A Hokie's Guide to September 8, 2007

August 07, 2007

I believe that it's still the plan that we'll be graced with some visiting Hokies for the football season's first tailgate. They may read experts' opinions of what to expect on the field any number of places. I thought they might need to read about what to expect in the hours leading up to the game. The rest of this post is directed to them.

First, you should understand the setting that you enter. I will have shown up at around 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning. It will be dark, and it will look like an abandoned street fair or refugee city -- all tents and no people. I'll unload cooking stuff, bloody marys, alcohol, ice chests, tables, chairs, radio, television, etc. and start spreading it around.

Once that's done, I might walk around and see what else is going on. There will be others like me. There will be a handful of people in tents, and there will be at least one group of loud drunk people who have been partying all night.

Before daylight, the group of joggers will pass, and I'll give them some sort of jeer and suggest that they would be better off eating donuts with me. By then, at least one other person probably will have shown up. We will have read the pregame breakdown in the sports page, and be ready for the day to really get started.

I'm guessing that you Hokies will get there around 10:30 or 11:00. The first thing that you will notice is that it's hot. Don't think your recent summer vacation in Florida or Mexico or Las Vegas is going to prepare you for the early September heat in Baton Rouge. It's likely to be a gut-altering, searing, torturous kind of heat, the likes of which you've never imagined. The humidity will cause your forearm to stick to your bicep every time you move your arm. And I strongly recommend boxer-briefs, as the sweaty mess beneath your scrotums is liable to chafe your delicate Virginia skin.

(A real coonass will steam his oysters down there, and serve them with a fishbowl of beer.)

Your hosts will insist that you put a drink in your hand right away, and insist that one remains there for the nine and a half hours — yes nine and a half — until kickoff. Pacing is the name of the game on this particular Saturday. Especially with the heat, some of the fans on campus will drink to the point where they don’t make the game. It wouldn’t be dumb to covertly take a water every third or fourth drink, although you will be ridiculed if caught.

Speaking of ridicule, the tiger fans are going to be tough on you. You will be called "tiger bait" all day long. Sometimes, you’ll be addressed that way, as if were an old college nickname, and sometimes, it will be chanted at you by a crowd.

If it's still in the news, expect some Michael Vick jokes. Most will not be very clever, but someone will set up something or other that’s pretty funny.

Come to think of it, if I had the time and money, I would get a stuffed pit bull, a VT Michael Vick jersey, put the dog in the jersey and in a noose, and hang it from the nearest tree. Like I said, not very clever.

And I cringe to write it, but once the tiger fans are good and drunk, we will get to hear at least one poor attempt at comedy about campus shootings. Something like, "Once dem tiguhs are throo wit you, you gonna want to shoot up campus all over again." Yes, there will be assholes there. You can’t put 100,000 people in a square mile, have them drink for eight straight hours, and not have 10,000 assholes in the group.

But among the other 90,000, you’ll find good people. Almost everyone who cooked -- friends and strangers alike -- will be proud of their food and invite you to partake. Just wander up to any group empty handed, ask "what is that you’ve got in the pot?" and walk away with a plate and a beer and the email address of your new friends. Maybe you'll meet them again at a bowl site some day.

The next thing you know, all of the people beside us will start packing up all those chairs and tents. You'll realize how much noise you've been subjecting yourself to all day as generators shut down, stereos turn off, and people walk toward the stadium. We'll keep everything up and going until the last minute. Often, we keep everything assembled for a post-game continuation of the party, but this game won’t end until close to midnight, so by the time you leave (shamed) in the third quarter, our party will be gone.