The cars started arriving at the Walmart parking lot around 10 a.m., no easy feat for college students on a Saturday morning. The dark clouds and steady rain didn’t bode well for the day’s festivities.
“Should we buy ponchos?”
The four seniors, dressed head to toe in University of Miami football apparel, walked inside the gigantic supermarket in search of the outdoors section. They opted for the 88-cent rain jackets over the three dollar ones.
As they headed to the check out lanes the rest of the usual crew arrived and headed to the back left to pick up their beer and barbeque supplies.
Miami’s intra-squad spring game wasn’t set to kick off for another three and a half hours, but there they were, thirty or so Hurricanes one month away from graduation, gathering one last time for a football tailgate as undergraduates.
With all of the trunks packed the six cars caravanned into Sun Life Stadium’s vast spread of parking lots, settling in at East 23 just as they had for every home game of the 2011 season. By the time everyone parked the rain had stopped, but the wind was just starting to pick up.
“We may need more lighter fluid,“ Jesse Bryant said while distributing charcoal inside of his Weber Grill.
He made due with the half can of Zippo he had available, rigging the base of the grill with the ripped cardboard of a Miller High Life 18 pack, proving once again why on days like these his friends call him The Grill Master.
“This is our last chance that we’ll have to relive tailgating as seniors. We can do it at any parking lot, at any backyard, but there’s something about being here knowing that we’re going to a football game together,” Bryant said while basting the last batch of chicken legs with his homemade hot sauce, occasionally wiping his hands on his colorful barbeque apron.
“Having that stadium in the background really sets the scene.”
Meanwhile, the rest of the soon to be real-world adults not responsible for cooking food immersed themselves in endless games of corn hole, trash ball, beer pong and flip cup, stopping only to eat or save the tailgating tent from flying away in the Wizard of Oz like gusts.
As the day moved on and the chicken, burgers, hot dogs, asparagus, corn bread, brownies, and various dips were consumed, it was clear that Miami’s
scrimmage was secondary on the day’s agenda.
“It’s got goat cheese in it, try it,” Kim Slaven said to skeptical onlookers, pointing to a Tupperware container filled with an orange substance that she insisted was a dip.
While Bryant is the one who mans the grill, Slaven prides herself in gourmet food preparation. One tailgate it was pulled pork sandwiches. Then it was caramel based rice crispy treats. Today she came with homemade Cuban sandwiches and cornbread.
When asked why all the effort for a football game that is essentially meaningless, Slaven had a simple response.
“This is going to sound lame, but essentially YOLO,” Slaven said with a grin on her face, referring to the newly popular saying that stands for ‘you only live once.’
The group would eventually make it into the game about ten minutes after kick off, just in time to witness an underwhelming 7-6 victory by the Orange Team over the Green Team.
“I wish they had a better effort in the game” said Dan Ballou, whose father went to the University of Miami and took his son to the Rose Bowl after the 2001 season, the Hurricanes last national championship. “The quarterbacks need to get it together. The receivers weren’t giving the effort that I would like to see, they weren’t coming back for balls. The only quarterback that looked good was [freshman] Ryan Williams.”
Much of the group left before the final seconds ticked off the loosely filled stadium’s scoreboards, another successful tailgate in the books and the last as students of the University of Miami.
Walking back to the car, with the destruction and remnants of the tailgate still visible, people spoke about meeting up in Boston for Miami’s season opener against Boston College, and the possibility of seeing the Hurricanes play at Soldier Field versus Notre Dame on October 6th. The difference is that they’ll be alumni, but that didn’t seem to bother them.
“We’re all ‘Canes for life, there’s nothing else really to say,” Slaven said.