Nuckin futs and unbuckingfelievable are two of my all-time favorite sayings. You can have so much fun with those phrases without crossing any lines of decency. Like doing root beer kegstands. Woohoo.
You’re probably thinking I’m referring to the Huskies’ double-overtime victory over Oregon State with that headline up there. And I am. In part.
In actuality, the entire day from start to finish was nuckin futs, not just the nearly four hours of game play that unfolded at Husky Stadium on Saturday evening. And so, because I believe in full disclosure (or at least almost full disclosure), and because I feel it’s valuable to take you through a fan’s gameday experience, I give you this detailed account of Tailgate Saturday. All I ask up front is that you please forgive me. Apologies.
Part I: The Ascent
We arrive thirty minutes after noon and set up. We’re located on the lower level of the Padelford parking lot and garage, south side, next to the giant stairwell leading up to campus from Montlake (this is how I always describe our geographic location when informing people of our whereabouts…and I’m a geography major, so there’s that).
We unpack a dual-sided, hand-crafted wooden board that allows for your standard Beer Pong experience on one side and the more complex drinking game, Baseball, on the other. The board itself is adorned with University of Washington logos and the most amazing paint job you’ve ever laid eyes on. If you weren’t in the presence of the man who created this masterpiece in his garage (my good friend Charlie), you would assume that a team of communist Chinese laborers working twenty-hour shifts had made this and sold it to us for hundreds and hundreds of dollars. It’s that good.
We supplement our drinking habit by tossing plastic balls into plastic cups. Most of us are in our mid-to-late-twenties. We’re no longer college kids by any means. Still, drinking games that involve elementary athletic skill never get old. We could do this until we’re 80. I have no doubt in my mind.
With pinpoint accuracy and the steady hands of veteran heart surgeons, we locate ping-pong balls better than Forrest Gump. We toss and drink, drink and toss. We win a game of Pong, then flip our board to reveal its more mysterious Baseball side. We assemble in teams of four, with a crowd of onlookers to cheer us on. By employing the fundamentals of Beer Pong, we hit singles and doubles, triples and home runs. By utilizing our flip-cup skills, we play defense. Expert Pongers are Ichiros. Expert Flippers, Kotchmans. We talk smack and act like children. Off to the side, someone fires up a grill and the smell of bacon begins to materialize. The day is young, and we are only just beginning.
Part II: The Force Is Strong
They have congregated not twenty yards from us, most of them wearing orange t-shirts that read KATZ HATE DAWGS. They are a cornucopia of male and female, attractive and otherwise, fun-loving and more fun-loving. We have no animosity towards our gameday adversary, and likewise, they seem to reciprocate our utter lack of enmity.
They eye us, as we eye them. Two boisterous groups of rowdy sports fans, celebrating life prior to the day’s gridiron battle.
I must admit, part of our visual affection for this faction of our foe is due in large part to the females in their group. The force is strong with their females. They play Jedi mind tricks on you with glances from afar, hinting that the distance between our tailgates might be nothing more than an optical illusion. The longer we gaze, the shorter that distance becomes.
Ultimately, they strike first. Like fembots, they approach in a group of five or six. They smile and giggle as we try to contain our own giddiness. They request a game of flip-cup. We give them a good-natured hard time about their lack of diversity in drinking games. Someone in our group goes so far as to label their choice of alcoholic-athletic endeavor “junior varsity.” We comment on their attire and grin as we run our game like the pros we think we are (which, in reality, we are not). They feign annoyance, counter our jabs, entertain us by playing along. We’re juvenile at this point, middle schoolers in our playful back-and-forth. But they enjoy it. We enjoy it. And so with only slight, fabricated reluctance, we agree to their challenge.
Like guests you would want at every party, they bring handfuls of beer over to our deluxe Baseball board. Not only are they willing to play on our home turf, they’re willing to provide the supplies, as well. We love these people.
Having helped negotiate the terms of this friendly competition, I pull up a chair and sit down, content to watch the action from the sidelines. I park it next to my good friend Dave (@DBP555 on Twitter; he’s hilarious) as we situate ourselves directly behind the visiting team. Our view is cash money, to say the least.
