How Your Bullpen Editor Spent the Opening SEC Weekend

By Lori Kelly

Clay asked me to take some video at the Vanderbilt/South Carolina game last Thursday. I’m more of a behind the scenes girl, but hey, I’ll give it a shot. What should I film? Anything. Anything? Anything. OK. Surely there will be something worth filming. This is the season opener on ESPN against preseason ranked #9 South Carolina with our feisty big-mouthed coach at the helm. 

Let me pause here and say that I am the kind of Vanderbilt fan people don’t think exists. I go to games (ok I usually go to games), have had basketball season tickets since I graduated and will sincerely defend our pathetic home game attendance because… it’s a small school! Only 140,000 living alumni! Nashville has an NFL team! I even follow 17 year-old commits on Twitter despite the creepiness factor. Sidenote: how creepy is this?

So it’s last Thursday and I have to skip my final class of the day to even get to the tailgates before the game. I’m going to admit something you will never hear me say again; Vanderbilt has no tailgating tradition. The student tailgating areas changed every single year of my undergrad. Confusion leads to apathy. So does losing. As undergrads, we spent the hours before football games at fraternity houses getting drunk. We also spent the hours during football games at fraternity houses getting drunk, but I digress. The point is that Vanderbilt tailgates are very, very tame. There is nothing to film. I take a picture of the guy, there’s always one, wearing head to toe UT orange. I hate that guy.

I don’t really hate you but stop it.

I stop by the Vanderbilt basketball tailgate just in time for an argument over chicken nuggets. A fan is picking them off the tray, dipping completely in honey mustard and then licking his fingers. An assistant coach tells him somewhat aggressively that it’s gross and to get a plate. The fan advises him to calm down. Telling someone to calm down never results in them actually calming down so this quickly escalates. The entire tailgate falls silent. Then the fan’s friend says, dude, let’s just go, and so he did, and we all let out a deep, collective breath. Shit was wild. But really, get a plate. Vandy is the classy SEC school.

I move on because I am on the hunt for an awkward Vandy fan, Clay’s Holy Grail of awkward fan photos. I’d like to nominate this lady who sat in front of me all game:

 

Because that is awkward. But I can’t swear she is a Vanderbilt fan.

The following morning I head to Atlanta for UT/NC State. I’m from East Tennessee so most of my high school friends are Volunteers. We’re tailgating on an enormous stretch of blacktop, and it’s approximately 186 degrees outside. There are chicken nuggets at the tailgate but no nugget Nazi, which is good because we are all drunk and sweaty mountain people and a chicken nugget argument would come to blows.

Mountain people

My friend from high school and I are discussing James Franklin and whether he’ll be at Vanderbilt next year if he gets us to another bowl game. A Vol fan I don’t know overhears and starts in on his hatred of Vandy, except he’s saying Candy. I know Clay covered this, but let me reiterate, don’t say that. It’s not funny or clever. It’s not even an insult. Everyone likes candy. It’s delicious.

At this point I realize I still need a ticket. Did you think my job would hook me up? HA. So my friends and I are walking around looking for both a ticket and interesting people. We run into an NC State fan wearing red Hugh Hefner pajamas and a fedora. He’s rapping on his portable karaoke system, saying, “in my doublewide, in my doublewide, cheering on the Vols in my doublewide.”

This was when we first learned that NC State fans felt superior to Tennessee fans. It was confirmed when we walked by a different NC State tailgate, and they asked us to spell Volunteer. My friend responded by misspelling it (and not on purpose), which didn’t help matters. So is NC State some great academic institution, and I don’t know it? A quick google search tells me that NC State and the University of Tennessee are tied at 101st place in US News and World Report’s list of national universities. What are the odds? Sorry NC State fans, you aren’t superior in the classroom or on the field. Some of you reading this don’t think US News and World Report is legitimate. Good luck with that useless piece of paper your joke of a college gave you.

Some fans of the 101st ranked schools in the country. 

I finally find a ticket through the efforts of my host in Atlanta, Jeff, who scores me an 11th row seat on the 30 yard line for less than face value. Of course, this means I’m sitting with complete strangers. The guy next to me is a recent UT grad who lives in Chattanooga. He pats me on the back and nudges me with his elbow repeatedly for the next ten minutes. He also asks me where I’m from 4 times. He’s like one of those amnesia patients in the movies whose memory resets every 3 minutes. The Volunteers take the field and the band plays its first Rocky Top of the night. I happen to love Rocky Top so I sing along. When the song is over, the amnesiac turns to me and says, “We don’t woo anymore in Rocky Top. We say uhhh instead.” I look at him blankly for a second and then ask why. He says, “Uhh is harder, more badass.” I text Clay that woo is out and uhh is in so he doesn’t embarrass himself. He responds, “That sounds incredibly pornographic.” Looks like I’m sticking with woo.

My SEC football opening weekend ends about 2:30 Saturday morning with a ham and pineapple pizza. I still haven’t filmed anything. 

 

Follow me on twitter @lorioktc 

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