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Where I Come From: Tailgating Traditions

This is the third of a week-long series of posts sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011

As many of you know, I was a four-year member of the Oregon Marching Band.  Consequently, my tailgating story is different from many.  While I will neither confirm nor deny the drinking prowess of the Oregon Marching Band, we are not allowed to drink in uniform.  This makes game days extra painful for the Green and Yellow Garter Bands, who walk the Autzen parking lot and serenade the jovial binge drinkers football fans.  This is a short list of the drinks I have been offered and forced to turn down on Oregon game days:

  • Cheap beer
  • Good beer
  • Really good beer
  • Tequila
  • A Mojito
  • Jello Shots
  • Moonshine
  • Vodka from a Shot Ski

Tragic.  Simply tragic. 

But this past year, I had the fortune of participating in the Oregon Alumni Band, who also walks the tailgates and plays for the crowd.  The difference is, the Oregon Alumni Band does not wear uniforms.  You know what that means.  My story after the jump...

Setting: Oregon vs. Arizona State, November 14th 2009, Autzen Stadium

After rehearsing/hitting the bar at the Coburg Rd. Red Lion, we boarded the bus to the stadium.  It was dusk, and there was an excited mood in the air.  It smelled a bit of cheap tequila.  Stepping off the bus was like stepping into a dense jungle, filled with wild animals and a plethora of sounds and smells.  One of the things I enjoy about Autzen tailgating is that Oregon fans aren't known for one thing, like jambalaya and crawfish at LSU or beer and brats at Wisconsin.  It's a veritable smorgasbord of flavors dancing through the air: spicy BBQ here, burgers and sausages there, grilled zucchini and vegan hot dogs over at the hippie environmental tailgate.  And the beer.  Oh, the beer!  No one brews beer like the Pacific Northwest, and the full flavor palate of the region is on display.  As the musical entertainment, we offer a sought-after service to tailgates.  These people want to sing Mighty Oregon, and gosh darn it, we can't deny them of that!  So, we figured, we want some of this delicious tailgate food and drink, and we have unlimited fight songs at our disposal.  Sounds like an even trade to me.  The hard sell went something like this:

Me: "Hey Kyle!  Wouldn't you LOVE to play the fight song in exchange for food and beer?"

Kyle (trumpetduck): "I would LOVE to play the fight song in exchange for food and beer!"

Tailgaters: "Hey, we've got food and beer!  Come on over!"

Not only did we drink like kings, we got to meet some of the best and brightest of the Autzen tailgating crew.  These are not the Oregon fans that give us the reputation as being drunk, rude, and out of control.  The thing that stands out in the parking lot is now unbelievably nice everyone is.  If you've got something to share, you're more than welcome to stay for a conversation and a beer, though if you aren't good company, they'll let you know.  So be good company and you'll fit right in.  The tapestry of the RVs, the tents, and the backdrop of PK Park makes for a perfect place to spend a Saturday.

My only gripe with the tailgate experience is our fans' habit of returning to the parking lot to drink at halftime.  Not only are you missing the OMB's halftime show (most underrated marching band in the country BTW), but the stands are half full for the start of the third quarter!  I know many of you on this blog will agree with me when I say this: stay in your seats.  The booze isn't going anywhere, and your team will appreciate it.  That aside, the Oregon game day tailgate is a must for any Duck fan.  Whether you're driving your RV into the parking lot at the crack of dawn, or making the walk from campus across the Willamette River and past Pre's Trail to Autzen, you're in store for a great day of sport, food, and friends.

What are some of your favorite tailgate memories?  Leave them in the comments section.  If we need a question for discussion, what is your tailgate food and drink of choice?  Generally, I'm pretty basic.  Give me a burger or a Polish with some chips and a cold one, and I'm a happy boy.  Throw in some chicken wings and a Dr. Delite, and I'm on Cloud Nine.