Tennessee Tailgate Story
As we close in on the start of the greatest time of the year for college football fans, I started thinking about all the things that make the season great.
One of the many elements of a memorable weekend is the tailgate party. What is the gameday experience without a tailgate full of anecdotes that you will talk about for years?
To illustrate this point, me and my partner in crime, Coach B, had one of those memorable weekends we still laugh about to this day. The year was 2006, and we drove to Knoxville to see Tennessee play LSU. Here is a recap of what happened.
Friday - 1:35 p.m.
We stopped at the Kroger on the way to the interstate to stock up on snacks, as well as to get a twelve pack of Dr. Pepper, which is a must for Coach Scooter. (By the way, Dr. Pepper is the official soft drink of Coach Scooter's SEC Chalkboard…)
As we walked down the aisles, Coach B reenacted the scene from Animal House when Otter tosses various items to Flounder, and just like Flounder, I dropped most of them. As we left I heard over the P.A., "Irv, clean up on aisle seven..."
As we were leaving we noticed a young lady wearing mukluks. Now, I am all for seeing attractive young ladies, but it was 65 degrees and sunny in Atlanta. Was there a sled dog convention in town we didn’t know about?
Coach B and I were almost into Tennessee and were pretty bored. To break the boredom, he began showing me his new satellite radio. When he came to a country station, I perked up and asked, “Does this station ever play, Red Necks, White Socks, and Blue Ribbon Beer?” He thought I had made up the song, similar to the other song request I have during football season, Dropkick Me Jesus Through the Goalposts of Life. (Look them up online, they are real songs).
Among the bumper stickers we saw that caught our attention were, "I'm not speeding, I'm qualifying," as well as, "I'm not following too close, I'm drafting," and the best one of the day, "GR8NBED."
Good to see so many pillars of the community driving along I-75 today.
We pulled into a gas station once we got into Tennessee and noticed a great present for everyone on your Christmas list: a giant sized Tennessee lighter!
Was this item endorsed by Andre the Giant? Does it double as an iPad? I am sure arsonists everywhere are lining up to get one of these…
Another must on the trip was a visit to Hound Dogs to stock up on supplies. Coach B immediately walked over to the car flags, and after seeing the camo flags, he proclaimed, "Those camo flags are just waiting to be bought!" He drops so much coin in every Hound Dogs he walks into, they have assigned him a personal shopper.
We called our wives to let them know we got to Knoxville. For some reason, we both got the same lecture, “Stay out of trouble up there.”
Coach B and I laughed and our reply was, “This ain’t our first rodeo, cowboy. We know what we are doing.”
We laughed about our snappy comeback, as well as the mere premise we would get into trouble since we both had been to hundreds of UT games. Ever heard that old saying, “Don’t let your alligator mouth overload your jaybird butt?” That line became very relevant the next day.
Saturday Morning - 9:56 a.m.
We got on campus early so we could get into the tailgate spot our fraternity brother, Flame, had reserved for us. When Tennessee wins, he clogs and could give Buddy Ebsen from The Beverly Hillbillies a run for his money. Or a step. Or whatever cloggers use when they gamble.
One thing I should mention to all SEC fans is to properly display your car flags. When driving to the game, always observe the two flag minimum. Flying only one flag makes you look like either a Yankee, or my third cousin Cliff, who likes to make his own leather belts.
We dropped by the Tap Room to kick things off. Actually, if you want to get technical, we OPENED the Tap Room since it was just the bartender and us. Coach B got a little feisty as he slapped his hand on the bar and said, “I would like the grand slam breakfast with a side order of grits please.” The bartender filled two cups of beer, placed them on the bar in front of us and said, “100,000 fans on campus and I get to these two morons.”
After a successful stint at the Tap Room (since we weren't asked to leave this time) we headed up to our old stomping grounds, the Longbranch Saloon, for our traditional PBR tall boy.
After I ordered the beers, an LSU fan smiled, shook my hand and said, "You two are the only people under 60 years of age I have ever seen order a PBR."
I offered to buy him one, and he politely refused, so I told Coach B, “For the first time in the history of the SEC, an LSU fan has turned down a free beer. Call hell and see what the temperature is.”
Here is Coach B coming out to report that he called Hell and they told him “Yes, it is 32 degrees here.”
On the way back to the tailgate we noticed several LSU fans posing for pictures with everyone in either orange or purple. I talked to Tom, A.K.A. Bus-a-nut, who told me they pick one game a year to get dressed up at, and have a huge party. Busanut asked, "Don't you wish you were a Tiger fan after seeing these LSU girls?"
Coach Scooter says, “GEAUX TIGERS!”
After the Longbranch, we returned to the tailgate. I started talking to a really nice guy named Butch, who was excited about attending his first UT game. When he asked me what he could expect today, I replied, "Get use to hearing Rocky Top a lot. And if you see someone in a clown suit, it’s probably Gary Danielson.”
When I mentioned I worked for World Championship Wrestling years ago, you would have though he had just met the Pope. I was worried he was going to start bowing and kissing my rings.
Butch asked if I knew whatever happened to the Mongolian Stomper, and the only thing I could confirm was that he wasn't from Mongolia. He asked if “The Russian Nightmare” Nikita Koloff had finally been deported (I didn’t have the heart to tell him you can’t get deported to Minneapolis, which is where Koloff, A.K.A.
Scott Simpson, was really from). Finally, had I ever met Haystacks Calhoun? No, Butch, I don’t think I ever had the pleasure.
Butch told me, "Those boys get paid millions of dollars to get their faces smashed in. I can go to the bar down the street and get my face smashed in for free..."
Somehow, that made sense to me. I think.
