The Party Blogger Returns To His Alma Mater For Tailgate Parties, The Bars & The Game
Were I to describe the experience of an Alabama football game in a single word, that would be it.
In a “back to school” experience for me, I spent the weekend of the Alabama-Ole Miss game in Tuscaloosa, AL. It was a return to the place where I went to college, where I earned a degree in journalism, where I worked at the student paper (The Crimson White) was sports editor of the yearbook (The Corolla), and played also sax in the Million Dollar Band.
And when a good friend who is well connected to the University invited me to watch the game in his skybox at Bryant-Denny Stadium, it took me less time to say “heck yeah,” than it did to holler out a “Roll Tide Roll!”
And what an experience! I’ve already chronicled a couple of days before the game, and this post focuses on the tailgate and game day.
Kickoff was not until 5:30 p.m., thanks to ESPN, and that’s the perfect time to start a game if you ask me. You don’t have to wake up early, you can take your time – I even went for a second run by Nick Saban’s house – and then arrive all fresh and ready to roll in the early afternoon.
My host and I arrived on campus at 2 and were at a tailgate party by oh, about 2:15. We would have been there 10 minutes sooner had I not spied three hot coeds, all wearing cowboy boots and had to get a closer look. For PubClub.com research sake, of course. Those cowboy boots, I would soon realize, were to be a common sight throughout the day.
As men on the move, the host and I went to another tailgate party between a few fraternity houses across from the stadium. This was great; there were bands playing at two frat houses. It gave me flashbacks of when I was raiding frat house parties in college. And, you guessed it, there were more hot coeds in cowboy boots.
The prime pre-game tailgate party place for Alabama games is on the Quad, a large grassy area at the center of University Blvd. The University’s iconic symbol – other than Bear Bryant and, before too long, Nick Saban – Denny Chimes, is here.
This is the prime gathering place where people hang out, most of the tailgate tents are locatd and the Million Dollar Band gathers before the pre-game “Elephant Stomp” into the stadium. A long-standing rumor has it that when a virgin walks by Denny Chimes, a brick falls out of it. So watch your head, guys!
All this, by the way, is within a few blocks of the stadium.
The tailgate scene on the Quad is lively to say the least. There are people everywhere, and the scenery of the Southern girls – enhanced on this day by those sweet Ole Miss gals (also in cowboy boots) – had our heads spinning like Alabama running back T.J Yeldon’s body did on a touchdown run later in the day. Which direction on the Quad do we head next?
“It don’t matter,” my host said, “There’s pretty girls in every direction!”
We were fortunate enough to be able to get drinks from a tailgate tent because my host knew the bartenders. If you don’t have that privilege, a couple of bars on The Strip will get you to-go drinks. Or bring your own. You can drink beers out of bottles and cans out in the open anywhere around the stadium but it’s still best to put drinks in a red plastic cup.
There are tailgate parties all over the place, not just on the old fraternity row and the Quad. Behind the stadium at Tutweiller Hall, the multi-story girls’ dorm, is another good area. That one is adjacent to sorority row which, of course, I had to inspect before entering the stadium.
I caught the end of the Elephant Stomp as the band entered the stadium and then went to the box.
The skybox was filled with fun party people and it became immediately apparent that I was going to have to decide when to watch the game and when to socialize. Because in this particular skybox, socializing is a key element of the fun (in the next box over, the people sat with intense looks on their faces and never seemed to so much as smile).
It was like being at a Jimmy Buffett concert, where you are excited by the show but are equally inspired by the parting.
Alabama won 25-0, its defense rising to the occasion to turn back “Hottie Toddie” three times inside the red zone. The crowd was pumped up for this game, too. Some “experts” had predicted an upset, and Ole Miss’ hurry-up offense provided the potential to put up Johnny Manziel type of points.
But Johnny Football was not on the field this day and the defense played like an Alabama defense under Saban. The crowd was loud on key defensive plays and the players and even Saban said afterward that was a big factor in the outcome.
I had heard talk that some Bama fans had became a bit complacent with the team’s recent success, so it was glad to hear the stadium be loud. Any Alabama fans who might feel complacent, by the way, should just remember what things were like before Saban arrived. They should treasure these moments (just ask USC fans, going from Pete Carroll to Lame Kiffin.)
After the game, I went to a tailgate party where I met the owners of the GoDaddy.com bowl game in Mobile and an Alabama football legend, former quarterback Richard Todd. Richard’s a good ‘ol whiskey-drinking, cigar-smoking dude, by the way. Just like you want your Alabama quarterback to be after his heroic playing days.
My host had headed back home but I cruised The Strip and hit a few bars. The Campus Party Store had the most people outside but I balked at paying a cover charge. A cover charge at a college bar!? I settled into the Houndstooth, a large and quite popular sports bar with a big deck overlooking The Strip. It was a gorgeous evening,, a great time to be outside celebrating a win.
(Update: Apparently it was not the Campus Party Store that had the line. This from a fellow alumnus: “There is no line at the Campus Party Store. That’s the line for Gallette’s. They have a drink called a yellowhammer. It’s worth the cover to get your “I got yellowhammered at Galletee’s” sticker and drink.”)
From past experience, I knew I had better wrap things up before midnight because getting a cab in T-Town after that time is not only next to impossible, it is impossible. I called for one and was told it would pick me up in half an hour.
After about 20 minutes, one showed up outside the bar. It was a limo cab – great! But as I was about to get in it, in rolled a loud, obnoxious dude trailed by four hot girls – blondes in short skirts – and they jumped inside the limo. As we were headed somewhat in the same direction, I wound up jumping in with them. Why not, right!?
Well it turned out to be an interesting ride, to say the least. I was between two girls and was chatting with one when the loud, obnoxious guy yelled at the driver to stop. He then kicked those two girls – who were from Ole Miss – out of the car. Apparently there was jealousy that had been building with the other two short-skirted blondes. Shocking, right!?
We then circled back to the bar and picked up another even more loud and obnoxious guy, who immediately demanded the driver pull over so he could pee – why did he not just go to the bathroom in the bar!? – and then barked at the driver to turn on the air conditioning.
These two loudmouths continued their rant all the way to their house, some 20 minutes away, while the girls were trying to talk as well. It was almost as entertaining as it was annoying. And it was quite annoying. Every so often, the driver would turn a corner and one of the girls would lunge forward in my direction; one time, one of them wound up in my lap!
Eventually, peace returned to this little part of Tuscaloosa and I went back and had a victory beer at my host’s house.
A college football game at Alabama is all you might expect it to be, and it was indeed a Roll Tide weekend for me.