Tusk to Tail: Shakin’ off the rust

The warning signs were there. Do you attribute the struggle to major program changes, an influx of fresh faces, or can you just say the guys were a little rusty? Who is really in charge? No matter what the answers, one thing is clear.

Though Tusk to Tail’s 2012 debut was ultimately successful, things could have gone more smoothly.

The tailgate was the first event at Victory Village, described by the University’s athletic department as “a convenient, worry-free tailgate experience close to the stadium.”

Our 400 square-foot tent directly across the street from the stadium and “The Pit” was set up with tables and chairs prior to our arrival at 8:30 a.m.

Tusk to Tail has come a long way from the seven 10’ x 10’ tents we raised and lowered ourselves every week across from the outdoor track.  Most of us probably felt that all we had to do was show up to repeat the success of the past several years. As the Razorbacks learned later that night, success demands more than just showing up.

While the players seem to be adjusting to playing for Coach John L. Smith, our tailgating crew started sluggishly as we learned to manage the pitfalls created by our new location. Unlike a typical tailgate set up next to one’s car, Victory Village requires all supplies to be dropped off before parking far away.

The distractions were plentiful, not the least of which arose from being between the stadium and sorority row. Prime real estate means many more guests, which requires extra logistical coordination. Our master planner Dale Cullins was spread so thin that our traditional mid-morning cheese dip snack had to be postponed until noon.

Dale wasn’t the only one working overtime. Greg Houser spent much of the afternoon grilling bratwursts and chicken breasts. Craig May looked like Tom Cruise in Cocktail behind the bar. Mark Wagner and I captured the scene in pictures and video. Jack Clark, our resident landscaper, was barely able to beat our anonymous man Mulcahey to the party after finishing some work that had been postponed by the storms. Our rookie Sean Casey probably added no value whatsoever.

By the time the tailgate was broken down beneath the month’s second full moon, known as a “blue moon,” this Tusk to Tailgate was considered one of our most successful outings ever. We estimate that we fed and entertained more than 100 guests.

Our group devoured more than 20 pounds of “Gamecock” chicken breasts, six pounds of wings, two large party trays of nuggets, 24 bratwursts, a full crock pot of Dale’s famous cheese dip, and an entire table covered with various crackers, chips, dips, and desserts.

An order of pizza, wings, and breadsticks mysteriously appeared and disappeared later in the afternoon.

This feast was washed down with almost six liters of vodka, more than four cases of beer, and a bottle of bourbon, in addition to cases of water, sports drinks, and soft drinks.

Just like the Razorbacks, Tusk to Tail has a lot of work to do to prepare for the Alabama game.

But we are ready for the challenge.

Is it game day yet?