Sunday, October 25, 2015

Week 8 - Standing on the corner in somehere Arizona....

“There I was standing on the corner in Phoenix Arizona, such a fine sight to see. It’s Jerry Buck my lord in a rental car ford slowing down to yell obscenities at me.” And that is how our excursion into the desert this past weekend began as we made the one hundred mile trek from Phoenix Sky Harbor down to Tucson, AZ for the Homecoming matchup between the UoA Wildcats and the rising Wazoo Cougars. My Wingman for the weekend was my college fraternity brother Jerry Buck Hampton who flew in from D.C. It was my annual charitable act to allow him to ride shotgun with me, kind of like the Big Brothers of America program. I believe St. Peter will judge me more favorably now. 
Little Jerry goes for a ride
Friday night we were instructed to investigate the 4th street scene just off campus. We found ourselves in the Auld Dubliner Irish Pub for dinner and a few samples of solid gold. We were treated to an exclusive performance by the UoA Band and Cheerleaders who came into the premises and gave us a great show. Next stop was the famous Frog N Firkin Pub where I was challenged by an exuberant college kid to a fireball contest. When will these kids learn? I have professional written all over my face and I am in mid-season form. This kid literally gave back to the community what he just took….in his cup….on the bar…etc. He was never seen or heard from again. After leaving the FNFP we could see the giant bonfire on campus giving off a magical glow like it was the devil’s postpile in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. That meant it was time to ring the bell and tap out for the night. The vibe and the spirit were outstanding on this desert perfect night before the big game. However no night is complete unless it ends with my millionaire PBR beer for a night cap and tormenting my Carrie Nation roommate.

Cat scratch fever!

Saturday AM we made it over to the tailgate area on campus dubbed The Mall. The Mall is a ¾ mile stretch of grass right through campus that was covered in blue and red tents with great aromas, music and laughter spilling out. Kickoff would be 1 PM which is very unusual in the desert, thus morning tailgates are not the norm here. Nonetheless that did not slow the Wildcat Express down from going full tilt. We were hosted by former Wildcat standout LaMonte Hundley and his cohorts Stan, Jay and the Original Rich Rodriguez. LaMonte’s brother Ricky also played at UoA and went on to an outstanding career in the NFL. Cold libations and fried chicken from Lucky Wishbone, a local favorite was served.  Good stories were told by our hosts and we learned what the slogan “Bear Down means: In 1926, the Wildcats star QB and student body President John Button Salmon had suffered total paralysis from a car crash that would ultimately take his life. Shortly before passing away, the legend of Salmon's inspirational words was born at the next football game. Just before the start of the game at New Mexico State, Coach J.F. "Pop" McKale gathered his players around for a pre-game huddle. The coach visited Salmon every day in the hospital and on his last visit he asked if Button had a message for the team. Button responded with: "Tell them ... tell them to bear down." Hence as you walk through campus on Gameday at UoA you will be greeted with the words “Bear Down”. I suggest you heed that advice. 

The real Rich Rod with Dan

The UoA Tailgate scene

Jerry, Dan and our host LaMonte
DFT flag being planted in the Desert with LaMonte, Rich Rod and the crew.

Once we entered the stadium and took our perch on the shady side, we were exposed to a magnificent view of the Santa Catalina Mountain range to the East and South of our vista.   
A scenic setting in the desert
Arizona Stadium seats about 65,000 people now. Original construction took place in 1928. Two years ago, an upgrade was completed filling in the North endzone with seats and a football only training facility including sky boxes. Hard to beat the fresco of this college cathedral. Coach Rich Rodriguez has breathed life into the football program at this basketball centric school. Even on the hot side of the stadium, almost 6,000 students filled up the Zona Zoo section to cheer on their Cats. The band drummed up  some tunes and the players took the field. Within the first six minutes of action, the Cougs took a 14-0 lead over a very porous defensive middle from the Cats. We were warned at the Tailgate to expect this kind of play on the defensive side of the ball. The Cats clawed their way back into the game as they would continue to do so throughout the afternoon. Each time, Wazoo would pull away again like a slinky going down the stairs. The Washington State offensive juggernaut found no resistance from the Wildcat pass defense all game long.  However, in the fourth Quarter with less than 2 minutes left and down by 10 points, the Cats felt they still had a chance. Two spectacular catches later with the second one resulting in a touchdown, the Cats were still in this. We all remember just last week the unthinkable happened in Michigan, right? The Cats lined up for the onside kick and the kicker executed his job perfectly. The only problem is the ball landed in the hands of a heads up sure handed Cougar player. Final score Wazoo 45, Zona 42. Wazoo improves to 5-2 as the Cats drop to 5-3. This game completes the PAC 12 for DFT, however I plan on revisiting several of them over the coming years.
Doing the wildcat sign

