Sunday, October 4, 2015

Week 5 -It's a Rainy Night in Georgia

From 1989 -1991, Mr. and Mrs. Tailgate resided in the Peach State of Georgia. Within weeks of assimilating into the local culture, I determined that I would boycott UGA Football. Partly because of my contrarian nature but mostly because I didn’t appreciate being barked at by all the overzealous Bulldawg fans at any given moment. Instead I supported Georgia Tech which turned out to be the right call as they were awarded the Co-National Championship in 1991. 

This past weekend the DFT Army Stormed into the Peach State like General Sherman did for a weekend of college football history. Our Squad consisted of several of the Dons of Danville representing the Gervolino and Rabago families, LTC Guido Voso and Dr. Alabama Al. The main event for the weekend was to witness the #13 Alabama Crimson Tide take on the #6 Georgia Bulldogs. But prior to taking Athens, we made a detour to pay homage and visit the new College Football Hall of Fame in downtown Atlanta.  This was an absolutely amazing experience beginning with the wall of helmets (all 768 active college programs are represented including Frostburg State), the Fan Experience (where I got to kick a 20 yard field goal and limp the rest of the day) and all the other great tributes you would expect in a Hall of Fame. There was even a section on the evolution of Tailgating. It was noted that they clearly did not replicate real setups as there was no beer or other spirits in the midst. Additionally, Don Gervolino was able to locate his wife’s Uncle Cliff Montgomery, who was an All American at Columbia University in the early 1930s. He was really good in From Here to Eternity with Frank Sinatra and Burt Lancaster too. We also unveiled the DFT brick that I donated last year to the Hall of Fame (Tax deduction). It was an outstanding time and we all highly recommend it to any College Football fan to put on their bucket list. It is a pilgrimage that is necessary to make at least once in your lifetime if you are a fanatic like myself.

My tax deduction

The Wall of Helmets

The walk of Champions

Cliff Montgomery of Columbia

Find your Tailgate.

Something is missing at this Tailgate
Like a Po Po lineup shot

The horror, the horror!

Our lodgings for the weekend were secured through airbnb. The prize castle was marketed as a spacious studio apartment that would sleep six comfortably. Hmmmm, let’s just say we all got to know each other a lot better after our weekend in Arthur Fonzarelli’s Apartment above the Cunningham garage. I have not bivouacked like this since my spring break days in Fort Lauderdale 30 + years ago. 
Checking in to our airbnb lodgings
After settling in, we re-conned the festive town of Athens, GA Friday night with dinner at Depalmas on the famous Broad Street and a night cap at Magnolias. Like good boys that we are, we Ubered home and tucked in early just as the scene was getting raucous. With Alabama in town and Georgia getting the chance to claim they are the top Dawg in the SEC, Athens was more like Mardi Gras in NOLA on this rainy night in Georgia (You knew I was going to say it) than a college town. 

Friday Night in Athens with our crew
After a fitful night of strange noises, we awoke to a downpour and a breakfast only for the hearty. The University of Georgia was founded around the time Washington was settling into the banks of the Potomac as our first Commander in Chief.  Georgia has a tremendous football history as well as a stunningly beautiful campus. On game day, one would be hard pressed to find a spot on campus where someone is not tailgating. 

Breakfast in a cup
Our first stop was a pre-game indoor Tailgate in the ROTC building hosted by LTC Kevin Fracassa and his lovely wife Christy. Kevin was introduced to us by one of my college Rugby teammates LTC (R) John Fickle. Kevin just recently returned from his second tour in the Sand Box. We thank him greatly for his service along with LTC Voso who also served in Iraq 10 years ago as an Army Ranger. Kevin must have been warned that I liked chicken and brew as we chowed on an assortment of grilled bird and cold suds and watched games on the flat screen tele. 
LTC kevin making us all bark like Dawgs!
The second stop for part of our crew was to the Alumni tent at the Kappa Sigma house as we were the invited guests of the Lattannze family. This group had roasted a pig overnight and served it up with an assortment of home cooked southern sides that was better than most BBQ joints menus I have consumed. As an added bonus, our host insisted that we try a variety of homemade Moonshine prepared by several of the Kappa Sig Alumni. I believe it actually put some hair back on my head. At one point when we entered the actual Frat House, I was accosted by a bleary eyed co-ed that asked me what year I was in. Feeling like Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School, I responded that I was a grad student of course. Despite the continual downpour at UGA, this ranks right up there with some of the best pre-game, game day experiences I have encountered. For those of you following me on Periscope, you got to see some of what I just mentioned. For those of you that don’t, too bad.

MMMM this is good!

Now that's a fire!!!!!

