Tusk to Tail: The 0-4 trip to Rutgers via Gettysburg, Philly, Chicago and New York
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Travel delays, dramatic losses, and confrontations with opposing fans. We would do it all again in a heartbeat.
In a four-day weekend stretching from Gettysburg, Pa., to Piscataway, N.J., with a whole lot of Philadelphia in between, Tusk to Tail celebrated an outstanding getaway to the farthest northeast field the Razorbacks have played since a 1940 loss to Fordham.
Our trip began on Thursday as 14 of us attempted to fly to Philadelphia from Little Rock and Fayetteville. Despite choosing multiple flights from at least four different airlines, about half us were delayed or rerouted due to bad weather in the Midwest.
Greg Houser and Sean and Julie Casey were forced to fly to New York's Laguardia Airport and continue to Philly by train. Yours truly landed almost 10 hours late after a flight through Chicago was canceled. But most of us arrived, a little worse for the wear, early enough to head to Craig May's brother Chris's house for a night of food, football, and fellowship.
Chris and his wife Lea live in the suburb of Rosemont and were gracious hosts and tour guides all weekend. Though I arrived too late to attend, their Thursday dinner party sounded marvelous, complete with an outdoor firepit and mobile Philly cheesesteak truck preparing monstrous sandwiches for all.
Across town, our friends Ryan Glen and Todd Rudisill attended the Eagles-Chiefs NFL showdown, featuring the return of former Philadelphia coach Andy Reid. Reid's Chiefs dispatched the hometown Eagles 26 to 16, beginning a trend of upsets for Tusk to Tail's favored teams.
Friday was a day for soaking in the sites and history of the area. Jack Clark and I ate breakfast at the Reading Terminal Market while waiting for Jeff Laman to fly in from Atlanta. The market was a cornucopia of local diners and merchants offering fresh meats, cheeses, and baked goods.
I sampled two local traditional meats, scrapple and New Jersey pork roll. Scrapple was described by our server as "pork scraps," which in layman's terms seems to mean "pig lips and assholes." When Clark asked how it tasted, I told him I thought they went light on the lips.
We walked through historic City Hall with Laman, then met both May families, including Lea's mother Jan Zimmerman and her husband Don at the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art for pictures at the iconic Rocky statue. After lunch, we saw the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the Constitution Center, and the Ben Franklin post office before enjoying a drink on the roof of the Hotel Monaco. It was humbling to see such enduring symbols of freedom and walk where the nation's founders crafted the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
The rest of our group made the five hour roundtrip to Gettysburg. Tusk to Tail's historians and civil war buffs were fired up for the trek, prompting the rest of us to call their excursion "war porn." Our friend Steve Scroggin was so excited, he said, "Once we got to the battlefield, I just wanted to roll around in the grass."
We all reconvened at our hotel before heading to Citizen's Bank Park for that night's baseball game between the Phillies and Mets. We had an excellent time, but the trend continued for our teams as the Mets won 6 to 4.
Saturday was game day.
We started with lunch at Stuff Yer Face, a legendary Rutgers eatery once visited by Man Vs. Food's Adam Richman. Epic Stromboli and sandwiches were washed down with selections from their extensive beer list. Some of us ordered standard pints, while the more adventurous tried strong exotic ales served in 11-ounce "tulips." Following a few of those, our Hog Calls became louder and more frequent, prompting a bar's employee to record the cheer to possibly post on their website.
But what would a Fall Saturday be without a Tusk to Tailgate? We had no intention of finding out, migrating our party to the lawn behind a Greek Orthodox church to drink beer and Sweet Tea vodka. The party was without tents or televisions, but we were soon joined by dozens of friends who had been staying in New York, and our traveling tailgate was as good as any we've ever hosted.
As the afternoon kickoff approached, we took a shortcut to the stadium through what we have begun to call the mosh pit. Closer resembling a scene from Altamont than any SEC tailgate, this field's narrow opening was overflowing with young, drunk, black-clad fans who kindly invited us to make love to ourselves over their loud music and reckless drinking.
We learned that the official greeting in New Jersey is, "Hey, f— you!" If you ever meet a Rutgers fan, I implore you to greet them this way. All kidding aside, for every insult or two there was another fan extending a warm welcome. It was not significantly different from LSU, with the exception of the accents.
In a weekend filled with history lessons, the game itself seemed destined to repeat the Razorbacks' past. It was another non-conference road loss, making that record 3-5, and Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova has had two of the best games of his career against Arkansas.
Many of us in attendance for both saw many similarities in Bielema's first Arkansas loss to a game the Hogs blew at Kentucky in Bobby Petrino's first year as our head coach. Both games were played in obvious rebuilding seasons, and the team just didn't have the depth or experience to hold onto a big lead on the road.
But unlike last year's "Season from L," we saw reasons to be optimistic during the defeat. Backup quarterback AJ Derby's first start came against a sound run defense, so the offense continued to unveil several wrinkles to put us in position to win. And though not always consistent, the defense made some big plays. There may be more losses this season, but Tusk to Tail likes the direction the program is headed.
Counting the Confederacy's battle at Gettysburg, the teams Tusk to Tail followed went a clean 0-4. But the weekend's adventures left us raving about the good times. Jack Clark summed it up best.
"I rode in trains, planes, taxis, and rental cars. I walked about two marathons and through a Jersey mosh pit. I drank beer so strong that it essentially came in a shot glass. I never did that much to see a Hog game before this one. Very fun trip, guys."