When a sports passion is borderline obsessive college football is the place to center the love. It's a sport loved throughout the country but in the southeastern USA they take things to a whole different level. With Virginia Tech traveling to Georgia Tech on Thursday, last weekend was perfect for a "two games in three days" vacation so the James boys hit it up.
My brother Nick and I are die hard college football fans and we have been since our early elementary years. Even though we lived in southern Minnesota (where growing up, Iowa Hawkeyes dominated the TV until MSC finally came along to bring the Gophers some coverage) Nick fell in love with "The Canes" and he's been traveling to most of their games since moving to Fort Lauderdale (and later Atlanta) five years ago.
Checking the schedule this past summer I noticed Virginia Tech traveling to Atlanta for a game against Georgia Tech (blocks from Nick's place of residence) and the traditional rivalry game of Miami at Florida State just two days later in Tallahassee. With that type of luck it was an easy pick for my college football trip of the fall.
Tailgating in Atlanta
Georgia Tech's tailgating scene is unique in that it's in downtown Atlanta without much free space for large parking lots or ranging fields. However, the Yellowjacket fan base does it up pretty well taking to the streets with their grills, food spreads, and canopies. The fraternities have well attended get togethers on their front lawns welcoming young and old for food and beverages. Overall the fans in Atlanta do it up the best they can with the space they have.
Georgia Tech had a "white out" for the game and if a GT fan wasn't wearing white the school's band let them know it. Most bands have a large group of reserved musicians who don't step outside the lines of representing their school but the GT band was fired up last Thursday. If a fellow fan didn't have the white on the heckling came in an aggressive but fun way. The band and tailgating definitely provided an exciting pregame atmosphere (as did Buzz the Yellowjacket) before stepping into Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Iowa vs. Minnesota, in Atlanta
Our seats were in row six on the 30 yard line and coming from Minnesota I wasn't too thrilled about the 40 something degree weather (at least 60 degrees would have been nice). My brother wore some traditional Minnesota Vikings and Gopher gear to the game while I threw on a Gopher Illustrated hat. Coincidently enough who was seated in row five immediately in front of us? A man wearing Iowa Hawkeye gloves and hat! Despite our conversations with the man for the better part of the first quarter the Hawkeye gear wasn't noticed until the Iowa fan (cheering for one of the teams because of a bet) clapped and up came the Hawkeye logo gloves.
Nick instantly hollered at the sight of the Iowa logo and when the man saw the Gopher gear he buried his head in his hands with a "no-no-no" shake. Hollers of "Where's Floyd" and "two straight years" came down and the fan smiled as we all had a good laugh. Imagine that, the Iowa versus Minnesota rivalry getting a little play in rows five and six in Atlanta in Bobby Dodd Stadium! Good natured ribbing came through the second quarter than our Iowa friend went to Cheetah (Charles Barkley's favorite joint) for some entertainment.
GT fans vs. VT fans
Georgia Tech's stadium holds about 55,000 people and it was a raucous 55,000. The GT student section was purely white in both end zones and they were lively from start to finish. Overall it was a fun and exciting atmosphere to take in.
We sat in a large section of Virginia Tech fans mixed in with some Georgia Tech alumni and their families and it made for an interesting time. The VT group was much more passionate about their team and some may even use the word "vulgar". Inside the stadium, outside the stadium, in the seats, it didn't matter, the VT fan base was definitely more "in your face", wild, and borderline obnoxious at times.
The GT fans behind the VT bench consistently gave their opinions to the VT players, especially Courtney Prince who honestly seemed to pay more attention to taunting the fans than he did watching the game. I don't believe Prince stepped on the field for a play so it was rather odd seeing how much time he spent looking at, and talking smack with the crowd.
