Here’s something impossible to do. Let’s compare the experience I had between the Stagg Bowl and Orange Bowl.
I’ll stick to the tailgating and fan experience. You can read about the game on ESPN.com I just read the Andrew Reed column naming Stone Station as the runner up for best tailgate. I must agree. Although my comparisons were limited to CNU tailgates, which were unique since I was fortunate enough to tailgate with families of two players, a Virginia Tech game in a monsoon on a Thursday night against Boston College (the other BC), and finally the Orange Bowl.
The intensity in the parking lot at the Orange Bowl was more evident. I think this was due to the sheer number of fans in attendance. I was in a predominately VT parking lot. However there were a few token Kansas fans. Tailgates consisted mostly of a few tents and grills. Impressive, since fans had to travel more than 1,000 miles to get there. Many rental cars were adorned with turkey heads and VT magnets.
A large black Denali pulled up next to us with many accessories. The parking lot at Dolphin Stadium was very tailgate friendly. The VT fans in the Denali were not. At first, when they pulled about and started unloading, I had memories of Stone Station at the Stagg Bowl as they unloaded food, grills and tables. The memories faded quickly. The Denali owner was more into status, such as a Tracvision on his truck and a wide screen TV that ran on generator power and retracted into his vehicle somewhere.
Apparently, this guy flies to the games and has an employee drive the truck to the games. I wasn’t impressed. They were a little snobbish and not very friendly. The Stone Station guys were more into sharing fun with everyone around. It didn’t matter who you were, just stop by, say hello and have some good food with new friends.
The VT guys just don’t get it. The Stone Station food was probably much better. I can’t tell for sure since I wasn’t invited to taste the VT food. Some Kansas fans parked behind us and fired up a classic Webber grill. I was thinking they had the right idea. But then, they tossed whatever meat they had on the grill while the flames were still shooting 3 feet into the air less than foot from the gas tank on the rental car. I guess in Kansas they don’t wait for the charcoal to glow before cooking. Maybe they like their medium rare meat crunchy on the outside. I began to chuckle at all the tailgate novices. Stone Station is in a much higher division!
The intensity inside the stadium was great. The flyover was loud and caught many by surprise. I was wondering if they would have one since it was raining and 57 degrees. I remember CNU’s very first game in 2001 was to have a flyover; but the weather had other ideas. Yep, that’s right 57 degrees in Miami. It was damp cold and very windy. I was actually colder there than at the Stagg Bowl and I was equally prepped, if you know what I mean.
The one thing that I kept thinking while watching the crowds and fans and bands was, â€œthis doesn’t mean anything.â€ It’s not a championship game. It’s not a game leading to a championship. In this game even the winner goes home without a championship. I was trying to imagine the atmosphere in this game if it were a regional championship, or if the winner went to play for the D-I title. Just put the 11 conference champs and 5 at large teams together and let them duke it out on the field. The computer formula geeks will find something else to do. The sponsors and TV contracts and alum wallets will follow. But that’s a different story.
One final note on my very random thought process on this blog. I was looking around the parking lot and at the game. I saw a lot of VT orange and maroon and a lot of Kansas blue. I didn’t see much else. At the Stagg Bowl I saw colors from Wesley, UMHB, UWW, MUC, CNU, Bridgewater, and even a Wabash flash. I saw dance teams walk by to chat and take pictures (thanks girls, my wife loved it!!), a marching band eating Stone Station â€œfixinsâ€, and purple fans handing out purple liquid in syringes. I saw Wesley and Bridgewater QBs tossing the ball in the parking lot, competing as usual. The D3football.com guys came by to chat.
At the Orange Bowl I saw fans cook for themselves and a few friends and family, walk into the game, cheer, and walk out to get back to the hotel. The fan camaraderie wasn’t there like it is in D-III.
Through it all I enjoyed myself. I was with family — nieces, nephews, in-laws. My son was with me. I wore a VT hat and a Kansas shirt (my nephew is a Jayhawk). I’m sitting in the Hilton in West Palm Beach writing this, while my son snores during his nap, cellphone vibrating away. We spent the afternoon today driving away from an angry Rhino! No, I don’t have any purple liquid syringes from the Stagg Bowl in my room. We went to a Safari park and got between two females and the Alpha male. I laughed so hard, hearing my son taking pictures in the back seat and yelling, â€œDad! Dad! Dad!â€
And now the trip must end tomorrow. A final and painful plane ride waits. On the way down, I had a head cold. My left ear hasn’t unclogged yet. I had a fever during the game (that’s why I felt colder in Miami than I did in the rain in Salem), and as I write this tears are streaming from my left eye. I’m thinking I have a bad infection going on.
Or maybe I just miss my buddies Llamaguy, Skoaltrain and the rest of the gang!