Monday, September 4, 2017

Week 1 The three Ize (Indiana, Illinois and Iowa)

Labor Day is my Christmas Vacation!

For the third year in a row, the DFT crew has executed a triple header over Labor Day weekend. This year I was joined once again by my college buddy and fellow fan of Fireball, Fun and Football,  Jim Tubby Devine. As an added element, we went pure Griswold and rented an RRRRRRRVEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE for the excursion. Our trip would begin and end at Chicago O’Hare airport with stops at Bloomington, Indiana, Dekalb, Illinois and Iowa City, Iowa. We would have special guest appearances and friends and family joining us for parts of the madness. Major props to my wingman for the preparations he made in ensuring our Urban Assault Vehicle was stocked beyond my wildest imagination. The provisions consisted of five star chow, liquid refreshments, and all the odds and ends to ensure we had successful tailgating.We also did three live Facebook videos from each Tailgate.

On the first part of the journey, I was looking at all the life…there were plants and birds and rocks and things…..oh wait that is a line in a song by America. I will try again without my ADD interrupting. The first leg of our journey took us a little over 5 hours to get to Bloomington, home of the movie Breaking Away and the Indiana Hoosiers campus. The ”non-donor” RV lot was 3 miles from the stadium, so we set up camp amongst mostly visiting Ohio State Buckeye fans and assembled the Tailgate. On the menu for night one was savory T bone steaks smothered in blood pressure raising seasonings, cole slaw, mac salad and potato salad. The last three items would make a repeat appearance the next night. And of course no meal is complete without the aperitif of a fine swig of vintage 2017 fireball of course.  In addition, we had the bonus of a small grass fire started by the dripping grease catcher. 

Advertising the alibi
Tailgating in Hoosierville
Our Tailgate guests in Bloomington

The master chef in action burning some beast
Into an Uber and onto the stadium where we were seated in a predominantly Buckeye section with a wee bit of an expectant entitled attitude. You Buckeye friends know zackly what I’m sayin! Indiana Memorial Stadium was originally built in 1960 And currently holds 53,000. It has a classic old school tower in the North end zone and is undergoing some additional changes with a new athletic center being built into the South end zone. Concourses were wide, and concessions stands were strong even sporting a Chick Fil A counter. Seating was tight bench seating but the Big Ten likes to pack em in. The stadium was at near full capacity as the Buckeye faithful travel large and expectations for the Hoosiers were high coming off the Foster Farm Bowl appearance last year (we were there).

The Hoosiers came out swinging and the “Cutters”, alumni and students were ecstatic. They went punch for punch with the Buckeyes throughout the first half like McGregor did Mayweather. Indiana QB Richard Lagow threw for 278 yards alone in the first half and many of the passes were caught by a future NFLer named Simmie Cobbs Jr. Urban Meyer must have been suffering agita on the sideline and was probably thinking about chowing on some pizza in the tunnel after the game (anyone know what that reference means?) Halftime score had the Hoosiers on top 14-13.

Two important things happened in the third quarter: First, we found our leading Bieber candidate for the week. Read below under the award section to learn the details. Second, the size, strength and skill of Ohio State started to wear down the Hoosiers a little over halfway through the quarter. By the end of the third quarter the Buckeyes had surged ahead to a 35 -21 lead with Mr. Mo clearly on their side. Ohio State pulled away further in the last 17 minutes of the game for a solid 49 -21 win.  Buckeye Running back JK Dobbins tore it up with 181 yards rushing. We departed the venerable old stadium to catch a shuttle back to our RV lot and our lodgings for the night. The evening ending with the quintessential Irish medicine to help with sleeping in a strange place.

We awoke to RV’s firing up their engines to make their drives homes. Cousin Eddie would make his first appearance on this morning scaring our RV neighbors next to us. Bacon and eggs were whipped up for breakfast and onward we went for the next 5 hour journey to Dekalb, Il, home of the Northern Illinois Huskies. The Huskies out of the MAC conference would be hosting the Boston College Eagles from the ACC.  NIU is a State school located about one-hour due west of the windy city. There is literally not much around the small town of Dekalb as it is in the heart of farm country.

With BC in town, that meant the two main pillars of the Eagle Tailgaters would post up, Pops Leblanc and Rick Gagne. They joined us for our second tailgate in less than 24 hours. Cousin Eddies would make their second appearance of the trip. We would also be joined by NIU fan Frosty and his crew who were set up nearby. On the menu for gate number two was shrimp, Bratwurst, Cheeseburgers and grilled chicken. Libations and spirits were served to ensure we would stay warm in the unusually chilly evening weather. With an 8:30 kickoff, we had ample time to eat, drink and socialize and create a bit of a stir in the parking lot with Cousin Eddie.

 Push Play and crank up volume to hear the Eddies

Eddie the celebrity
Huskie stadium is perhaps one of the more unique stadiums in a quirky sense that I have ever been to. It was built in 1965. The West side of the stadium is predominantly the student section and is pretty much a big high school bleacher structure. The students were all decked out in black as it was a black out game. The East side was the main part of the stadium with the press boxes, suites and larger seating area. The concourse was more like the Winchester Mystery House as you had hallways, ramps and dead ends to traverse to locate concessions, gate portals and restrooms.  The best part of  Huskie stadium to us was that they not only sold beer, they had a beer man serving our section in our seats.
Eagle Tailgaters and the Boyz

Eddie stirring up the crowd

NIU, although out sized and out muscled by the athletes from Chestnut Hill, MA apparently did not realize the mismatch. The game was a classic back and forth battle with neither team gaining momentum for very long. We sat in the BC section with many nervous fans as BC expected to win handily, but it would be anything but easy on this unseasonably cold night. 

