Sunday, November 12, 2017

Week 11 - Nothing Could B Finer

The boyz from Seneca Valley in front of the "Boose"

My most sincere apologies for not publishing an article last week. As I have articulated in the past, when I take a week off or go to a stadium that I have been to multiple times, it is difficult to captivate my audience.  That being said, if you sent pictures to me last week they will make today’s write up. Nuff said! By way of Big Ben and the River Thames, I made a most circuitous trip to Columbia, South Carolina for my annual Tailgate with my high school buddies. We all graduated from Seneca Valley in Germantown, MD in 1981. Five years later, two other kids graduated from the same school and attended the University of South Carolina. There they met a guy named Darius and formed a band called Hootie and the Blowfish. And the rest is history as they say. They became famous, while we remained notorious. We rented a sizeable crib in Columbia through Rent Like A Champion (Airbnb for college football towns) for seven eternal teenagers and one off spring. The reason for us descending on Columbia is that the Gamecocks would be hosting the Florida Gators on Saturday afternoon. Friday night, we ventured into the Five Points area of Columbia for chow and a few adult beverages at Pawley’s Front Porch. It is always appropriate to absorb the vibe of the host town and contribute to the local economy. The evening ended early for most of us as Tailgate O’clock was set for 9 AM on Saturday and a 12 o’clock kickoff.

We were hosted by my longtime friends from Frostburg, John and Diane Deutchki. Their tailgate spot was right across the street from the stadium in the Gamecock fairgrounds. Our hostess “Fireball” Diane made up some bodacious pulled pork sammies, mouth-watering brisket, artery clogging deviled eggs, and delicious shrimp. Homemade bacon infused potato salad was provided by cousin Bobby, and many other treats and homemade desserts were in abundance as well. Diane and John went beyond the call of duty in taking great care of us wandering tailgaters. We mixed up a batch of Bloody Mary’s to warm the bones on this chilly but clear fall morn. Of course, libations including Real Man beer and Fireball were served. 

Now that is a lady!
We were treated to a visit to one of the famous 22 Cockabooses that sit behind the stadium. In the early 90s, a developer got the idea to buy and renovate 22 train cabooses and place them on a defunct track next to the stadium and sell them. The initial price was just a few thousand dollars each and they now sell for an average of $300k. They have become legendary in the SEC as a big-time game day tradition that is unique beyond words. The rigs are “tricked out” inside and outside. It is the type of place that millennials will want to take selfies in front of and Snap or Insta them like we did. The gracious owner of the one we were invited to was Gamecock superfan Doug Forbes. All 22 cars are uniquely decorated, and all painted in Gamecock Garnet and black. This is what is referred to as “Railgating”.

The Cockaboose Railgate
This was my first visit to see the University of South Carolina play at home. Their venue is the venerable Williams Brice stadium situated just off campus. WB or the “Cockpit” was built in 1934 and has a capacity of 80,000+. I can remember watching games on TV in the 1980s and being enamored with the spiraling stairwells in each corner of the end zone. Sometimes it is the simple things like a cool structural feature that draws me to a stadium. South Carolina joined the SEC in the early 1990s and saw only spots of success per SEC standards until Steve Spurrier showed up. “The Ole Ball Coach” has been gone now for two years, but he developed a positive winning attitude for Gamecock Nation (even though he quit mid-season on the team and earned a prestigious Bieber). Notable players from “this USC” include George Rogers, Sterling Sharpe, Alshon Jefferey and Jadaveon Clowney. 

2001 A Space Odyssey ritual
The Gamecock tradition prior to the start of the game is another must experience in person scene. The theme to 2001 A Space Odyssey plays in anticipation as the Cocks prepare to enter onto the field from the tunnel. The fans are rocking and ecstatic, and towels were waving feverishly just as the crescendo of the song peaks, the Cocks run onto the turf and fireworks explode. 

“The Mighty Sound of the Southeast Marching Band” has 400 members and played constantly throughout the game keeping the crowd engaged. Additionally, they put on a great halftime tribute show to first responders. The sound of the Gamecock Rooster cackling over the loud speaker was heard throughout the match when SC did something positive. What’s not to like about a place when you can call 80,000 people a bunch of Cocks and not get your arse whipped! 