On the field there were several memorable plays. This isn't a game review article but one play stood out from all the rest. In the second half Georgia Tech's Jeremiah Attaochu smacked the VT quarterback's head and at the time it seemed like light contact and performed with 30 percent effort. I was really surprised to see that he was suspended for a half this weekend for the play but on the other hand, the lack of control was very costly. The penalty changed the momentum of the game.
allCanes Friday Night
The Friday Night allCanes party was held at AJ's Sports Bar in Tallahassee and as usual the pregame gathering was a blast. About six o'clock the festivities kicked off with a DJ, special guests, drawings for giveaways, and a lot of everything else. About 600 Miami fans showed up to enjoy themselves drinking, eating, dancing, and singing along to their favorite hip hop music (you know that Miami pregame parties are all about hip hop). It was a great time with "C-A-N-E-S CANES" chants every half hour and of course there was dancing from one Nick James who has become an allCanes pregame party celebrity for his skills. The party was held in an upstairs extension of the building and there were so many people dancing that the entire building was shaking. When you walked up the steel stairs they would violently sway back and forth, the speakers and lights were shaking, and overall the Miami fans nearly brought the house down.
AJs Gets the Miami vs. FSU Rivalry Going
The allCanes party was scheduled from six to ten and about ten o'clock a new DJ hit the stage. Apparently the bar wanted to rid themselves of the Miami crowd because the DJ's first words (and this is to a Miami crowd that has been dancing and drinking for four hours) "when was the last time Miami won here anyway?" Miami fans instantly told the DJ "two years ago &@! @#%" but their response was interrupted by the DJ blasting the Florida State war chant music. Of course boos exploded from the crowd and giant security guards (that had not done a thing all night) all of a sudden stepped up to wrestle upset fans. Florida State female fans jumped on the stage and started doing the Tomahawk Chop while the security guards forcibly removed Miami fans (a select group of the Miami fans had been allowed on stage all night up to this point) without telling them that they were no longer allowed on stage. At this point after seeing five or six near scuffles instigated by the DJ, most Miami fans left before things became worse. The rivalry of Miami versus Florida State may not be what it was ten years ago but it's still one of the most heated in the nation.
Doak Campbell Stadium
A year ago before the Ohio State game I learned that if you want to get your stadium sightseeing in you better travel down the day before because on gameday moving freely about around a crowd of 90,000 isn't easy. So Nick and I walked to Doak Campbell Stadium and checked out several of the Florida State sculptures that surround the facility. The Bobby Bowden memorial is well done, the Sportsmanship statue is a fantastic idea, and the "Unconquered" sculpture of Chief Osceola and Renegade is one of the best statues I've ever seen. Because of a crowd that assembled to see the Seminole team off to a destination (meal, hotel, etc) we couldn't see the stained glass windows but we did check out the Wescott Fountain which is another must see attraction on the campus.
Miami vs. FSU pregame
Tailgating is tailgating and there isn't much more that needs to be said than that. Despite the fact that Miami's home games aren't well attended they do have a passionate traveling fan base that filled up a massive parking lot before the game.
Walking to the stadium was a unique event with all of the Miami fans traveling as one marching down a row of college houses and fraternities. There were chants, some obscene gestures, and a lot of trash talking but it was all in good fun that excited everyone before the game. Just before we arrived at the stadium our group ran into what looked like 80,000 Seminoles fans tailgating. The FSU parking lots resembled an ocean of crimson and it was truly an intimidating view.
With fans in a frenzy Renegade led Chief Osceola to the middle of the field where Chief Osceola sent the flaming spear into the ground igniting the crowd. This tradition is one of the best pregame scenes in college football and after 30 years of watching it live on TV it was amazing to see it live. This was followed by 80,000 Nole fans doing the Tomahawk Chop war cry in what was another eye-opening experience.
Doak Campbell Stadium is an elite atmosphere and while the game was dull in the second and third quarters, the experience was still enjoyable. Florida State handed Miami a 23-19 defeat and the man sitting four rows in front of us lost a bet meaning he had to wear a pink sports bra on his way back to the tailgate lot.
As heated as the rivalry was the night before, during the tailgate, and at times during the game (lots of smack talking and the FSU fans who were sitting in the tents above the bleachers were throwing countless items at Miami fans), when people walked out of Doak Campbell Stadium there was little confrontation. Of course there were FSU chants and some light smack talking but for the most part everybody went on with their day.
It was another fantastic trip of college football and I would recommend heading to either Georgia Tech or Florida State for a game as both schools have their own unique atmospheres on gameday.