BC, behind a Freshman QB and Freshman RB and a massive O-line showed signs of excellence as well as inexperience throughout the contest. The Huskies simply played with more heart and grit for most of the evening. As the 4th quarter wore down, BC kicked the go ahead field goal. NIU had a final chance to tie the game with their own kick but it was not to be. Final score BC 23 -20.  Back to the RV with the Eagle Tailgaters for a night cap before a very short sleep as wake up would be O dark thirty to make the 11 AM game in Iowa City the next day.
Good night from Dekalb!

Apparently, I did not heed the wake up call as I was awoken by beeping horns and the vibrations of an RV speeding 70 MPH down Interstate 88 to Iowa. Also, when I popped my head down to see that Tubby was driving and we were well into our trip there was another person that had joined us. Nick Junior, Tubby’s son and an Iowa grad showed up during my slumber and came aboard the mighty vessel. We arrived at our tailgate lot with less than two hours to game time but that did not stop our master grillsman from throwing more steak, sausage, bacon and eggs on the grill. I mixed up a batch of Bloody Mary’s to pare with the low cholesterol assortment of vittles.

We made our way into historic Kinnick Stadium just after kickoff. The old stadium was constructed in 1929 and named after Niles Kinnick, the alleged model for the Heisman trophy. The only foreseeable downside to the stadium was that the concourses were rather narrow for a facility that seats 71,000. On this crisp late summer morning, Niles fans were clad in yellow and black as they welcomed the Wyoming Cowboys from the Mountain West Conference.  The excitement level was high as Iowa was coming off an up and down year with a young team. Wyoming QB Josh Allen has been talked up big time by pundits and scouts as he has the size and arm strength to excel at the next level which added to the game day buzz.

The old girl was rockin in all it's glory

A brand-new Children’s hospital was built adjacent to the East side of the stadium and towering well above it. At the end of the first quarter, a new Hawkeye tradition was hatched as the kids in the hospital all stood in the window of the top floor and waved as the entire stadium waved back at them. It literally put a chill in my spine as I saw this amazing gesture take place. God bless those kids and get well soon.
The Children's Hospital

Iowa’s Sophomore QB Nate Stanley was as brilliant as he was exasperating with 5 turnovers on the day countered by 3 touchdown passes. The saving grace was that the Hawkeye Defense was stout keeping the Cowboys in check after surrendering the first score of the game on a Cowboy field goal. The Hawkeyes would run off 24 straight points to pull away with a 24 -3 season opener. For the post game celebration, we followed the masses to downtown Iowa City to the Sports Column Pub for lunch, liquids and lots of football on big screen TVs. The night was capped off by dinner at the Vine while watching the marquee matchup of the day on the flat screen TVs.
The 3 best friends, anyone can have
They have everything in Iowa City

Around the country (games of note)

Notre Dame 49 – Temple 21

Alabama 21 – Florida State

Michigan 28 – Florida 17

Oklahoma 57 – UTEP 7

Maryland 51 - Texas 41

UCLA 54 – Chokeses A&M 44

VA Tech – 31- WVU 24
Tenn 42 - GA Tech 41

#17 (D3) Frostburg State 33 - #18 Stevenson 7

The Boomer Sooner girls pre-gaming

The DFT East Coast crew at the Rutgers Tailgate

Doobie Brothers reunion at the Old Dominion game

Bieber – As mentioned above, we found our Bieber leader at the Indiana/Ohio State game. We don’t have a name but let’s call this little metro Snowflake “Gordon” for now. You see Gordon is one of those annoying fans that thinks he needs to stand the whole game even though everyone else is seated. Perhaps it was the diminutive Gordon’s size that warranted him to have to stand. However, even at his seated height he could see well over the people in front of him. Gordon was to the left of us in our row and he happened to also be one of those Buckeye fans I described above. During the third quarter, an elder Indiana fan seated directly behind Gordon first asked him nicely, followed by some additional encouragement to sit down followed by a few words and an anatomical description to sit down. Not only did Gordon refuse to sit, he sassed back and was joined by two of his fellow snowflakes in a Keapernickesque show of defiance. I provided a little encouragement for his friends to remain seated and show some respect for the host fan behind them. They complied but little Gordo, 5 people away from me and feeling secure remained steadfast in his defiance. Our Indiana friend grew tired of the idiot and finally gave up. As we departed in the fourth quarter I made sure to plant my size 12 squarely on Gordo’s size 7 Jimmy Choo shoe. Perhaps he finally took a seat after that and relished in the fact that he is the season’s first Bieber awardee.

Next up Mrs. Tailgate and I will be going over the hill to Bezerkeley to take on Antifa Terrorists and support my Army Buddy Eric Aragon’s FCS team Weber State as they do battle with the Cal Bears. We plan on pre-gaming for brunch at the Claremont, so stop in and join us if you are in town.

Happy Tailgating!