For Week 7 of the Tailgate Fan: College Edition Tour 2014, we were headed to cover the Red River Rivalry, the annual neutral-site, Dallas-based hoedown throw down showdown between Oklahoma and Texas. It’s an epic annual event played at the Cotton Bowl, with the Texas State Fair as a backdrop. Word has it Red River has everything a fan could ask for: country-strong fans with big rigs smoking every meat under the sun, plus plenty of cold beer, handsome bosses, pretty ladies and southern-style smack talk galore. And we didn’t mind that we were headed back to Dallas, and to revel in another neutral-site affair, though we were there but two weeks prior for the Southwest Classic at Jerry World, and as much as we prefer campus-based tailgate action,.
BUT… once Oklahoma lost the week before to TCU, leaving them perfect on the season… and with Texas underperforming (to say the least)… and with Baylor perfect on the season as well… and these two teams set to meet for the 110th time, in Baylor’s brand-new stadium, just 90 minutes south of Dallas…we pulled a Tailgate Fan first. We called an audible and switched tailgates. It, much like the taste of freshly smoked local venison sausage, was bold. And while we didn’t encounter the party of the century, per se, we had a good time, met great people and want to go back soon, because Baylor is on to something great with the new digs. And also Mother Nature threw us for a loop.
See, here’s the crazy thing — Central Texas doesn’t know what to do with cold rain in October. Forecast early on called for mid 80s, some humidity. We were ready for, you know, Waco, Texas in early October. But suddenly the forecast changed, and Dallas and most of Texas for the weekend — heck, most of the country, turned into Seattle. Rainy. Light winds. High 50s. It was weird. Our flight down was an airborne version of a monster truck ride, a little bumpy for my liking. A few frosties at the PHENOMENAL brand-new Deep Ellum Brewery Taproom in Dallas upon arrival eased those anxieties. But still, rain. Cold. I’m wearing layers and a jacket in Texas, and it’s barely autumn. WTH?
So when we shipped out from our Dallas hotel for Waco the next morning, it felt like somebody imported London’s weather for the weekend. And when we arrived at Baylor six hours prior to kickoff… it was a little ghost town-ish. Very few people, aside from folks setting up concessions and traffic works were out. That’s usually when the “tailgate panic” sets in. This was a huge game! #5 versus #9! The 110th meeting of “The Holy War” now redubbed “The Revivalry”! Don’t they all know we’re there to watch them all party and eat and drink to excess in celebration of the game, their new $270 million stadium by the river, where fans can now Sailgate! I understand cold rain in Central / South Texas is like driving etiquette along the streets of Manhattan; you rarely see it, and freaks you out when you do. But it happens. So we sat. And waited. And waited. And the clock was ticking… and ticking… and…
All of a sudden, the rain stopped. Four hours before kickoff. And it’s like tens of thousands of people and their rigs and rides and tailgates and trucks just dropped from the sky. Everyone waited out the storm, then raced to their spots for a chance to grill ‘n’ chill before what ended up being a whale of a game. Like 119 points scored, 61-58 final kinda crazy good.
Once we got going it was the usual six hours of filming and fun crammed into three and a half hours. And it was great. Smaller than expected, and a little mild at times (the wild came after the win, for sure). People smoke every meat available down in cattle country; ribs, sausage — pork, beef and venison — brisket (d’uh!), chicken, pork roasts, and even… yes… dove. I know, the bird of peace. Well, apparently there’s a lot of ‘em down there. And who am I to tell another man what he can and can’t shoot on his ranch? This is Texas, after all. A country in and of itself. Sadly the dove was devoured before we got to it. I’m not too into eating international symbols for togetherness, anyway.
However, I did try frog legs for the first time. And yes, they do taste like chicken. Chicken that lives in a pond. But hey — when in Waco, right? Several tailgates fried frog legs “in honor” of their opponent, the TCU Horned Frogs. Eating the opponent before the game — cool tailgate idea. Adding that one to the book.
We sailgated with some folks who had party barges, speedboats and pontoons. If everything tastes better outdoors, then everything tastes even better-er on a boat. Man, give people the chance to party on a boat, especially one parked in a man-made inlet outside a gorgeous college football stadium and they’ll tell you it’s the best day ever. Again, I don’t argue with people in Texas. Along for the ride and enjoying everything deep-fried!
Once the fans crushed their shortened tailgates, they streamed for the stadium and we hustled home. Baylor is good at football again. And they’re gonna be that way for a while, I believe. They have a cool new home, with a new tailgate scene to inhabit. Gone are the days when, as we heard, you could leave extra tickets on your windshield before a game, and come back to find more there afterwards. Baylor’s growing into all this success and luxury, and I’m sure in a few years this will be an epic deep-south destination that, while probably not College Station or The Grove, will be a must-visit for any Tailgate Fan. And the Red River Showdown is a must-visit every year. But not too often can you call that audible to visit an unexpected #5 versus #9 down I-35. Good call to visit a Baylor party scene that is like the football team; well on their way.
And now we’re making a “man-trip” to West Virginia to see how the Mountaineers do it. Word has it they burn couches when they get excited. Mountain momma, take me home!