Tailgating is an art. A tradition, a ritual and (for some) a way of life. In some cases, the game itself can become an afterthought. Tailgating helps you prepare mentally and physically (see: booze) for the marathon that is any sporting event.
I love tailgating. I grew up in Kansas City, home of the world’s best barbecue and tailgating, a combination that comes together at least eight Sundays a year at Arrowhead Stadium. I’ve spent many Sunday mornings warming my hands in the pouch of my red and yellow starter jacket, but my favorite tailgating memory comes not from a professional game.
The University of Missouri and Kansas University is the second most played out rivalry in college football history. The rivalry is called the Border War, stemming back to militia groups in the Civil War. It’s a hatred that has to be experienced to understand. Think Yankees – Red Sox, if the Yankees burned down the entire city of Boston hundreds of years ago. Fast forward.
November 24th, 2007. The greatest tailgate of my life.
The implications: Kansas was undefeated, ranked #2 in the country. Missouri was ranked #3. The night before, #1 overall LSU lost, meaning the winner of the Border War would be tops in the nation.
That morning: College Gameday. The game wasn’t until that night, but ESPN got us up before dawn, thousands venturing to Arrowhead Stadium to kick things off. The party started more than twelve hours before kickoff.
The hatred was so thick you could taste it, and that day it would have tasted like thousands of gallons of Bud Light. Over 80,000 people attended the game, and seemingly all of them were in the parking lot hours before game time. Chanting, drinking, heckling, grilling and preparing. Normal tailgates are 95% home team fans, 5% other. This game was 50/50. Kansas City falls halfway between Columbia and Lawrence, and no more than a 2 hour drive for students.
The combination of hatred, hope and hops lead to the greatest tailgate imaginable. Tens of thousands of students and alumni, split for centuries and brought together with dreams of a national title. That, or at least winning a game of bags and getting on TV.
Kyle Ayers is a staff writer for KorkedBats.com and swears next year is the Royals’ year