After the game we opted to drive back up to Phoenix and have dinner and bivouac near the airport in order to have a stress free Sunday departure. A special shout out to my Frostburg Classmate Julie Meeker who owns the Mother Brunch Brewery in downtown Phoenix. We dined there Saturday night and it is the absolute best beer and grub I have ever had at a Brewery. All their meats are smoked daily. I recommend the tri tip French dip and smoked wings. Make sure to stop in if you are ever in town and tell her you are a friend of mine. Oh and be nice to the bartenders.
With brewery owner and Classmate Julie.
Around the Nation – First and foremost, prayers go out to the victims of the tragedy during the Oklahoma State Homecoming parade in Stillwater. Mrs. Tailgate is an alum of this school, so this hits close to home in one of those “you never know, the day, the hour or the minute when the hand of darkness will take you away.”

OSU in State rival OU lowered the flag to half mast for the victims in Stillwater
On Thursday night we saw the Baby Bears take down the Big Bears in the Rose Bowl in a PAC 12 battle. #1 daughter witnessed a fired up USC knock off #4 Utah in the Coliseum. Many had predicted that the Utes would fall in Troy on this day. They were correct. As much as I like to poke at USC it is more fun to do so when they are relevant. #2 watched her Boomer Sooners apply a Texas size beat down on Texas Tech in Norman. I still don’t know how this team lost to the Longhorns two weeks ago. Alabama struggled to score touchdowns against a talented Tennessee Team in T Town. Now say that real fast 10 times while standing on one leg and scratching your ear. Ole Miss got back on the right side of things by dialing up a great Tailgate in the Grove and a victory over Texas A&M inside Vaught Hemingway. The Razorbacks turned War Eagle into pig slop in Fayetteville in a four OT thriller. Coach Al “not so” Golden found himself in deep kimchee down in South Beach as Clemson put up “fiddy ate” on the Canes as they laid a golden goose egg offensively. The Golden Boy is unfortunately now looking for work. Miami is delusional if they think they can get a coach to return them to their glory days. Put a stadium on campus for starters, the Dolphins stadium 45 minutes away will never work.  Another miracle finish happened Saturday, this time at Dodd Stadium at Georgia Tech: With the Yellow Jackets and the Seminoles tied at 16 with a few ticks of the clock left, Florida State lined up for a field goal attempt. The kick was blocked and traveled about 15 yards down field. Instead of celebrating the block, an astute GT player (Lance Austin) picked up the ball and rambled 70+ yards down the sideline for the score capping off an amazing finish and perhaps the biggest upset of the day. Keep in mind, Memphis, Houston, and Temple all from the AAC remain undefeated at 7-0 as does Toledo from the MAC conference. Which one will be playing on New Year’s Day? DFT also says so long to Coach George “Red Cheeks” O’Leary as he pulled a Spurrier and quit on his UCF team too this week after the beatdown from Houston.

Fresh out of a night in jail, the Eagle Tailgaters take on Louisville

This may be the best action of the day for the Utes
#2 and her Wing girl getting ready for TTU

Rachel Gervolino taking over for her Pops at the Stanford game
Turn off the heart light at SDSU/Utah State game.
The Margiotta crew at Penn State/MD battle

Rocking the boots in the Grove at Ole Miss
Bieber Award – It’s very simple this time: The kid who re-gifted his fireball and other stuff at Frog N Firkin Pub. Three rules to live by in life: 1. Never leave your Wingman (right Jerry, or you might miss the group picture?), 2. Only fire your silver bullets when you absolutely, positively have to. 3. Never challenge a Professional. Nuff said, no more lecturing son. Now go enjoy your new J Beebs hardware and practice up.

Next weekend – I will be taking a well needed break watching games with friends and family from DB&G. However, I will post a very unique write up so stay tuned. Please keep sending me your pics of your Tailgates. No Selfies!!!!!

