Fall is my favorite. And here in Iowa, it's like September first hit and Mother Nature went, "Oh, right, it's fall." And boom, overnight we went from 80 percent humidity and 90 degree weather to crisp, cool air and highs in the low 70s/upper 60s. I'm not complaining "“ it immediately gets me in the mood for Halloween, apples, fall clothes, boots, and tailgating. Our first tailgate of the season is on Saturday (go Cyclones!) and I am so looking forward to it. Not as much as I'm looking forward to the Nebraska/Iowa State game (which, admittedly, we are going to lose), but it will be a blast.
The weather and the upcoming booze-a-thon has inspired me to write about tailgates today. This isn't my list "“ it's ESPNs. I've done a little extra reseach on their picks, though.
10. Auburn. ESPN says people line up to tailgate for a Saturday game at 7 a.m. on Thursday morning. That's pretty hardcore. But football is in Auburn's blood "“ two Auburn players have won the Heisman trophy and John Heisman (yep"¦ the guy) coached there from 1895 to 1899. The picture, by the way, is from Andrew Reed, who has an awesome blog documenting his tailgates across the country. He also compiled his own Tailgate Awards for Sports Illustrated On Campus.
9. Colorado. ESPN's Road Warrior rates this one at #9 largely because of the atmosphere. And I understand that "“ I think tailgating with the mountains as your backdrop is pretty awesome.
8. Army. Road Warrior says Army is amazing because people are so appreciative that these football players are also serving a bigger purpose. Football analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said the game day atmosphere is incredibly inspiring. Apparently RW is also scared to leave armed soldiers off of their top 10 list, so that's a decent reason too. It also helps that Michie Stadium has a beautiful setting to call home.
7. Wisconsin. You can't leave Wisconsin out"¦ it doesn't matter how cold it is or if there's a foot of snow on the ground "“ these fans will not be stopped from their beer, brats and cheese for anything.
Plus, there's so much spirit, they had to create a Fifth Quarter. The tradition started in 1969 when the Badgers had a 24-game losing streak. To rally the fans, the marching band announced that after the game, they would hold an event called the Fifth Quarter. Anyone who stays in the stands is treated to a performance that usually includes The Chicken Dance, On Wisconsin, Beer Barrel Polka, Tequila, Space Badgers, and Hey Baby.
6. UCLA. I'm sure UCLA fans, southerners and west coasters will disagree with me, but what's football without the cool weather? Nevertheless, the year-round gorgeous weather didn't stop ESPN from declaring UCLA as the sixth-best place to tailgate. I suppose when you're tailgating around a National Historic Landmark (it was declared one in 1987) in the sunshine, surrounded by beautiful people (so says ESPN), you declare that a pretty successful tailgate.
5. Penn State. More than 100,000 people show up for home games at Beaver Stadium"¦ Road Warrior cleverly refers to it as JoePa-Looza. Beaver Stadium is the largest stadium in the U.S., so that holds a lot of tailgaters. Well, not all of the tailgaters actually make it into the game. That's typical of any good tailgate, but it's especially problematic for Penn State. The school actually had to ban drinking outside of the stadium during the game because too many people were causing problems.
4. Washington. ESPN says it's not that the stadium is so fantastic or the tailgate is so nuts; it's the quality of the tailgate. While everyone else in the country (with the exception of the #1 pick) is munching on hamburgers, brats, hot dogs and beer, the good people at Husky Stadium are enjoying wild salmon, Dungeness crab and microbrews. On the lake. Yeah, Lake Washington sits right next to the stadium, so up to 12,000 people can hang out on the lake and enjoy the game. Some people actually stay the whole weekend. And the University is more than accommodating of this setup "“ just before kickoff, the University supplies a shuttle to the people on the lake so they can make it to the stadium in time to see the game start.
3. Tennessee has a similar set up to Washington "“ fans can camp out on Tennessee River prior to games. The tradition was supposedly started by Tennessee broadcaster George Mooney in 1962. At least 200 boats enjoy this set up for every Volunteers game at home "“ they've earned the nickname "the Volunteer Navy". Clever. Road Warrior ranked this tailgate experience over the Washington one because the barbeque is so good.
2. Ole Miss battles LSU not just for the SEC title, but also for the best college tailgate in the U.S. It earns the #2 spot for the good food, the passion of the fans and the fact that the speed limit on campus is 18 miles an hour. If you're not a sports fan, you probably don't know that Eli and Peyton Manning's dad, Archie, is a legend of the game. He had a heck of a career at Ole Miss, where he wore jersey #18. Eli and the oldest Manning brother, Cooper, also went to Ole Miss and played football.
1. LSU wins the top spot, largely because of the food. Road Warrior says they once tailgated with a group who made "jambalaya, duck and oyster gumbo, stuffed quail, deer sauce picante, wild duck, cochon de lait, Cajun sausage, crawfish etouffee, rabbit, alligator stew and marinated pork tenderloin. And that was for a non-conference game." Yeah, that sure beats my weekend plans of Doritos and Chips Ahoy.
Agree? Disagree? Tell us your best tailgating experiences in the comments.