Tailgating began inauspiciously enough, as the Mouth had to spend the better portion of his energies fending off the unwarranted advances of an overly-fresh alumnus of Alumni Hall. When you got it, you got it, I guess, but notice to Irish fans both male and female: DO NOT PROPOSITION THE MOUTH AND KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELVES. THANK YOU. The more you know, right?
The remainder of the day was delightful enough. Sooner fans are simply too nice, which was a bit of a culture shock, as I came up steeped in two tailgating traditions: Irish and Bayou Bengal. Both involve three step processes: 1. get there early; 2. drink copious amounts of alcohol; 3. repeat step two. The Tigers actually added a fourth step: 4. eat excellent food while conducting steps 2. and 3. As an Irish fan who attended the '06 Sugar Bowl, though, I learned firsthand of the fifth step in LSU tailgating: 5. make God regret the whole creation of humanity thing. This the Mouth did not experience in Norman. No fewer than a dozen times, Sooner fans approached our entourage and wished its members "welcome," and "hopes for a mutually-enjoyable time." Confused, the Mouth and his Irish cohorts typically responded with a "yes, we'll have a very nice evening, but you won't," and other such mild giggings, which typically drew confused, hurt-seeming responses from Sooner fans.
One Sooner fan asked "hey guys, any predictions for tonight?" to which I responded only: "PAIN." Too easy, right? For a fan base that has adopted a famous cheater as its mascott--Barry Switzer, not the Sooner--I would expect a little guile, a little swagger. Instead we got only "welcome," and "thanks for coming," and, worse still "we hope you have a nice afternoon, but a less nice evening." Dang salt-of-the-earth ranchers. Sweet kids, those Sooners.
Overall, I have the following observations about Oklahoma tailgating: they do not drink as heavily or get there as early as Notre Dame or LSU fans. They make up for it, however, by just being nice people.
4. Stadium Atmosphere
Gaylord Family Stadium is as cozy an 85,000-and-change-seating stadium as I've attended. Maybe it's the open-ended design, but it looks and feels like a big high-school stadium, no offense intended to the Sooners. I mean, I do live in North Texas, where they're building $100-Million high-school stadiums.
We got to the stadium right as the gates were supposed to have opened, but by the time we got to our seats in the student section, the only open seats were about 50 rows up. I guess they take that Sooner stuff seriously. Cheaters.
We were surrounded by crimson and creme, but we quickly befriended the largest Native American gentleman-okay, the largest person-I have ever seen. Picture Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds. Imagine that Ogre got together with Manti Te'o's dad and a bear, and they all three had a kid. But that kid was ugly, and big, and had a pony-tail and an OU snab-back lid. That was our friend.
Cierre Wood runs almost untouched for 62-yard touchdown. So that was nice, because honestly I has gotten a little nervous after the first three possessions. That was because I had stupidly forgotten that the Irish defense just never gives up touchdowns ever, like EVER ever. So after destroying our vocal chords we realized that our Sooner friends were not sharing in our merriment. So concerned was I that I posed a question to all Sooner fans within earshot: "why's everyone so quiet? Guys? GUYS?" No one laughed, but I think that deep down, the Oklahoma fans thought it was a pretty funny joke. Crushed dreams. Hehe.
One of my idiot Irish fans friends mentioned at halftime that K-State and Tech were also just about knotted up at halftime. Thanks, guy. No, I never had the feeling after that first half that the Sooners were going to blow our doors off, or even that they were going to win. I'm done waiting for the other shoe to drop. It didn't drop on Saturday night, and it ain't going to.
So the second half began. And it was quiet. At Notre Dame Stadium, you can bank on the student section going bananas on every third down. Not so in Norman. For those that think Notre Dame Stadium is too tame, you don't know how good you have it. This was the largest crowd to ever watch a game in the State of Oklahoma, it was a matchup of two top-10 teams, and it was just plain quiet for most of the second half. Granted, the stadium is not designed to bottle up noise, but the crowd was disappointing, albeit, again, extremely nice.
Maybe it was our defense. I don't ever remember watching Notre Dame football games and feeling that the game was secure with over 6 minutes left and the Irish nursing a 7-point lead, but such is our season. What a great team win. EVERYONE made timely big plays, and in case you missed it, we left Oklahoma-where we were supposed to get blown out-with a 17-point win. Great game, Irish. Especially scary performance by the defense, which was appropriate given that it is Halloween season.
2. Trash Talking
So we got a few gems in the stadium, but I think we saw why Oklahoma fans were so reticent to engage in trash talking-it just isn't in their nature.
