In re: The Game – Pregame

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[Note: This is the first part of a two part series on the Ohio State / Michigan game last weekend here in Columbus]

Beep, beep, beep… I glance over at the clock and see it reads 5:45am. I glance down at Charlie my dog and see even he isn’t ready to get up for the day — usually once the alarm goes he thinks its time to play and go for a walk.
I slip on some shoes and try and shake the sleep from my head, I had only been in bed for a few hours and long to slip back under the warm covers and grab a few more hours – but I know the whole day depends on getting out the door. Today is Saturday and in Columbus during the fall that means one thing – OSU football. Today however isn’t just OSU football, its OSU – Michigan, the game, 1 vs. 2, rival vs. rival. I head downstairs and throw a few last items into my already packed car, that contains among other things, food, grill, stereo, chairs, and any number of other things that one may need while doing justice to tailgating. Friends arrive at 6am who have agreed to take on the early morning duty and we caravan over to where we will be spending a good part of the day. Its almost 6:15 now and the lots are already full, the lot we usually go to and prefer is completely full so we go next door where we get what turn out to be the last few spots.

By now things aren’t looking so good as we will have to carry everything to the grassy area we decide we will be setting up. We tear open – still dark outside – a 10 x 10 canopy that I recently obtained and begin to try and set it up, tossing the instructions to the ground. Quickly we hit problems, certain pegs are missing, we can’t get it to open, basically we get stalled. Nearby and likely more experienced tailgaters lend a hand, after confirming that we are not Michigan fans despite the blue colored tent. They quickly encounter problems as well but continue to tell me what to do and I do, stuffing twigs into the tent poles to keep the thing up. Finally as its now past 7 am we have staked out our spot and head back to a waiting car to go home and gather the rest of our stuff up, shower, walk Charlie and get ready to head back.

We load into yet another car, with every last minute item that was forgot thrown in, including a thermos of coffee that I hope will keep me going and head out. Its now 9 am and the sun is out, making it apparent that it will be a glorious day. Some others who were supposed to be out early had already hit a snag and got delayed as no taxis could apparently be found so without half of our setup, contained in a lock car, we empty the contents of my packed small car and start getting breakfast up and running. I lit up the sterno burners and throw up on top to stay warm a breakfast casserole (known under various names to others, a breakfast strata, an egg bake, or my favorite an Iowa breakfast – my aunt calls it that and we always have it for Christmas) the casserole contains eggs, bread, cheese and sausage and quickly I realize that this, despite two dozen eggs being involved will not hold back the number of people showing up very long and I get set warming up hash browns and showing people the bagels that have been graciously flown in from NY by a visiting friend.

People are now showing up rapidly and our setup is going along, TVs getting setup, stereo is now blaring above the hum of the generator that is powering the whole mess. Multiple grills are now lit and along with some help I start in on getting some ribs rubbed with a spice blend and tossed into my grill to begin their long slow smoking.

People keep showing up, bringing with them cases of beer, hot dogs, chips, buns, and any meat they happen to think will go well on the grill. Breakfast is now long gone and lunch foods are being devoured along with countless beers. Some folks nearby are getting rowdy as TV crews come by and film and the alcohol keeps coming. State Troopers come by and ticket one guy who is running around chugging out of a bottle of vodka, but don’t seem to notice or care about the cases and cases of beer that are being consumed quite openly, in violation of the rules of Ohio State. At some point the tailgate seems to consist of almost as many Notre Dame fans as OSU fans much to my disgust and that game, an inevitable drubbing of Army is put on the bigger of the multiple TV setup.

Ribs come off the grill finally and I set to chow down, seeing now that game time is nearing. Somehow the day has flown by, between chatting up all the people who have dropped by, manning the grill and making sure my drink cup was full we have reached game time. Those of us who were going to the game assemble and begin our trek, less then a 10 minute walk to the stadium, past countless other tailgaters, satellite dishes, grills, food, generators and all that embodies modern tailgating.

Its been one hell of a day and if there hadn’t been a game about to begin, I probably would have been ready for a nap, but with a red bull in hand I march over, feeling the waves of cheers hit me, seeing the sights and sounds of what is hopefully to live up to the billing The Game.

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