Tiger Stadium – Louisiana State University Tigers
Scene: 8/10 Girls: 8/10 Fans: 8/10 Food: 10/10
Drink of Choice: Sazerac
Sitting alone, deadline looming, my eyes are bloodshot, my mouth is dry and my body is covered in purple paint. Everything itches. Who convinced me to do this?
Washing off the sin of a Louisiana State tailgate is no small feat when it’s a visible and likely toxic paint. I have to stop wagering personal pride when consuming adult beverages.
Somewhere in the confusion of Friday night, I bet a group of rabid LSU fans that their SEC upset of Tennessee was in 2002. Four clicks on the iPhone later, I was wrong, off by a year and now obligated to paint my entire body purple for Saturday’s game.
Which, for the first 16 hours, was a blessing, one of those football miracles that got me in on the ground floor of Louisiana tailgating, accepted as one of their own. Every happy fan handed me a beer or bourbon. I was instructed to help myself to the mouth-watering Cajun cuisine. No one questioned my undying love for the Tigers; anyone painted purple in the parking lots of LSU is considered untouchable. A VIP of the college crowds.
Everything after that has been a nightmare; my bed sheets are purple, my doorknobs are purple, almost every surface of my bathroom is purple. I’m itchy and stiff, my skin cracking with every quick movement. I’ve showered, I’ve shaved and I’ve showered again, and I’m still decidedly purple.
If I wasn’t so god-damn impressed with the LSU tailgate, I’d be furious; fortunately, Louisiana knows how to throw a party, and being purple forever might be a relatively small price to pay.
Lambeau Field – Green Bay Packers
Scene: 8/10 Girls: 6/10 Fans: 10/10 Food: 7/10
Drink of Choice: Rhinelander Beer
January weather is notoriously cold in Green Bay, and Sunday morning is no time to be wandering the streets in a Bears jersey asking for directions to Lambeau.
“Oh ya, just hop on the highway and drive back to Chicago.”
“Just like the real Bears; they can’t find the field either, or at least the end zone.”
I remind them that we still hold a six-game edge in the long-standing rivalry, and they wonder aloud if Jay Cutler is also good at counting because he certainly is not very good at football. As I walk away, I hear them counting interceptions like they were on Sesame Street, the ha-ha-has following me for almost half a block.
The rest of the town is completely deserted; 102,000 Cheeseheads on a vast migration to the parking lots and pickup trucks surrounding The House that Brett Built. By 11 A.M. the whole area is full-blown beer-guzzling, barbeque-burning cookout. Even in the depths of winter, Packers fans flood the streets, their cheers and chants breaking through the frigid air, every beer building the chorus louder. Boisterous drunks from the backs of trucks conduct the ensemble cast in song, while revelers young and old prep their beers for the last shotgun relay of the season. By kickoff, the whole mess has exploded, a proverbial wave of green and yellow flocking toward the entrances of the field, half-stumbling, half-slurring, all in the name of another Sunday in Packer country.
University of Phoenix Stadium – Oddly, the Oakland Raiders
Scene: 7/10 Girls: 5/10 Fans: 9/10 Food: 6/10
Drink of Choice: The dirtiest swill sold in the highest quantity at the cheapest price.
We were beginning to doubt the sincerity of the Cardinals. A typically nice day in Arizona had yielded little enthusiasm from the crowd. For all the people, the tents, the beers and the barbeques burning, the energy had died on the vine, lost somewhere in the quiet calm of another 100-degree day. We’d heard Glendale was a retirement community; we just didn’t expect an Early Bird Special vibe in the parking lot.
Then it happened. Somewhere in the distance a dull roar broke the heat. Like their namesake bird, Arizona fans popped up from their chairs, heads darting in all directions, looking for signs of the impending danger. Somewhere on the edge of the crowd there’s a commotion, a chant, slow at first then growing in intensity. Raaaaiders, Raaaaiders. The Nation had arrived.
Looking like something out of a Mad Max remake, the Black and Silver marched into a sea of red, infiltrating casual crowds of Cardinals with menacing smiles and spiked armor of every make. Wrestling fans would appreciate a Legion of Doom reference, but honestly, Raiders fans are more numerous and horrifying. Their arrival signaled a new life, both sides battling for position; the Cardinals threatened on home turf, the Raiders waging a war in enemy territory. The next three hours were a frenzied clash of fandom, neither side giving way until the dying moments before kickoff, when the Cardinals retreated into the relative safety of the stadium and the Raiders staked their claim to the spoils, the last pregame beers before kickoff. On the field, the Cardinals won that day, but the Raiders fans came, they saw and they conquered, bringing the war home to Arizona in the stands.