The opponent approaches and immediately trash-talks my decision to self-bench. Rather than explain my lack of coordination when it comes to flipping cups, I hem and haw my way into an excuse before my friends (who I love by the way) spread the gospel of my alter ego.
Matt Holt, the lovely Matt Holt, drops knowledge like a fifth-year honors student. “That is the Seattle Sportsnet!” he shouts above the crowd. I swell with pride.
The females, however, are befuddled. They question whether they should know of this persona that I’ve worked so hard to create, glorify, and embellish. And then, with all the sense of someone who has a) been drinking and b) become the subject of multiple college girls’ collective attention, I drop a line which I have been waiting to drop for some time. The type of line that, God forbid, I never use again. The kind of line that I would advise you never to use, ever. The probability of this line having its desired effect is one-in-ten, if not worse. But with the right delivery, the right amount of mutual insobriety, and just the right sheepishness, you might be able to pull it off. I pulled it off.
“Look,” I explain, “you may not know this, but I’m kind of a big deal.”
There is laughter. There is make-believe shock. There is deliberation. I have conquered this battle of wits. The dopey bravado has won over the enemy. With beaming looks of adoration and a leg touch (“She touched my leg!” — Dumb and Dumber) to confirm that I have nailed this line, it is now my day to lose.
Part III: The Interview
After the hometown seven falls in an epic, half-hour long battle of flip-cup (it turns out the hottie fembots were packing some heavy hitters in their college-aged male constituents), we turn our attention to other things, like Matt Holt’s PFL interview.
Holt (the lovely Holt, as he was previously described) has been trying to work his way into our fantasy football keeper league for quite some time. We’ve hinted at the possibility of relieving one or two existing members of their managerial obligations, while also suggesting that we might be looking to expand. While neither option has been seriously brought to fruition just yet, we have an ever-increasing waiting list of individuals who are clamoring for a spot in the vaunted Pearce Fantasy League.
Because we’re just generally ridiculous, we agree to grant Holt a video interview that will serve as his initial tryout for the league. We have a follow-up tryout planned for next July, when we’ll be trekking as a group to Las Vegas for the 2011 PFL Draft. A host of prospective owners will be joining us, at which point we will be putting the pledges through a series of initiation rituals that will test their mettle as they vie for a spot in our league. Keep in mind that none of us were ever in a fraternity during our college days. This is more like Old School meets The League. With a little bit of The Hangover mixed in.
We’ve drafted a quiz which will be part of the initiation process for all prospective owners. As a segment of Holt’s video interview, we test him on a couple quiz questions, while also providing a platform for his stump speech. With two owners (the aforementioned Dave and Charlie) behind the camera, one owner (that being me) asking the questions, and a handful of witnesses intrigued by our childlike sense of wonder, we shoot this video near our tailgate.
Unfortunately, the Flip Cam we have intended to use for this purpose has lost all battery power, so we must improvise by using my cell phone as our source of production. The end result is this glorious monstrosity, which views like a voice-dubbed Japanese karate flick:
Part IV: Debauchery
As some people reach the cusp of inebriation they become emotional, belligerent, hilarious, calm, angry, or a combination of things. I tend to morph liquid confidence into humorous douchebaggery. There’s really no other way to put it. I combine entertainment with cockiness to form some sort of amusing hybrid that, for the most part, seems to connect me to people in a whole new way. The thing is, I realize I’m doing this and never do I go beyond a certain point of buzzed intoxication. Doing so would take all the fun away.
So here we are in the waning hours of the afternoon sun, whiling away the pregame moments with dozens upon dozens of sports fanatics, tossing spirals through the crisp fall air, flirting with the competition, cooking meat of varying species, and indulging in every aspect of humanity at this very juncture.
That’s when it begins. Debauchery. Absolute lasciviousness. Perhaps we should have seen this coming. Seven-hour tailgates have that effect on people.
The absurdity greets us with an omen. A grill catches on fire. Through a crowd, I look over and see flames emerging from a red hibachi. Encompassed by an orange blaze, the plastic tray attached to this budding inferno begins to melt and succumb to gravity, falling to the cement in gooey globs of liquefied matter.
