadium. In Morganhole, WV, Mountaineer Stadium proved to be inhospitable once again as the Eers knocked off #4 Baylor by two TDs. Free Moonshine and possum stew for all as the hillbillies trashed the town afterward!  A merry band of DFT tailgaters “garage gated” for the BC - Clemson game wearing their stylish DFT polos only to watch Clemson narrowly win. The Cowpokes of OSU seemed to be more worried about going into the “Hot Zone” of the DFW Metroplex than they were about playing the football game at TCU as the Horned Frogs plastered the pokes 42-9.  In the late, late game – the Sun Devils delivered an impeccable performance against a sluggish Stanford Cardinal scoring a 26-10 victory. A brief shout out to the Marshall Thundering Herd as they are now 7-0.
Bieber Award – Again, many candidates to sift through but one stands out a little more this week. Always fun to pick on USC so I enjoyed this one: Apparently former Trojan Great Lendale White ripped the Trojan DC Justin Wilcox after a recent game via Twitter. His words were not one you would expect from a person who matriculated through such a prestigious institution like USC. Mr. White decided to attend USC’s home game this Saturday against Colorado. As is customary in LA LA land, former athletes and celebrities get passes and watch the action from the sideline. Upon entering the field, Mr. White was greeted by USC AD Pat Haden who shook his hand. Minutes later Lendale was escorted out by the stadium Po Po.  He immediately took to Twitter blaming Pat Haden for his personal tour of the stadium tunnel to the parking lot. He called him a Coward, called for his firing and used other words and names that don’t appear in Webster’s dictionary. Well Lendale, you may now have to start paying for your own Trojan tickets, but you my friend have earned this week’s Bieber Award. #fightonwashedupoverweighthasbeen !

Next week – Thursday night the Tailgate will be in Blacksburg, VA and then we move on to the smoky mountains for the Bama – Tennessee game on Saturday.

Happy Tailgating!

Twitter activity and pics from others
The BC Garage Gaters donning their DFT wear.

Sun Devil Kevin O'Connor has pre-purchased his next retirement home

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Week 7 - More Cowbell!

A bevvy of beautiful young ladies from Hail State and War Eagle and the good Doctor representing DFT in Starkville.

Once again the bright lights of College Football shone down on the Magnolia State as ESPN College Gameday and the DFT banner (Carried by Dr. Matt Sheffield) traveled the 80 miles from Oxford to Stark Vegas. #3 Mississippi State hosted War Eagle from the plains of South Alabama. The Hail State faithful rang their cowbells precipitously throughout the day in anticipation of their most important game ever. Who would have known that those prophetic words from Christopher Walken would ring true 14 years later: “More Cowbell!” 


DFT update – when the stars align for a home double header, the Tailgate usually takes advantage of the situation. Friday night, the Heins family hosted me for pre-game festivities down on the farm at Stanford for the Wazoo game. Great food was prepared by our hostess Susan. Future Heins family member and former Cougar John Huffington was in our posse for the night. We also had the pleasure of spending some time with WSU Assistant Athletic Director John Johnson. He is a big reason for the Cougars recent resurgence. We will see him in three weeks in the Palouse when WSU hosts USC. Despite rooting for Wazoo, the stout Stanford Defense shut down the high flying Cougar Offense and their QB  Opie Halliday. Final score Tree  34 - Cougs 17.

Amanda Heins all grown up and attending Tailgates.

The ladies brought a touch of class to an otherwise neanderthal gathering.
Some people just have way too much fun.
Saturday we participated in our annual Snobgating at the world famous Claremont Hotel Paragon bar in Bezerkely for game day libations and vittles. Cal hosted the Huskies from UW in Strawberry Canyon on a picture perfect Bay area Saturday. We had the added benefit of watching the Blue Angels do their thing over the Bay to our west. Tightwad Hill was rocking and the cannon was ready to fire above the stadium. I even think I saw a few dirt hippy squatters in the trees. Nonetheless, the Husky Defense chewed up the Bear offense and took home a 31-7 victory.

Skipper, Thurston and Gilligan on a three hour cruise.
Around the country- In the SEC Mississippi State and Ole Miss took down Auburn and Texas A&M respectively. These two teams will now rightfully be ranked # 1 and 2 in the country. Bama went to Fayetteville and Nick almost left them there.

Out west in the PAC 12 UCLA got boat raced by the Ducks in the Rose Bowl and USC eked one out in Tucson. In Big Ten action Brady lives to play another day by knocking off State Penn. Down in the Big 12, Oklahoma barely escaped the Cotton Bowl with a win over their hated rival Texas. In the wackiest game of the day, Baylor comes from 21 back in the fourth set to beat TCU 61 -58. In ACC action, Jameis will face a disciplinary hearing this week. Why not just wait another few games. AWW heck we are just talking about a handful of fel fels and a few misdys to boot. Notre Dame holds on to win against a well heeled team from North Carolina.

My Favorite Sooner and her pals and Big Tex at the Cotton Bowl

Bieber Award – It would be easy to give it to Jameis and the FSU administration, but that story has become the Benghazi of college football. Frankly we are all numb to his idiocy and the cover up behind the scenes. Therefore, we cruised north of the Florida Georgia Line to find this week’s awardee. It seems that our leading Heisman Candidate could not subside on a free education, room and board and a brand spanking new “Scalade”. These things were not enough to satisfy the appetite of young mister Todd Gurley. It appears that Todd’s thirst for the finer things in life led him to a a deep dark place where he felt justified in charging coin for his Johnny Hancock. Sometimes he would charge as much as an Andrew Jackson for his scratch. We already knew he could carry the ball like nobody’s business, but I am just impressed he even knows how to scribble and count his numbers. So he has the ever important three R’s covered of running, writing and arithmetic. Because of his transgression, he has been suspended indefinitely from the Dawgs and has probably lost any hope of winning the Stiff Arm Trophy. But no need to worry, Todd will be taking home the prestigious Bieber Award this week to add to his accolades and awards.

Next week the Tailgate will be traveling to the land where the wind comes sweeping down the plains for the Sooner – Wildcat battle in Norman.

Happy Tailgating!

Tailgates from around the country:

Navy's first couple stirring it up in the rain.

The Hurricane Mahoneys at Sun Life
Maple Leaf fans were lost ending up at a Stanford game.

More Cowbell in Stark Vegas.

Steve and Chris at a Stanford Gate.