Sunday, October 9, 2016

Ozark Thirty

The Flab Four at Farrells in Fayetteville
It is said that every man has his own Mount Everest to climb. For some it is completing a marathon, triathlon or breaking 70 on a golf course and others may want to visit all 50 states or all seven continents. For me it is to see a game and tailgate at all 128 Division 1A (FBS) venues. On Thursday night in Memphis, I met up with another writer from Stadium Journey who has attended games at 121 of the 128 stadiums. He will only have 3 to go after this season. Thus when I finally summit my Mount Everest, there will be someone there waiting on my arrival. The impressive part of the story is that the writer, Aaron Terry looks to be about 35 years old.

Young Aaron at stadium #121
Upon arriving in Memphis for the bonus game of my trip, I checked into my FEMA camp, uh uh I mean hotel. My initial encounter had me walking through a maze of meth heads and the Orkin bug man. I would be sleeping with my shoes on that night. Off to the Liberty Bowl via Uber to watch the Memphis Tigers take on the Temple Owls in an AAC battle. The main tailgate place outside the stadium is an area called Tiger Lane. For a Thursday night game there appeared to be a decent amount of tailgates up and running but probably nowhere near what it would look like on a Saturday. We were treated to the Sound of the South marching band and cheer squad as the team did their Tiger walk into the Bowl. I also got up close and personal with the live mascot, Tom the Tiger and of course a photo op with the cheerleaders.

The Liberty Bowl was constructed in 1965, seats approximately 57,000 fans and sits about 2.5 miles from campus in the south end of town. The North side of the stadium looks like a giant sombrero with luxury suites at the very top. If you get altitude sickness, I would suggest not sitting up there. The Tigers were coming off of one of their best years behind Coach Justin Fuentes and current NFL QB Paxton Lynch. Fuentes has since departed for Virginia Tech but along with AD Tom Bowen laid the groundwork for a successful program. Temple also had a great season last year helping make the AAC a conference to be reckoned with. The Liberty Bowl is one of a handful of college stadiums that serves beer inside. So, it was appropriate for me to get in there as the gates opened so I could properly hydrate on this 90 degree evening. Along with hydrating, they served some pretty decent pulled pork sandwiches at one of the vendor windows. We were treated to the Fedex flyover prior to kickoff.  After meeting up with my fellow writer from Stadium Journey, the National Anthem was played and the teams took the field.  The memo went out that everyone was to wear white in an attempt to pull off a white out. The Sound of the South band belted out song after song with Eye of the Tiger being one of their favorites.

The Liberty Bowl getting fired up
Temple dominated action in the first half taking a 13-3 lead into the locker room. However, the Tigers found their groove in the second half and went on to win 34-27. No Beall St. celebration for me as I had to stay fit for the main event of the weekend, Alabama at Arkansas on Saturday.

Vehicle of the week
I was joined by three of my high school buddies for the weekend: Alabama Al, Tennessee Tony and Maryland Mayer, AKA Feasty John. We rented a killer house in Fayetteville owned by Ryan Hardin who would also be our tailgate host the next day. The house was equipped with several master suites, high tech electronics and a 100 inch projection screen. It was  tempting to not leave the house for the whole weekend. We ventured out Friday night to the famous Herman’s Rib house for some baby back ribs and garlic chicken. Todd Blackledge once featured this place on his Taste of the Town segment on ESPN.  
Herman's Rib House
On Saturday, a picturesque Ozark hills, blue sky day, we made our way down to the legendary Dickson Street for a liquid lunch at Farrells. After ensuring the quality of their libations were indeed satisfactory, we linked up with our host Ryan and his tailgate of many near the North end of the stadium. Great BBQ pork and Mac N Cheese amongst other things were the lead punches on the menu. For the first time ever, we were introduced to fireball out of a box, like boxed wine. Mr. Hyde would soon appear and greatly resemble me. I was blown away at the amount of on campus tailgating taking place in all directions of the stadium on the beautiful and hilly campus. 

Planting the flag with our host Ryan and friends
A very serious Alabama Al

Alabama came in to the game as the #1 team in the nation and a heavy favorite. The fans attempted to pull off a stadium striping but didn’t get that quite right. The Arkansas Band was big, loud and awesome as they played song after song throughout the match. Parachutists dove into the stadium to the cheers of hog nation. Our seats were as high as you can get on the Arkansas sideline. Our charming personalities afforded us the opportunity to make many new friends in our section whether they wanted to or not. Donald W. Reynolds Razorback stadium opened in 1938 and after a series of upgrades seats 72,000 fans. The fans are passionate, well informed and courteous. We learned the “Wooooo Pig Sooie” chant when the faithful call out to fire up their beloved Hogs.
God bless America!

It took Alabama very little time to establish their dominance as they outplayed Arky in all facets of the game from the opening kick- off until the game was well in hand through three quarters. IMHO, Alabama and Ohio State are the two deepest most talented teams in the Nation. Although Fayetteville, gave a spirited effort, they were no match for the reigning national champs and head cheese Lil Nicky. Final score Bama 49 – Piglets 30. Back to Dickson street for more revelry. After 23,000 hilly steps on the fit bit we retired to the Hardin house and the 100 inch TV for the late games. We were totally impressed with the whole vibe in Fayetteville for the weekend. This ranks up there as one of DFT’s top CFB weekends.

The majestic Razorback Stadium
Around the Country – In perhaps the biggest upset of the weekend, Navy took down the mighty Houston Cougars in Nap Town in a driving rain storm. Oklahoma pulls off the win over Texas and beleagured coach Charlie “formerly” Strong at the Texas State Fair. In double overtime T Knight and his newly minted biceps knocked off the Tennessee Volunteers 45-38. For once it was Miami’s turn to kick wide right and lose by 1 to Florida State. Look who’s sneaking back up the polls in Blacksburg, VA. The Hokies coached by Justin Fuentes kicked the Tar out of the Heels 34 -3.  Michigan, Ohio State and Washington all rolled to continue their drive to the final four. Stanford, Notre Dame and Oregon continue their respective slides in a disastrous season.

Dr. Natty Bo's Navy Tailgate

Lil Tailgate and her Mates at the Cotton Bowl
Feasty John's gourmet Breakfast

Chef Big Chuck doing his thing at Ravens and Redskins
Tennessee Tony at Battle of Bristol last month
Bieber Award – honors this week go to TCU coach Gary Patterson for sounding off after last week’s loss to Oklahoma.  First it was the referees that didn’t perform according to his standards. Then he went after OU QB Baker Mayfield in a personal attack. Apparently, Gary  did not like it last year when Mayfield stated he was most disappointed in TCU for not offering him a scholarship when they strung him along. The portly purple Patterson disagreed with Bake’s recollection and basically insinuated he was a liar. He said, she said, etc...So Gary, too bad you lost the game, your composure, and probably some more recruits, but you did win Bieber!

Next Week – A large DFT contingent will be invading the state of Wisconsin for the Ohio State game followed by the Cowboys at Green Bay on Sunday. ESPN College Gameday will be in Mad Town Saturday. Look for our banner. This is Anchor Game 2016.

Happy Tailgating