I love college football. It is really the only sports season that gets me excited.
I have been spending my Saturday afternoons and evenings in college football stadiums since I was a little girl. My Daddy started out taking the family to Virginia Tech football games (back with VT in the Big East and horrible but the games were fun) years ago. It became one of my favorite things to do with my Daddy. He never encountered a game he wasn’t interested in watching. So, I owe my college football habit to him, not a bad thing to inherit.
I went to college at UVA where I was introduced to the treasured Southern concept of football parading as a cocktail party (but it is pretty there). Finally, I made my way to UT, where I was introduced to real college football – the SEC. Yes, I know, many will not agree, but we will just have to agree to disagree.
Even though I have seen football at its most rabid and crazy (SEC, particularly if LSU is involved), I still carry with me the traits of a good UVA fan. I don’t travel. Until now. UVA visited Indiana University this season and I was there. Of course, I only had to travel the 3.5 hours from FW – so I did not over exert myself. I will not go into the details of the game, other than to say that UVA won despite giving up a 20 point lead in the second half. I doubt any UVA fans were surprised. Sigh.
This was my first Big Ten stadium experience and I learned a few things.
Big Ten fans are nice and pretty well behaved. I had the occasion to tailgate with a group of total strangers, we shall call them The Boys from Chicago. The Boys from Chicago were neither Hoosier nor Cavalier fans. They have decided as a group to see a game at every Big Ten stadium and this year it was IU’s turn. They welcomed me to their tailgate, which featured a television, kabobs, burgers, cornhole, and comfortable chairs. It was a good thing, because my tailgate consisted of a Starbucks iced decaf mocha. Weak, I know.
In the Midwest the beanbag game called “cornhole” in the South is called “bags”. Who knew. It kind of makes more sense as “bags”. I am going to try to take that South.
The fun tailgates are in the grass. Most of the non-season ticket holders are found across 17th Street in grassy lots. The lots directly across from the stadium are filled with screaming, dancing, and beer throwing students. I drove passed this spectacle (with my mouth gapped open) and thought it was a mosh pit at a concert. I had not seen such. Needless to say, I drove on and found a nice quiet lot. Luckily, that is also what The Boys of Chicago did. Although, they seemed disappointed that they could not get a space in the midst of the college-kid-football-frenzy.
The only thing more odd than a slow fight song played to the tune of Auld Lang Syne (UVA’s fight song) is a first down ritual involving the mimicking of cow milking (hello IU). Seriously, at every first down there were thousands of people performing cow milking gestures. Interesting, but not necessarily pretty.
The Marching Hundred marching band is quite fabulous. I love a marching band. However, it has a long way to go to rival The Pride of the Southland Marching Band at the University of Tennessee. I especially love a marching band when there are fire batons involved. There are lots of fire batons in the SEC. IU needs some fire batons.
Indiana limestone is a big deal. I had no idea. Turns out Memorial Stadium at IU is also called The Rock and the students section is referred to as The Quarry in honor of that Indiana limestone. There is actually a big rock at one end of the field placed there by a former coach who has since passed away. Now the rock carries his name. Very nice and respectful. I like that. The stadium is pretty and castle-like. Of course, it is not Scott Stadium – I do love a colonnade – but it is still pretty.
Fanny packs are fashionable. I realize this probably shows my age, but I was unaware that fanny packs were acceptable substitutes for pocketbooks and backpacks. Fanny packs were all over the tailgate area and the game. Some were sequined, some were emblazoned with IU’s name, and others were just plain fanny packs. When I was 18 to 25 I would not have been caught in the bathroom with a fanny pack on. I am not sure there are enough sequins to make a fanny pack pretty and I love sequins.
I really like Bloomington, Indiana. It is a fun, open, happy little college town. Not too far from the big city and not too far from happy hillbilly country. You can’t beat it with a stick. It is pretty.
My first Big Ten experience was outstanding. I can’t help but compare the experience to the college football experience at UVA and UT, which is unfair. It is like comparing apples and oranges. IU and Bloomington has a lot to offer. I will go back even if UVA is not there. It is a worthwhile and fun spot and a great first stop on my Big Ten tour.