While my cohorts in college spent their time dawdling in the libraries, the cafés and the classrooms around campus, I always felt most comfortable in the parking lots on game day. I educated myself over barbeques; knowledge came fast in the form of a can. I crossed the stage with an honors degree in tailgating, my major in a glass, with a minor in ass.
There were never enough Saturdays for me, so when the call came to trek across this great country in search of the best tailgate party, I grew giddy as a kid at Christmas. I was out the door before my editor had even finished the sentence. When I got home, the receiver was still dangling off the table. Tailgating is my calling; it is my god, my savior and my religion. Another season of Saturdays was upon me, and my first stop had been a long time coming.
EverBank Field – Florida/Georgia Classic
Scene: 10/10 Girls: 9/10 Fans: 8/10 Food: 7/10
Drink of Choice: Bourbon
There was no getting around it; Jacksonville, Florida was a must. Rumors of three long debaucherous days descending upon the American South were too great to pass up. The annual meeting of Georgia and Florida has long been considered the “biggest outdoor cocktail party in the world,” but that’s probably too formal a word.
For anyone else in attendance, I was the guy in the frilly pink tutu outside The Landing grumbling about horseshoes. All Hallows’ Eve coinciding with tailgating, and naturally horseshoes, had proven to be a major setback. At a buck a point and a beer every five, playing six games against some very serious ringers from Georgia had me drunk, broke and dressed as a princess, the last being an unfortunate consequence of a side bet with my own friends. Ten hours under the Florida sun had taken its toll and I was brooding.
All around me was chaos. Any time after 11, the Jacksonville Landing is a breeding ground of Fun. Beer flows frivolously, hordes of students weave in and out of crowds, jockeying for position and eyeing the next packed bar. With Halloween thrown into the mix, the whole thing looks like a circus, something straight out of a Hunter Thompson novel.
The days are no different. Students spilling into the parking lots, parking lots spilling out into the street and beer spilling every which way but up. For three long days there are no definitive lines or boundaries in Jacksonville; the whole city turns into one giant backyard barbeque, the true Elysium of the tailgating elite.
Husky Stadium – University of Washington Huskies
Scene: 10/10 Girls: 8/10 Fans: 7/10 Food: 7/10
Drink of Choice: Cuba Libres
Breaking out, bleary-eyed, into the sun is disorienting enough, but stuck somewhere in the middle of a Pacific waterway with little recollection of why you are there is not something you can immediately come to terms with.
There had been a football game. Evidence littered the deck of the boat and floated carelessly alongside us, but I had no clear memories of seeing any sort of on-field action. The portable TV, toppled and cracked in the corner, was still showing highlights, and I sat down looking for anything that would bring back images out of the carnage of the previous day.
My last clear memory is the lights of the stadium exploding into the orange-blue twilight. Anything after is a tangled mess of passing boats, echoes booming across the bay, cheers from a distant crowd and innumerable trips in and out of the startlingly cold water. Flashes of scantily clad women diving from the deck, drinking from the bottle, shooting fireworks out into the dead summer night and finally passing out amid the booze, the blondes and the beer are all that are left. Sailgating with a raucous Husky crowd had long been a dream of mine, and having done it, it still is, every year, from now until I can remember it.