Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hello Winter, Goodbye Tailgates...

Winter is officially here - early, I believe. I think we completely bypassed Fall and went straight to the gray, nasty winter stuff, to be honest. But Mr. Old Man Winter doesn't care about our feelings or our lack of Fallness. Instead, he just pelts us with his painfully cold presence before turkey day. Thanks, you old fart.

Just as the weather's getting icy, this Saturday marks our last home tailgate at Purdue, my Husband-man’s alma mater. As an SEC girl by southern, formative-year molding, I am quite loyal to my Volunteers. However, I also have a motto of “when in Rome...” And, I am definitely in Rome now – the Midwest – a.k.a. Big Ten country. As someone who is used to a 102,000+-seat stadium (largest football stadium in the South, fourth largest in the U.S., and the seventh largest in the world, to be exact), my first Purdue game was a little like watching a really, really big high school team in the South. However, I’ve grown to love the Boilers, I now root for them at will, and I will faithfully defend their honor against the likes of those pesky Michigan and (ick) I.U. fans alike. Weirdly enough, West Lafayette reminds me a bit of Knoxville – the campus layout, architecture, and overall spirit. It reminds me of that place I used to call home.

When Husband-man and I attended our first game this year, I told him that if we were going to make a habit of this Big Ten football-thing, then I insisted on tailgating our asses off and bringing a bit of the SEC to the Big Ten. If you’re going to do it, do it all the way, I say. As a result, we have grown from going to the game in a car with nothing to packing our little truck until it’s on the verge of bursting - full of gear, food, drink, and tailgating paraphernalia - all in one short season. I believe our tailgate will become progressively more dedicated as the years go by. And, I'd venture to say that we’re the only Big Ten tailgate that has an SEC flag waving right below the Purdue one – the big orange and white checkerboard flag flew proudly this year, despite the Vols’ monkey-ball-sucking season.

I haven’t made it back to Neyland Stadium to see my boys play in several years, and this year was a pretty painful one to watch when I did for brief moments at a time. But, I still love that town, that school, and my team. And, I know we’re in a pile of ashes right now, just waiting to be that Phoenix who comes out flying high, kicking butt again. I've been irritated, of course, but my hope still remains intact.

Until I make it back to Knoxville, I’ll put my energy into rooting for the Boilers and bringing that SEC “thing” to the Big Ten. But I couldn’t let the season come to an almost close without raising a proverbial 16-oz. can of Coors Light in one hand, a glass full of moonshine in the other, toasting my boys and singing a chorus of Rocky Top with slurred speech and a face painted tangerine orange. So, to make me happy as well as any random, diehard, loyal UT fans....this one's also for you. Because you know what they say...you can take the girl out of Tennessee, but you can't take the Tennessee out of the girl...