Beloved Missouri son Mark Twain once said, “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.” Well, the same could be said for the tailgates outside the university that bestowed an honorary doctorate upon him. For one minute all seems quiet and calm, and the next — WHAM! You’re right in the the thick of the pregame party. Our goal in visiting MIZ! ZOU! was to see if this former Big 12 stalwart was indeed up to the task of representing the SEC well… several hundred miles from the southeast. I’d always found that move curious, but once we got boots on the ground, we discovered a football fanbase ready to turn it up to 11, and beyond.
We flew into St, Louis, after a delightful two-hour tarmac delay at LaGuardia in New York (I’m still convinced LaGuardia is Italian for “sad airport”), then made the hour and 45-minute drive to Columbia, Missouri. Upon arrival I quickly checked my calendar to see if the date was the Friday before Thanksgiving, because it was FREEZING cold. Like 45 degrees cold. In the middle of September. I love a good autumnal chill in the air. It just wreaks of football season. But not with a week to go in summer! Still, any excuse to talk ball and get everything pumpkin spiced is fine by us. We checked out the town, visited the campus, then made way to the main RV lot, known as Truman’s Landing, to see how fans were prepping for Saturday’s Central Florida/Mizzou showdown. And with temperatures, much like the rain, now falling, we were happy to hit a local eatery for a warm bite and beverage (must go to Flat Branch Brewpub for dinner and a beer if ever in Columbia) and bed. That 11am CST kickoff was right around the corner.
As much as I love the smell of tailgate in the morning, that 5:30am alarm was the pits. But with such a limited time to partake of the Mizzou scene we took submarine showers (60 seconds), grabbed cameras and caffeine, and hit the road. Normally with a 3:30 or 8pm game there are hours and hours of tailgate to take in. Here our window of was about three hours; 8-11am. That’s not exactly optimal for making a TV show, or getting a real feel of what a scene is all about.
But what we lacked in time the Tigers fans made up for in Midwestern hospitality and school spirit. Hoo-wah, do these Tigers fans love them some Miz-Zou! The basic tailgates were good — tents and treats aplenty. But Mizzou might lead the tailgate nation in tricked-out rigs ‘n rides. Campers, trailers, trucks and party wagons in droves like I’d never seen. Hey, I’m from the northeast. We don’t have the space to park nor the tailgate tradition for this kinda vehicular fun. They say a man with a van is a man with a plan. Apparently Missouri Tigers fans are the most well-planned people in all of pregame party land.
I ate so much hearty breakfast fare, too; all the gravy-topped, biscuit-based, rib-sticking stuff that would make your mama proud. Biscuit breakfast pizza, people! From a gas station! That was delicious! Honest to gridiron! I tell ya, I’d love to go back and see what day or night game tailgates would be like. Columbia is between St. Louis and Kansas City, two BBQ meccas. I could see splitting the difference in deliciousness.
And the fans? We made many new football friends fast! Two favorites were Clyde the Whistler, who everyone claims you can hear on TV broadcasts because of his piercing whistle. I heard it; it’s loud. But if I was as in love with my alma mater, team and tailgate, damn skippy I’d be whistling all day and night, too. Clyde brought a friend, Hugo, from Brazil, to see his first American football game. Doing the Lord’s work there, I say. Hugo said it was his first chance to have biscuits and beer at 7am. That’s what makes this country so great. Also we met Chef Tom, who had this fabled homemade pizza oven we heard about from many tailgaters. We found Tom at kickoff and settled in for the first quarter with him and his 30-plus friends for a bite and beverage. The way he and his right-hand man, Spence (to hear about Spence, don’t miss the Tailgate Fan podcast), constructed their rolling party, complete with “doomsday-prepped” horse trailer and eight hundred-pound pizza oven, had me wanting to cash in my city chips and move to the Midwest. And the pizza was pretty excellent, to boot.
All in all a concentrated good time. Missouri’s football team is on the rise, and so is their tailgate. I wholeheartedly recommend it, and do certainly want to go back and rock out with all our new football friends. If you go, word to the wise, be on best behavior; easily the most security and police presence I’ve ever seen at a college football game. And far from the biggest game or scene. Maybe it was because Missouri’s been in the news for reasons they’d rather not have been of late? Not my business to guess. Just behave yourself and perhaps do a juice cleanse before you get there to make room for all the Tigers have to offer.
After a smooth flight home, some exercise and much needed rest we’ve moved on to prepping for Florida State. Rumor has it the national champs know how to party. And it’s an eight o’clock game. Which means an all-day tailgate. Maybe I should have brought some of that biscuit breakfast pizza home with me after all.