Since this was the 3:30 CBS game, I knew who was in the booth calling the action. As the Vols ran on the field, I was certain “The Clown” Gary Danielson was up in the press box with a smug grin on his face as he told the world, “If Tim Tebow were here, both these teams would already be behind 24-0.”
Hat of the day goes to the gentleman three seats over wearing a Smokey Dog hat. Only in Neyland Stadium…
The Vols had the lead late in the fourth quarter and all they had to do is stop JaMarcus Russell one last time. Have you ever had that feeling, as the other team is methodically driving down the field, that your team has lost but it just hasn’t happened yet? Sure enough, JaMarcus Russell hit Early Doucet with a TD pass to win the game 28-24. Well, it had been a fun day…
We decided to bid a hasty retreat from the tailgate since we both couldn't bear the thought of reliving the game with anyone. We were so focused on the shock of a last second loss, I forgot Flame left a bottle of Jack Daniels in our car, so I grabbed it from the floorboard as we pulled out. However, I could not find the cap, so I handed it to Coach B and told him to hold it until I could find the cap.
As we pulled out of the tailgate spot, we were greeted with one of Knoxville’s finest, a rather large officer with a seriously pissed off look on his face as he flagged us down. Coach B looked at me and said, “Hey, did someone take Barney Fife’s bullet away from him?”
“Son, do you know you are going the wrong way down a one way street?” Cue the Buford T. Justice music.
Oops. Not only were we directionally challenged, but Coach B was still hiding an open bottle of alcohol between his legs as I was frantically looking for the missing cap.
Before we could answer, he looked back at the long line of traffic and said, “If this wasn’t the largest backup in the history of Tennessee football, I would personally drag you both out of this car and make you walk back home. But since that would just make matters worse, get your sorry ass into this lane here and be on your way.”
We both said “Thank you, officer” about 500 times then slowly moved into traffic.
As crazy as we get at our tailgates, one thing we never joke around about, or take any chances with, is driving if we have had too much to drink. That’s is a BIG no-no with our circle of friends. However, try explaining that to the police officer squinting at us like Dirty Harry, or our wives who would not be amused, especially after we promised not to get into any trouble. Just stamp the letters “D.A.” on our foreheads.
Thankfully, the oxygen began to flow back into our lungs. I thought I had a little more time to find the cap, however, it was at that moment we were greeted with more good news.
As we were stopped in bumper-to-bumper traffic, another police officer walked in between the cars and stopped at ours. No doubt he got a call from the first officer up the street to make sure we were chastised vehemently once again for screwing up the traffic flow.
“Evening, boys. Mind if I put my hands by the heater to keep them warm?”
Coach B looked over at me like, “Is this guy kidding? Is he just messing with us before he smacks our heads together like Moe would, then send us to the slammer?”
“Why sure, officer. Please go ahead,” he told him, trying to put a smile on his face as the cop’s arm was only inches above the bottle between his legs.
Of all the police on campus that night, we had to get chatty Charlie. “Where are you boys from? Wasn’t that some game tonight? Isn’t this traffic the worst?”
I felt like we had just run into The Riddler. As imaginary question marks floated in and out of the car, the officer asked if we could turn the radio to a country music station. I perked up and asked, “Do you know Red Necks, White Socks and Blue Ribbon beer?”
Coach B slowly turned to look at me with the death smile, as if to say, “If we ever get out of this, I am beating the crap out of you.”
In what seemed like the longest wait since Moses and that thing in the desert, the traffic finally cleared and we got safely on the interstate.
Remember my snappy comeback about this not being my first rodeo? Imagine having to explain what happened to my wife while sitting in a jail cell.
When I told Aunt Molly what happened, she shook her head and said, “You two are dumber than a box full of owl poop.”
Sunday Morning - 9:13 a.m.
We decided to get out of Knoxville early and head back to Atlanta. We were both feeling like crap, so Coach B suggested, "How about I buy us breakfast at the Cracker Barrel?"
Suddenly, “Hangover Sunday,” which is what we call the day after every Tennessee game, was the long bright spot on a miserable morning.
Fortunately, the wait wasn’t too long, so we hung out in the gift shop while our table was being cleaned. To my shock and dismay, there were no giant Tennessee lighters, but there was Hamusuta: The Happy Hamster, who rolled around in an exercise ball. “Hours of endless entertainment”, it promised. And I thought my morning could not get any worse.
When I read the package and saw that this toy was only for children three and up because it was a “Chocking” Hazard, I had to decline purchase due to imbecility.
However, I did seriously consider buying the large pecan roll next to the George Jones coffee mugs. I figured if I ever ran into JaMarcus Russell, I would throw it at his head and that would make me feel better.
While I waited for my blueberry pancakes, I tried my hand at that infamous Cracker Barrel brain-teaser known as the Peg Game. Already I was over matched.
Coach B looked at what I was doing and quipped, “When our waitress isn’t looking, swipe as many of those pegs as you can. I need some more golf tees.”
After the tenth try, Coach B sipped his coffee and remarked, "Hey, Einstein, I’ve watched you play that stupid thing for half an hour and each time you’ve left more pegs than the time before."
I just shrugged.
As we walked to the car, I noticed an airbrushed license plate reading, "Don and Betty," with the picture of a German Sheppard next to it.
“Which one do you think is the dog?” I asked.
Coach B replied, “I hope it’s not Betty, ‘cause if it is, I really feel sorry for Don.”
Well, that was our weekend. Hopefully this will bring back memories of some of your greatest tailgates.
Check out these other entertaining and informative articles by Coach Scooter: 2010 Preseason College Football Conference Comparison; and My Ideas To Make College Football Better.
You can always find the latest articles by Coach Scooter at the SEC Football Blog. And here's the place for current information about Tennessee Volunteers Football or to stock up on your Tennessee Vols Tailgate Supplies.
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