The Men

The ladies

DFT going back to school,

We got into the game in time to hear the lone trumpeter play the beginning of the Battle Hymn of the republic and the 440 member UGA Red Coat marching band ripping out Glory, Glory (Georgia fight song sung to the tune of Glory, Glory Halleluiah). These are both awesome traditions that are important for fans to witness. Sanford Stadium also known as “Between the Hedges” was constructed in 1929. The field is surrounded by an iconic row of 80 year old English privet hedges. Sanford currently holds just under 92,000 people and is the ninth largest on campus college cathedral in the nation. Their current mascot is UGA IX. All past UGAs are buried in the southwest corner of the stadium. Perhaps Georgia’s most famous past player, Herschel Walker was the honorary team Captain for the pre-game ceremony. The stage was set for an historic match-up and the crowd was amped.

The crowd was fired up at the onset

Between the wet Hedges

Bullet proof.

Covered in torn ponchos we sat in the Alabama section with people, who shall we say, got a tad bit excited when they felt compelled to do so. The rain came in buckets at times but that white lightening must have given us the illusion of it being sunny and 75. We did not have a care in the world as we were happy and bullet proof. After a tight 3-3 first quarter, Alabama began to dominate action on both sides of the ball. Their powerful O and D lines were pushing the Dawgs around like they were an Iditarod Dawg Sled Team. Georgia QB Greyson Lambert was simply awful on this rainy day. Even when not pressured, he seemingly always made the wrong decision. On the other side of the ball, Tide QB Jake Coker had a solid day accompanied by a stout run game. By the middle of the third quarter with Alabama firmly in control of the game and the air let out of Sanford, the stadium began to empty with the exception of the Tide fans. We remained into the 4th quarter and finally departed for dinner on Broad Street. Final score: Alabama 39 - Georgia 10. The state of Georgia has not seen a thumping quite like this since Sherman burned Atlanta to the ground. I received a text as the game was winding down stating that I was bad luck for the home team and a magnet for foul weather as I witnessed my third straight rainy blowout of a host team on this trip.

Around the country: ESPN College Gameday was a mere 90 miles away from us in Clemson, SC for the Clemson – Notre Dame matchup. After giving Clemson every opportunity to win the game, Notre Dame still had a chance to tie it up after a late touchdown. However, a questionable two point conversion attempt left us Irish Eyes crying as ND fell from the ranks of the unbeaten. Also in that same category were Ole Miss drowning in the Swamp in Gainesville and UCLA getting dusted by the Devils from Tempe. Other undefeated teams that came close to having one loss against lower ranked opponents included Ohio State, Michigan State and Cal.

In other notable action in the Big 12, the Oklahoma Sooners behind Baker Mayfield shot down the Mountaineers in Norman 44-24. Rumor has it that my investment missed her third straight game in Norman. The TCU Frogs horned the Shorthorns from Austin bringing a chorus of secession movement calls. Coach’s new name is Charlie “Not for Long” Strong. Baylor left Lubbock with a decisive win and Oklahoma State kicked its way past the Jayhawks with a two point victory. Mike Gundy might be a man and is well beyond forty now, but he defeated Bill Snyder who is also a man and is at least eighty. Heck, he even plays in a stadium with his namesake.

In the Big Ten, the surging Wolverines beat the sHell out of the Terrapins in College Park. Don’t look now Big Ten, but Northwestern and Iowa are both 5-0 after strong conference wins over Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Black Knights of Army darn near took down the Nittany Lions in Happy valley. The Fighting Illini celebrated San Jose Day by knocking off the Corn Huskers in Champagne.

NW Gopher hunting Courtesy of Ken King.

Army taking on PSU. Pic courtesy of Major Tom Voytek.

Out West, Stanford obliterated the Arizona pussy cats and Boise State made Hawaii Blue by putting double nickels’ up on Norm Chow’s Spam eaters. Down South, Texas A&M knocked off Dak Prescott and the other Bulldogs from Stark Vegas. Over in Annapolis, Navy stays unbeaten by sinking Air Force again.

Bieber Award– The guy in front of you at the sporting event that refuses to sit the whole time even when the rest of the section has done so. Yeah that’s him, he is at every venue and you have to contain your furor and take some cleansing breaths so you don’t throw him down onto the playing surface. You say to yourself, I paid for a seat, not a stand. He thinks he is super fan. He even turns to the crowd and makes stupid hand gestures and cheesy facial contortions like he just did something good on the field or he just broke wind. You give him vicious nicknames with your seatmates and talk about providing him some bodily harm. You know he will go back to his double wide the next day and then his minimum wage job on Monday so you refrain from taking action. Well guess what? That same dude was standing two rows in front of us at Georgia and was the recipient of some of those thoughts. Alas, he  can put his Bieber trophy on the roof of his cousin Eddy RRRRRRVEEEEEEEEEEEEE. Now I feel better about myself.

Next week the DFT crew from Danville will travel to UC Davis for their matchup against Northern Arizona in an FCS battle. It will be more like a couples retreat as we voted to bring the ladies in a show of appreciation for all they do for us. (I just earned a couple more game day hall passes).  ESPN College Gameday will be at Utah for the Utes – Cal game. Let me know if you are going and I will get the banner to you.

Happy Tailgating!