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!