I’m so damn proud to be an American. I can’t begin to talk about how lucky I am to live in a country that embraces gluttony (Baconators, Garfield), second chances (Bill Clinton, Arrested Development), giant waterparks, marshmallow fluff.
Then there are the plethora of D1 conferences that smash the gridiron every Saturday, giving us a reason to dip our bagels in beer. From the winless dudes with too much popcorn grease on their hands, to the gigantic machines who don’t miss one catch, every conference team has the best interests of their alcoholic viewers in mind.
I love my Terps football (sometimes). That doesn’t mean I go to every home game, but it does means I drag my ass out of bed, throw on something that’s at least not the other team’s color, and immerse myself in the masses of students that make up our tailgating sanctuary. Sometimes it’s my back porch or a campus parking lot a mile away. Wherever it is, I’m home.
But it’s my last year and I wanted to travel outside my game day comfort zone. I’ve done Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania schools. An opportunity was brewing down south—an awesome football matchup, a nearby relative, and a dad with frequent flyer miles.
Yeah, I’ll take one weekend off from the ACC.
Where was I?
Landed in Birmingham, 6 p.m. Friday. Picked up at airport by Clemson sister (the A-Mac clan keeps it ACC) and her roommate, 6:15. Stopped at Wendy’s for much-desired Baconator (embrace gluttony), 6:20. Arrived at cousin’s house in Tuscaloosa, 8:30.
After ripping pulls of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey (my attempt at southern acclimation) at my cousin’s for a couple hours, we all (my sister, cousin, his roommates, some other stragglers) proceeded to the most convenient watering hole downtown Tuscaloosa had for us.
On this particular weekend, “most convenient watering hole” was defined as a bar that didn’t have a $40 cover or 30-minute wait for a drink. Hold on, what the fuck did my cousin just say? Did he just say that downtown is so crowded and the bars are so packed that most of them are charging at least $40 just to step foot in the goddamn door? THAT SHIT WOULD NEVER FLY ON A GAME WEEKEND UP HERE. Granted, most ACC teams don’t attract large crowds like the much superior SEC teams. But I’ve been to WVU and Clemson for big games and I know that absurd amount of money would cause riots, rumbles, and tridents being thrown.
Disgusted with these ludicrous financial demands, the 10 or so of us miraculously found The Houndstooth Sports Bar, a large enough spot with no cover and excellent bar accessibility. Bud Lights started flowing and all was well in the universe.
Skip to 11 a.m. Saturday. Wake up. Zero hour is upon us. Except zero is mathematically incorrect because a lot of SEC games are during primetime. This one was at 8 p.m. We are going to be tailgating, drinking beer, sipping Fireball, eating burgers, and fighting the urge to sleep for over eight hours today.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
I was a Bama fan this weekend, so I wore a crimson-and-white checkered flannel. I never wear things like this on game day back at school. To put into chronological perspective how we dress up for tailgates up north, we roll out of bed at 9 a.m., throw on something we hope isn’t the other team’s colors at 9:01, and get to drankin’ at 9:02. The second step can be skipped under certain circumstances. It’s not that we’re lazy. It’s just that we don’t care.
That was not how it’s done down here. Game day attire at southern schools is similar to how a middle-aged man dresses when going to his country club—preppy, yet seemingly fashionable because everyone else is doing it.
By noon we had arrived at our tent and keg. Drinking went smoothly until the food was ready. It’s a temptation as old as the forbidden fruit—you know it’ll make you tired but you eat it anyway. After a burger and a half, I started becoming sluggish. My drinking stamina was unprepared for this. It was on ACC time. It was used to drinking for only four hours before a mid-afternoon game. Walking around would wake me up and I had to piss anyway, so I weaved through the thousands of other tailgaters attempting this marathon just like me.
Except their setup was nothing like ours. These thousands of other families and rambunctious alumni flaunted the most excessive tailgates I had ever seen. They turned the lawn into a fully furnished living room with several couches and chairs. They turned the lawn into a theater adorned with a 30” flat screen. Fuck, I saw one canopy tent with a small chandelier hanging from it. That had to have been a royal pain in the pooper hauling all that shit around just for one day. Astonishing, yet questionable.
Skip to noon Sunday. We were all putting the pieces back together over some barbecue sandwiches. Evidence and DNA samples concluded I had made it through the entire tailgate then managed to have enough energy to go out after the game. But I slept through the entire goddamn game at my cousin’s house.
I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise.
Luckily I had no problem getting back to College Park at close to midnight Sunday. Maybe if I had gone to an SEC school for four years prior to the game I would have stayed awake for it like the thousands of other tailgaters. But Maryland game days move at a slower, more confident pace, which I’m perfectly fine with for the rest of the season.
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