Gig Sooey! That’s our hybrid name/game-day chant for The Southwest Classic meeting of Arkansas and Texas A&M (Ark cries “Pig Sooey!” while A&M yells “Gig ‘Em!”) And let me tell you, this rivalry makes for a whale of a time… if you’re into the Saturday in Texas heat, sweating, sipping, snacking and sports to your heart’s content kinda thing.
As a fan of tailgates and a person in search of the perfect pregame party (like unicorns, the Holy Grail and a light beer that tastes good, I’ve heard it exists), the annual Dallas-based meeting of SEC rivals Texas A&M and Arkansas is about as close to one as I’ve experienced. And this comes from someone who’s not exactly a card-carrying member of the Neutral Site Tailgate Fan Club. Because when you’re off campus, you miss the campus life and convenience therein… the “fresh out of bed and hungover but who cares because it’s game day” energy of the students, not to mention locals and people not into making trips or who can’t haul all their awesome game-day gear a couple hundred miles. Well, the 100,000+ who showed up outside AT&T Stadium, aka Jerry World (for Jerry Jones, an Arkansas alum who hosts this annual throwdown with touchdowns), brought the gear, grub, drinks, dancing, noise, funk, soul, spirit. You name it, this party had it.
Friday night we tried to get into a couple if local area alumni parties we’d heard about, just to set the scene and get a feel for what’s to come, but no dice. So we made way to the RV lots, where we immediately encountered dozens of the nicest, most welcoming people who gave us that “Welcome home” feeling. Southern hospitality, and ribs, by the bucket. Right then and there we got a glimpse of our Saturday and knew we were in for a dandy.
I’d been to Texas A&M before, for TGF in 2013. So I knew they could rock and celebrate things on game day. And College Station is only 2.5 hours from the Dallas area (which, by the way, encompasses several other large cities, so be ready for Texas sprawl and a lot of air-conditioned car time). So they could make the trip and represent for their top-10 team.
But I’d never been to Arkansas. And always wanted to go. Heard nothing but good things about the hogs, Pig Sooey and everything in Razorback Nation. But Fayetteville isn’t exactly around the corner, for a fan from the north, not Dallas/Arlington, either. It’s a five-hour drive. Which to these party animals is a drop in the gin bucket. Arkansas represented enormously, and with the kind of energy you’d hope to see from a top-ranked team. The food, fans and fun were off the charts. We experienced five and a half straight hours of rigs, rides, hugs, high-fives, gear, grub, cocktails and craziness that you dream of. Any time is the right time for breakfast brisket tacos paired with locally brewed beer. Follow that with homemade jalapeño poppers and slow-smoked whole hog accompanied by craft cocktails in a sea of people who all seem like they’re having their best day ever? There’s a reason why the crew and I kept turning to each other every 20 minutes or so and saying, “This might be the best tailgate ever.” And we’ve been to our fair share of football festivities.
A solid night’s sleep on a belly full of football and an early Sunday morning flight home made for a perfect football mini-vacation. And that’s all you want or could ask for. That the game went to OT and exceeded fans’ expectations was icing on the cake that we had no room for in our bellies. Coming off the mild disappointment of Florida State, this was indeed just what the doctor ordered. If you went to a really cool doctor who doesn’t mind you consuming three times your normal caloric intake on special occasions. The Southwest Classic is just that, and no matter your home base or rooting interest, I couldn’t recommend it more. On now to Notre Dame, where we hope the luck of the Irish will be on our side as we look to party like a champion today!