Tusk to Tail: Sunrise and vodka, throwing the ‘A’ and driving to Jersey
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I think somebody put something in my drink. Oh wait. That was me.
I've used P.J. O'Rourke's line here before, but in a game where the run wasn't just the first option, it was the only option, it seems appropriate again. There is only one way to cover a season like this, and bartender, make it a double, please.
Considering the season's first two games had been the hottest most of us could recall in the modern tailgating era, we had been drinking more water than alcohol at the first two parties.
That was not the case Saturday. It was an absolutely gorgeous sunny fall morning with low humidity and temperatures around 70 degrees at kickoff. I rode from Little Rock with the Godfather of Tailgating Craig May with our sons and May's father Gordon. Craig was attending his 97th consecutive, and 177th of the past 178 Razorback games.
Most drivers see traffic ahead, and react accordingly to this common occurrence. Craig, however, seems to view cars in front of us as a challenge, obstacles between him and his destination. When that destination is a Razorback game and accompanying tailgate, look out!
At one point, we trailed a car with a pink ribbon breast cancer awareness license plate by what seemed like mere inches until the driver changed lanes. As we blew past her, I saw terror in her eyes. She may have beaten cancer, but not the Godfather.
May had left early enough to get us to Fayetteville by 9 a.m., nearly two and a half hours before kickoff. Unfortunately, that was the time that most of the 65,000 other fans were descending upon campus. What should have been a quick stop at Chick-fil-A to pick up a nugget tray was not, and then Craig encountered a literal roadblock on Stadium Drive.
There is a longstanding policy to shut down traffic around the stadium four hours before kickoff. The policy usually makes sense, maximizing traffic flow and pedestrian safety. But four hours before the kickoff is 7 in the morning, far earlier than the average fan goes to the game.
Of course, the men of Tusk to Tail are not average fans. Dale Cullins, Jack Clark, Greg Houser, and Mark Wagner were unloading the tailgate trailer by the dawn's early light and pulling out before traffic was diverted.
But the diverted traffic was in full effect by the time Craig had us on Stadium, leading to two tense confrontations with the officers in charge. We exchanged long stretches of sitting still with going the wrong direction before accepting that we would have to park and walk in.
When we arrived at Victory Village, the Tusk to Tailgate was in full swing. Kara Cullins was cradling a bottle of Firefly Skinny Tea vodka like an infant while several dozen guests munched on danishes and breakfast casseroles. By the time I poured my first screwdriver, I felt like I had arrived late to the toga party in the movie Animal House. "I've got a lot of making up to do."
Tusk to Tail had a lot to celebrate. Have a drink for the nice weather. Have another for the Razorbacks' opportunity to go 3-0. One more for a third straight game where running backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins each rushed for over 100 yards.
When starting quarterback Brandon Allen's shoulder injury led to nothing but runs and punts by the Hogs, why not use an extra ticket to run across the street for a refill? Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Returning for the second half, I had advice for just about everyone. I was the smartest man in the stadium. I could fix the traffic jams by pushing back the time they closed the roads. If backup quarterback AJ Derby was not ready to run the offense, burn the redshirts of Freshmen Austin Allen or Doowop Mitchell.
And if you are going to call a gameplan with only 69 total passing yards, you had better brace yourself for some backlash if and when we finally lose. Razorback fans have already run off a couple of coaches for refusing to call a forward pass. And those guys didn't have a wife who never met a camera she didn't like. Could you imagine the brandished torches and pitchforks had Diana Nutt tried to make us "throw the A?"
The gang returned to our tent for a second round of tailgating, tuning into this week's game of the century, Alabama at Texas A&M. Based on the level of hate directed at Aggie quarterback Johnny Manziel, I would not have been surprised to see him wearing a wrestler's mask beneath his helmet. Nobody plays the heel better than Manziel.
Houser grilled burgers, and more drinks were drunk. When Sean Casey texted to say he was unable to join us due to his son's soccer tournament, I replied that "my flabber was gasted." It was around this time that people started to confirm that I had no intentions of driving.
Soon it was time to load up and ride down the hill, stopping for gas and snacks in Russellville. Upon seeing that the gas station sold lottery tickets, we bought one using the three Razorback final scores from this season as our six numbers. Had the ticket won, the proceeds were going to our tailgating fund. The fact that I'm still writing this story suggests that the ticket did not win.
In the meantime, two major developments have occurred in the world of Tusk to Tail. First, we have found that our traveling tailgate party next week at Rutgers will host at least 50 Hog fans. In reaction, Cullins, Clark, Houser, and Wagner have begun contemplating driving. To New Jersey. Pulling a trailer of tailgate supplies. There is a fine line between commitment and insanity.
Finally, the state newspaper ran a photograph of several of us at Little Rock's Tusk to Tailgate in the High Profile section Sunday, September 15. Most people are featured in this section based on their achievements in business or philanthropy. Tusk to Tail got in because we drink vodka at 10 a.m.