Happy tailgating!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Week 7 - Fifty Shades of Frostburg

The author Thomas Wolfe once wrote… “You can’t go home again.” Well what the hell does he know?  This past weekend I defied Mr. Wolfe and returned to my Alma Matter of Frostburg State University in Frostburg, MD for Homecoming. Frostburg is a small hard scrabble town in the heart of the Allegheny Mountains in Western Maryland about 3 hours from Washington DC. During the school year the town population almost doubles. Frostburg to me is a magical place that provided the foundation for what I have done in life since graduating 29 years ago. This would be my first Homecoming since 1988. Friday night was the private party dubbed “Fifty Shades of Frostburg” at the watering hole called Gladstones (AKA the Tap Room) I tended bar there in 1984. This is the same place after returning from summer break, I sat down with the owners over a beer to discuss my work schedule for the upcoming semester. They chuckled and then Vito the male owner said “well Dan you delivered on your promise of increasing the patronage of the college students and going through more kegs, but dammit to hell we lost money on the nights you worked!” Not really sure how that happened nor would I ever admit to it. I felt I had done an admirable job bringing Townies and College Kids together over a common interest; beer. The Toy Factory Band, named after my Rugby house at 118 Maple Street and led by old roommate George Harvey, played throughout the evening. During the course of the night, I was able to catch up with many old friends, acquaintances, and people I can’t even remember. You see, I was very active in College attending Mass on Sunday’s, being the Captain of the Rugby Team, doing the Fraternity thing (KZX), soldiering in ROTC, holding the position of President of the International Relations Club, writing for the school newspaper all why maintaining my  stellar 2.3 GPA. Dean Wormer would be proud. Contrary to popular belief, I was only a student there for half a decade not a full one. Therefore, it was mandatory that I have a few clinks of the glass with many of these former classmates from these circles to reminisce about the good ole days. Saturday morning we arose to attend the traditional Bloody Mary bash at the Frostburg Inn (Formerly Al’s Motel).  After getting properly warmed up, we made our way to the Tailgate lot at Bobcat Stadium for the big homecoming matchup against the College of New Jersey.

The best part of waking up is a Bloody in a cup!
That was then....

.....this is now, 29 years later same three peeps.

                                         Who says you can't go home again?

Frostburg has been playing NCAA football since 1961. Bob Maddox and Moise Fokou are the only Bobcats to go on to play in the NFL. During the Strike season of 1987, FSU grad Sean McEnerny led the NFL in sacks during the strike period while on the Bears scab team. However, many of my old KZX Fraternity Brothers and Rugby teammates were standouts and several are even in the Bobcat Hall of Fame: Greg Shockey, Rich Prather, Marcus Wooley are HOFers. Bo Bo Grega, Killer Johnson, Tank Reeder, Guido Voso, Horsey Van Orden, Bibbles Schreiber, Bird Canaday, Nutso Stultz, Sluggo Johnstone, Eric Jenkins all suited up for the mighty Bobcats. Bobcat Stadium is a typical Division III field surrounded by a tartan track with the large home bleachers on one side and the visiting team on the other. I once won the midnight, barefoot, “beer in hand” Olympics on that same track during my senior week. So I digress. The last time I Tailgated here was at Homecoming 86 one week prior to my departure to go work full time for Uncle Sugar. I think I had a pretty good time from what I am told. Frostburg State was also home to the Redskins summer camp for a few years before they landed at their new home.

Bobcat Stadium


Due to the fact that our Tailgate in the 35 degree weather with occasional snow was so much fun, I only made it into the game for the second quarter. As the great philosopher Carl Spackler from Caddyshack liked to say, “I was unavoidably detained”.  Frostburg dominated the action throughout the afternoon with a stout Defense limiting TCNJ to a mere field goal. The Cats scored two touchdowns and booted two field goals of their own handily winning 19-3. With the victory, Frostburg improves to 5-1 on the year in the midst of one of their finest seasons in decades.

The Brothers of Kappa Tailgate
Benny Hill and the ladies.
HOFer Greg Shockey
Why is it snowing in October?

This guy should be taking a nap
The men of Kappa
Mrs. Turner is rooting for the wrong team.

Try sneaking that flask in the game.

Around the Country – A lot of changes and activity this week in the World of CFB. The Tailgate says so long to the Ole Head Ball Coach Steve Spurrier and his visor as he shocked Cock Nation by retiring on Monday. Maryland really did get an Edsol as they finally said adios to the lemon that is Randy Edsall after three and a half years of underperforming. However, he still does have good hair. In fact he should run for Congress. Do ya’ll miss Ralph Friedgen yet? North Texas gave walking papers to Head Coach Dan MacCarney after a pathetic start this year concluding with a 62-7 waxing at the hands of FCS school Portland State last weekend. The biggest news of the week of course is our boy Cutty Sark who is no longer surfing the beaches or fraternity houses in LA. More on that below. We also saw Florida Gator starting QB Will Grier suspended for a year for “roiding up”. Didn’t anyone notice he was out benching the O lineman during team workouts? Lastly, former Texas A&M five star wide receiver Thomas Johnson got bored and knifed an innocent jogger to death in Dallas for no reason. These are surely the signs of End of Times as predicted.