For example, some pipsqueak comes up to us when it's about 20-13 and he's all "did you guys go to Notre Dame"? We're all "yeah. We got beef?" Homeboy's like "all of you?" apparently surprised that my three Latin-American, gasp, counterparts attended college, much less Notre Dame. I think his intent was to go with some type of a subway-domers-are-losers bit-I value our subway brethren immensely, I'm just trying to get in this guy's head-but that was obviously shot, so he goes with "you paid too much for your education," followed by the ever-classic plastic cup lob in our general direction, and the oh-so-original finger. The only problem was that he hit our Native American benefactor with the cup. Well, let me just say that our friend did not-that is, he did NOT-like this. In fact, I would rate being pelted with plastic beverageware pretty high on our benefactor's list of the ol' dislikes, if you catch me. Suffice to say that the putative-insulter, who had stopped on his way down to the concourse to levy his ill-formed insult, most likely found it wise not to return to his seat after our large friend loudly proclaimed that he would make a human hand puppet out of the young man if he tried to return whence he came. Nice guy our friend was.
After Brindza's missed field goal, one of our Sooner buds posed the question "why don't you guys just let Te'o do that too?" And I said, "don't joke about Te'o, he's right behind you." And he was. He always is.
So we're leaving the student section, and an individual who could only be described as a "punkass" pushes one of my compatriots. Well, this young pup was apparently and for good reason not allowed out without adult supervision, because his dad, uncle, whoever, quickly places the lad in a headlock, then extends his hand and gives us a "good game." Well if that didn't sum up the Oklahoma fan base, I don't know what did. The Sooners employ a two-step system: 1. neutralize punkasses; 2. show mad respect. Now if they would only apply it to one Kenforth J. Stills III. Seriously, though, when asked for their comment about Stills's late game antics, Zeke Motta and Bennett Jackson released a joint statement: "We honestly couldn't hear what he was saying. We were too busy WINNING."
Post-game, we're heading back to the car after a brief but intense celebration, and we pass a North Face Salesmen's Convention, frat sweeps and all. So this is what we get: "You guys from Notre Dame?" "Yeah." "Good win, but if you guys were in the SEC, you'd be as good as Kentucky." I'm all "LOL WUT. Didn't we just beat you by 17?" In his defense, we had thoroughly taken away any decent trash-talking fodder.
1. Road Tripping
We stopped by one of Barry Switzer's old haunts for a bite. Well I was NOT in the mood for pizza. After all, we're in Oklahoma, so let's grab something that Oklahoma is known for, culinarily speaking. Oh, wait nothing fits that bill. So pizza would have to do, and Othello's pizza did. We had some Italian sausage, mushroom, and green pepper pizza, paired with calamari and mozzarella sticks. Switzer and I now have one thing in common-our love of Othello's pizza. A+. One thing we do not share is our love of adult gatherings of a certain kind. While we ate, we were regaled with tales of Barry Switzer, an adult gathering of the kind seen in a certain Stanley Kubrick movie starring Tom Cruise, featuring certain adult refreshments in powder form, and a certain member of Oklahoma's team "look[ing] like Oklahoma, but play[ing] like Oklahoma State." Boy, the 80's, I don't know....
That was lunchtime on Saturday, and food did not soon reenter our thoughts, as the Irish dined on Sooner blood and flesh that night. Drunk with football dominance, we returned to the hotel and gorged ourselves in a bacchanalia of hotel convenience store ramen noodles, ice cream twix bars, and sun chips. A finer repast I have not seen.
We hit I-35 early the next morning, the smell of victory, body odor, and Old Spice teeming from our very souls. And what's this on the interstate ahead? Why it's a Burger King. Magnificent. And it was there, on a cold, crisp, fall Oklahoma mourn that after a too-long hiatus, I rekindled my love affair... with the Croissanwich. The perfect mixture of salty and sweet, of meat and egg and French pastry, yin and yang, chicken and waffles, Larry and Balky. I'm sorry I ever left, Croissanwich.
We dined, then got back out onto the road, our thoughts on national championships, polls, Wilcats and Ducks, our eyes clear and bellies full, but hungry for mischief nevertheless. It was then that we realized that one of our party had fallen asleep in the back seat. This is a good one that really takes very little effort (kids do not try this at home): 1. on the count of three, the driver slams on the brakes--preferably he checks his rear view first--and everyone in the car yells at the top of their lungs like they're about to die; 2. the formerly-sleeping member of the team checks his underwear. Simple, not a whole lot of frous-frous. It just works and scares the hell out of people. Like the Irish Defense.