Oh, I'd visited some tailgate parties over the years when I wasn't working the actual game broadcasts, but never have I done it like this. Nor am I likely to ever again.
To begin with I found it hard to believe make wake up knock on the door came at 6:40 in the morning, a short NINE HOURS before kickoff. My friend (who must remain unidentified since he is an attorney) had to make certain we got a good space in parking lot "J" so we got moving, pulling into the lot at 7:17… making us the fourth vehicle in the lot. Keep in mind this lot has room for hundreds of cars.
But, hey I'm new at this, maybe this is the way to go. Three hours later with the lot about 20 percent full I decided maybe we arrived just a little early.
Still, it's a fascinating experience watching the tailgaters arrive one-by-one; each with their own unique combination of food and drink, tents, tables and chairs and so on. It was fun to be recognized by a few groups and it would have been rude to reject their offers of sustenance and libations. And I hate to be rude!
I've been to enough games to know some of what you see when you tailgate whether you show up more than eight hours before kickoff or just one or two. I got to see fans of both colors yelling cheers to no one in particular. Co-eds wearing far too much make-up and far too little clothing. (Keep in mind I have daughters who are 22 and 18) There was no shortage of men of all ages showing that there may be some things they can handle, but their tenth drink before noon is not one of them. I saw outfits of every ilk and taunting of all sorts.
But I haven't seen anything like what I saw at the retention pond between Jacksonville Municipal Stadium and the Baseball Grounds Ballpark. There is a little piece of land that sticks into the pond a bit and it has become what can only be explained through its nickname "Pee Island". That's right. Despite the presence of dozens of port-a-potties throughout the parking lot, fans of both teams and both genders use this spot to tend to nature's call. And even more amazing, they are not the least bit subtle about it. Yes, some of them do work their way through an opening in the bushes for some semblance of privacy, but for the most part it's, "hey, guess what I'm doing?!"
Tailgating is a big part of college football and it was interesting to do it at the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party". But I'm sure glad to be working the Vandy game this coming Saturday.
Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel
Tailgating in Jacksonville
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