On Thursday night the nation witnessed the coming out party for its newest superstar Easy Ed McCafffery of Stanford. McCaffery put on a one man rodeo against UCLA as the Cardinal pounded the UCLA Bruins for a 56-35 triumph. In one of the best rivalries in the history of College football it was the USC Trojans turn to travel across country and face their arch rival the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in South Bend, IN. After a week of turmoil in Troy Nation, the Trojans were fired up and refocused to take on the mighty men of South Bend. After falling behind 31-24 in the second half, the Irish scored 17 unanswered points pulling away for a 41-31 victory. All you USC fans that bet me, I expect payments to be rendered immediately. I know some people. The Oklahoma Sooners rebounded from their disappointing loss last week by de-clawing the K State Wildcats double nickels to zippo. Iowa remains perfect at 7-0 with a resounding beat down of the injury riddled Northwestern Wildcats. The top 5 teams in the Nation all won by wide margins on Saturday (Ohio State, Baylor, TCU, Utah and Clemson). All five remain undefeated at this point in the season. Down in Death Valley Baton Rouge. Leonard “Man Child” Fournette and the Bayou Bengals hold on for a 35-28 win over the Florida Gators. Alabama traveled to Bryant College Station, Texas and sucked the air out of the refurbished Kyle Field by taking down the Aggies 41-23. Ole Miss’s season appears to be spiraling out of control as the surprising Memphis Tigers defeated the Ole Miss Rebels with a 13 point margin of victory. In the much anticipated battle of the State of Michigan, we all saw perhaps one of the craziest plays to end a game in recent memory. Michigan protecting a 3 point lead with ten seconds left elected to punt the ball away from their own 38 yard line. The Michigan punter Blake O’Neil mishandled the snap and scooped the ball up and in Garo Yepremian fashion pitched the ball to a Spartan player who raced in for the game winning score. The Big House fell deathly silent. The DFT Council of Elders is now recommending any Kicker or Punter that loses games for their teams should have their schollys revoked.

One lucky guy!

Tailgate Brian and Laurie at Shepard College game

Tulane AAD Roger Dunaway gave us a tour of Yulman Stadium on Wednesday

 Bieber– Pat Hayden and Steve "Cutty Sark" Sarkisian – get to share the honors this week. Let’s start with the Rhode Scholar and his awful comb over first. He was brought in to clean up the sleazy mess that Mike Garrett and Cheat Carroll had left behind (Lordy do I miss Cheaty boy). Many of the things Hayden has done shows a lack of class and maturity. For starters, the manner in which he fired Stain Kiffin was bush league.  Then the disrespecting of Ed Orgeron when he did a great job as the interim coach by not considering him for the permanent job. Hiring a mediocre Steve Sarkisian from conference rival Washington was his next blooper. Then who can forget last year when he won Bieber honors for storming down onto the field at Stanford to dispute a call with the referee when he was beckoned by a potentially inebriated Coach Sark to do so? Now the latest appears to be his lack of institutional control by turning a blind eye to Sark’s addiction issues. Addiction is no laughing matter, being the son of an Alcoholic I get that, but it must have been part comical and quizzical to the players watching him show up or not for games, practices, flights, speeches like he himself was John Belushi in Animal House. Apparently Mrs. Sark was not too keen with his chasing of the lovely Song Girls or for that matter anything sporting a hemline. She was last heard saying in Eddie Murphy’s voice “I want HALF Stevey!!!!!”The preseason slap on the wrist for his drunk presser is laughable at best as we see now how bad the situation really is in LA LA Land. In order, I hope SC gives Hayden his walking papers as he gets off a plane, Sends Sark to Betty Ford now that he has ample time on his hands, and place the New Bieber trophies where the vacated National Championship and Heisman trophies used to sit. Congrats, you earned it.

No more Sark attacks in SoCal.
Next Week – The Tailgate will make its way to Tucson, AZ for the first time for a conference Cat fight between the Wildcats and Cougars from Wazoo. This will be my final PAC 12 school where I have attended a game. It will be the first D1A conference that I have completed. Joining me on the journey will be Jerry “Buck” Hampton of Frostburg State fame.

Wazoo Cougs
UoA Wildcats

Happy Tailgating!