Not ones to panic in our current state, a member of our crew quickly unscrews and dispatches of the miniature propane tank that has created this mess. Alertly, someone else wheels the barbecue away from all other sources of gasoline, such as our automobiles. We then douse the flames in an assortment of bad decisions, including, but not limited to, beer. Luckily, we have a professional firefighter in the vicinity. Unfortunately, he just stands there and watches this disaster unfold. In due time, the flames extinguish themselves and life goes on.
After the conflagrant warning sign has exited our immediate consciousness, we turn our attention back to the hottie fembots who have regained interest in us following this metaphor for their burning desire.
With alcohol influencing passion on either side of the equation, we develop our newfound acquaintanceship through verbal and physical interaction. It’s all very PG-13, in the grand scheme of things. But still, these are the moments of unbridled irresponsibility we live for.
As daylight turns to dusk, we stoke our child-like curiosity by wandering the crowd and happening upon a handful of entertaining occurrences.
Near the parking lot port-a-potties, I encounter a trio of police officers (real ones) pumping a keg for a group of excited Husky fans. I look around, confused. I shake my head twice. Like Squints Palledorous, I blink, then blink again. Adjust the contacts. Yes, this is really happening. No, there is no explanation for this.
As if to forecast the golden years that await us, we later spy a senior Husky fan who has passed out behind the wheel of his car, head back, eyes closed. We take a snapshot of his zen moment, which should serve as motivation to every college sports fanatic in the latter stages of life. If he can do it, nap included, you should be able to, too.
We co-mingle and joke and detach from reality before it’s finally time. We pack up, gather our jackets, and depart. The game has yet to kick off, but the walk from parking lot to stadium feels more like the aftermath of battle than the commencement.
Part V: The Game
I stroll to my seat in the closed end of Husky Stadium, section 10, within striking distance of Captain Husky. My friend and ticket partner, Craig, arrives minutes later, grinning with all the drunken goofiness of a man who has spent his daylight hours partaking in activities similar to the ones that I have just partaken in. He seals his immediate reputation by leaping from the bleachers and shouting as the Husky Marching Band stampedes its way onto the field.
“The best f***in’ band in the nation!” he cries, fist-pumping for added effect. He then quietly returns to his seat. This is Craig. This is how our night will go.
We devour hot dogs to quell our stomachs, rile ourselves up for the opening kick, then endure the highs of a 21-point Washington lead, followed by the lows of a 21-point Oregon State comeback.
We switch seats out of superstition, then switch back when our offense coughs up the ball. We celebrate at times, lament at others. We high-five and scream and channel the days when we both spent hours on end jumping and yelling as members of the basketball Dawg Pack.
We watch and wait, hoping for a miracle, then another, then another. The game heads to overtime. Our blood pressure rises.
They score. We counter. Double overtime.
We score. They counter. Triple overtime.
But wait! Down by one, an extra point is all the Beavers need to tie this game and extend it by at least two more possessions. Instead, they call a timeout. They huddle as a team. They collaborate on a plan. They emerge from their sideline not in kick formation, but with the offense on the field.
They will go for two. They will go for the win. If they come up short, they will lose. The contest will end on this play, barring some sort of penalty.
Oregon State quarterback Ryan Katz takes the snap. He scans the field, throws across the middle. A receiver dives. A defender dives with him. The crowd waits, on the verge of explosion. The ball pops out. The referees signal “no good.” It’s over. Jubilation. Washington has prevailed.
Part VI: The Aftermath
We unleash. Everyone goes wild. We are stunned, in slight disbelief. But this is sports. This is football. Expect the unexpected.
We spend five minutes celebrating, we calm down, we relax, we depart. We make the trek back to the parking lot, back to the site of the day’s earlier events. We sit. We consume water. We let the headache set in. A headache that doesn’t seem to feel so bad after a win like that.
We discuss, we toss the ball around in the darkness, we simmer.
We do one final pack-up, gather our things, and say good-bye. Most of us won’t see each other for another week, when the Huskies meet Arizona on the road. We won’t reunite in this spot again for two weeks, on my birthday, when the Dawgs take on Stanford in their next home game.
We aren’t unique in the way we glorify gameday. Our experiences, however, are.
Debauchery, rowdiness, virtual insanity. This is our Saturday. This is what we live for.