The game formerly known as “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” — now known as Florida/Georgia, or Georgia/Florida, depending on where you come from or root for — is kinda like a trip to Vegas. It’s a blast; it’s full of vice, sin, fun, madness, consumption, mania, excitement, intoxicants and revelry. But it should only be visited or taken in once every few years, unless you’re a seasoned pro. You should only be there two days, else you’re gonna age your body and soul 10 years, or get into trouble. Or both.
For tailgate fans this is a bucket list game and weekend, and rightly so. It’s a great rivalry, and fans from both schools have no problem traveling because Jacksonville is only a few hours away from both campuses. Oh, people come from much further away… all over the country, actually. But there are no neutral-site blues here. All the colors, garb, swag, rigs, rides, smokers and jokers make the trip, and then make their presence felt.
In fact, people get so stoked for this event they often arrive a week early. The fanimals who bring their mobile homes and campers to get a spot in RV City — the parking lot equivalent of Bourbon Street — actually arrive the Friday BEFORE the Friday before the game. And that’s just to line up their RVs to get a spot when RV City opens the Wednesday before the game. You read that right. And once inside, it becomes a trailer park full of all the sports, debauchery and nonsense you’d ever hope for.
We were there Friday night, which is RV City Christmas, and it was Halloween. I mean… they’ve got characters and costumes enough as is. But this was bananas. You’ll have to watch the show to see. How we made it out alive as the place swelled to capacity, like a drunken little Christmas village, is beyond me. Then again, if you love your team, and can’t wait to live like there are no responsibilities in the world, and you choose to spend a full vacation week off of work so as to drink with and feed your football friends? God bless ya!
As for Saturday, let’s put it this way: Florida is a weird place to me. It’s a really fun place, but it’s also weird. All that room, odd laws, no taxes, perpetual sunshine, theme parks, retirees… it’s just such an odd place. All the craziest news stories always seem to come from Florida. And after you spend a weekend, or a Florida/Georgia game-day Saturday, there, you’ll understand why. The mix of fun and weird is eye-opening, awe-inspiring and jaw-dropping.
We met up with some tremendous people (our pal Rusty from Gator Tailgating in Lot X is a must-visit), who showed us hospitality and loads of fun. We got great grub; a fellow by the name of King, who makes chicken legs and mustard pork to die for in the concert lot is the MAN. We soaked up the passion and excitement these fans have for this game and their schools… like the shirtless Florida bros, Bulldog Mike and his 5 O’Clock Somehwere Tiki Bar. This one dude was so hellbent to get there he took an overnight bus, was gonna party all day, then take a midnight bus back to Atlanta… and didn’t even have a ticket!
The whole day had the feeling of two groups of friends who got to throw a house party at someone else’s house, so people could act wilder, more reckless and not worry about cleaning or consequences. Lord have mercy on the sanitation crews who come in and deal with the carnage and scorched humanity on Sunday.
They clean the actual trash, but we had to deal, for the final two hours of our shoot, our fair share of unsavory elements. We didn’t see any fights. But we were sworn at for no reason 20-30 times. People cussed us out for fun. And I’m not just talking college kids, I mean moms who probably did four Fireball shots too many. Hey, why not! It’s Florida! We had at least 100 Jameis Winston bombers (you know what he said), with over-served nitwits from both schools repeatedly trying to get in front of our cameras and say it over… and over… and over. SO ORIGINAL! SO CLASSY!
The police presence at this game was the largest I’d ever seen. And after some of the “conversations” we had with people in the last 90 minutes (I use quotes because I was speaking English and they were speaking a liquid-enhanced language of some kind), I could see why the fuzz would want to be on the ready. And considering Florida pulled off the upset? Some people’s post-game benders probably put Morgantown couch-burning to shame. So yeah, it’s a mix of classy and classless… just perfect Florida. You just gotta see it to believe it. Enjoy the Advil, Egg Sandwich and Gatorade Tomorrow.
Parting confession — this game is the only repeat on our 2014 schedule from 2013. I was a tad less than thrilled to be going back, not because it’s a bad time. It’s an epic, ridiculous (epiculous) time. But we’re looking to make shows about new tailgates every week, and still have so many to cover. Nothing against this pre-game bacchanal. But, after a wild ride and crazy encounters, I’m glad we went again. Hoping to go again one day without the mic and cameras and just live it from the inside out. Gonna need to do a whole lot of kalegating before that tailgating, buddy. Not sure I could handle another shoot there, trying to shout copy and conduct interviews with people who looked like they were having fun on the outside but were pickling and melting on the inside.
OK, we’re on to Sparty, a trip to East Lansing for the ginormous Ohio State @ Michigan State showdown. Doubt it’ll be as “fall of civilization” kinda fun as Florida/Georgia. But then again Michigan is a little less outlaw and sun-crazy than Florida. Can’t wait for all that midwestern hospitality and Big 10 fun.