The Gamecocks, in the midst of a resurgent season with a chance to make a decent bowl were expected to handle their business on the field against the disappointing Gators. Florida was entering their second week since firing Coach Jim McElwane. We hope coach Mac is doing well in “WitSec” and has stopped receiving those death threats. The Gamecocks grabbed control of the momentum early despite their QB Jake Bentley playing like an Edsel and throwing the ball to the Blue and Orange 3 times for completions. The Cocks would nonetheless race out to a 14-0 first quarter lead. However, the scrappy Gators were chomping at the bit for some glory of their own as they put up 13 in the second quarter to SC’s 7 for a 20 – 13 halftime score. The men in garnet and black would put 7 more on the board in the third and hold a 28-13 lead well into the fourth. We decided the game was well in hand and headed back out to the tailgate lot only to hear that Florida scored and it was now a one possession game. We caught the last few minutes on a big screen in the lot to watch the Cocks hang on for the victory. Back to the crib for all the games and leftovers from the tailgate. 

Enjoy the brief video of the day:

Around the country
I hate to admit it, but it looks like the U is back along with this new “Turnover Chain” bling thing they do. The Canes thoroughly dominated my Irish to the thrill of their bandwagon riding fans who are now showing up after a 15-year hiatus. Alabama had to give it everything they could muster to squeak by Mississippi State in Stark Vegas as they pulled away with a 7-point win late in the game. Georgia “got the dawg crap beat out of em” by Gus Malzhan and the Auburn Tigers at Jordan Hare ruining their chances for a perfect season. UGA QB Jake Fromm State Farm wishes he was just wearing his khakis. Oklahoma’s Defense finally arrived on game day as the Sooners kept TCU’s Offense in check while Baker “Magic Man” Mayfield kept doing his thing leading his boys to another victory and into the top 4. Oklahoma State rebounded with a narrow win over Iowa State in a high scoring shootout in Ames. The other Ohio State showed up and delivered a walloping to Michigan State who were more black and blue then they were green and white. Staying in the Big Ten, Wisconsin remains perfect after beating their first ranked opponent of the year. Bryce showed some Love on his bad ankle and kept Stanford relevant leading the Tree to an upset win over UW on Friday night, all but eliminating the PAC 12 from playoff contention. On this hallowed Veterans Day weekend both Army and Navy were victorious, and Air Force put up a valiant fight but came up a little short. Thank you to all the Veterans for your service! Speaking of Navy, long time loyal DFTer and brother Brian Donnelly proposed to his girlfriend Laurie at the Tailgate before the Navy game. Nothing quite says romance like chicken wings, cold beer and oh by the way will ya marry me?! Congrats Brian and Laurie. Also, a big shout out to my alma mater Frostburg State for earning a playoff birth for the first time ever in the DIII championship series. They will play Wittenberg in Ohio next Saturday. Go Bobcats!

The newly engaged first couple of Navy Tailgating!

Eagle Tailgaters in wicked cold Bawstun Saturday

The Griffins experiencing the Stanford upset of UW
My three stooges at OU v TCU

Kim Milling rolling Toomers after the UGA win

The Flash Gordon Clan at Happy Valley for OSU v Rutgers

The Donnelly girls and #2's roomies at the OU TCU Match. Dad's weekend, no Dad!!

PAC 12 John and Daughter at CU v USC. Two Monte Vista grads meet up
 Bieber – This week’s high praise goes to none other than the Official Review. Before there was such a thing as an official’s review, we as fans had wished there was one as we witnessed so many wrong calls made by referees. This is a case of “careful what you wish for”. Not only do the reviews take way too long and ruin the momentum of a game, they are using them on almost every play it seems. Games used to rarely exceed three hours. The average game this year seems to be at least four. We might as well not have referees if every play is going to be over scrutinized and kill the pace of a game. My recommendation would be to limit any replay booth activity to 30 seconds. Anything past that, it reverts to the referee’s call. If a ref can’t make the right call, then they need find some people that can. The refs are getting lazy knowing they don’t have to be perfect because the replay booth can amend a bad call if they make one. So, for all the fans like me that are frustrated with what these reviews have become, we now entrust you officials with the all-powerful Bieber trophy!

Last week's pics
The Rabagos at Cal Poly Homecoming
Voytek, Wiggins and friends at Army v AFA game
The Addicks Clan at Clemson game
Me and my little Cheerio at the last JV football game of the year
Next week – We will travel east on I -80 for the Causeway classic between UC Davis and Sacramento State.

Happy Tailgating!