story by David Rice
Editor’s note: Welcome to Tusk to Tail, a special “web reality” presentation of the tailgating experience as organized, performed and perfected by a group of Hog fans who have been tailgating together for more than a decade. Members of the Tusk to Tail Team are Sean Casey, Jack Clark, Dale Cullins, Greg Houser, Craig May, David Rice and Mark Wagner. Link here for the explainer story and the photos and “stats” of the core Tusk to Tail crew. Tusk to Tail is managed by The City Wire and sponsored by Preferred Office Products.
Follow the crew on Twitter — @TuskToTail
Just when you thought it could not get any worse, it did. Before the Tusk To Tail goodwill tour could even get underway, the headlines announced "Porkapolypse" and "Ham-ageddon."
It was bad enough that the Hogs went from contender to pretender at the speed of a crashing Harley-Davidson. Now we are facing a bacon shortage. We can only hope that the Mayans were right when they predicted the world would end in 2012.
Things got off to an awkward start when we traveled west from Arkansas for a Southeastern Conference game. It got worse once the rains descended upon Aggieland. An area where the rainy season appears to be 30 minutes on a Tuesday experienced flash flood conditions on game day.
Normally a road trip is Tusk to Tail's time to shine. Dale Cullins' maps are laid out on the dashboard like laminated centerfolds, and meal stops are planned based on reviews
Combine Dale's navigation and planning skills with the fact that Tusk to Tail's godfather Craig May buys tickets and books hotels for each of us well in advance, and one could survive a road trip with half his brain tied behind his back. As long as you can sign credit card receipts, you are in good shape.
But due to the weather and early kickoff time, tailgating was replaced with hotel-gating, a party in the hotel lobby where reservations are required and cocktails are mixed with juice from the continental breakfast bar.
The season has already tested the resolve of even our heartiest Hog fans. While Tusk to Tail continues to travel to games, it is becoming rare that we all stay until the clock reads zero. Perhaps Jeff Long should consider selling tickets to each half next year.
These are the things that happens when your coach wears sunglasses in the rain. It was popular to pile on John L. Smith once he declared our team an “Alabama program,” but to Tusk to Tail, it put things in perspective. As Craig pointed out, it helped explain why Smith took the job in the first place. He thought he was coaching the champion Crimson Tide.
Before our excursion began, Texas A&M had already announced a plan to update and expand Kyle Field at a cost of $450 million. Hopefully the plan includes removing the bat guano from the upper decks where visiting fans are relegated. During Friday night's "Midnight Yell" pep rally and Saturday's game, the stench was nearly unbearable, and I am not only referring to the product on the field.
It did lead to an interesting question, however. How did bats earn a unique name for their waste? Other than farm animals and manure, feces rarely earn a special title. These are the things we discuss while drinking vodka with our pancakes in the hotel lobby.
Speaking of unique, the Midnight Yell is unlike anything seen across the SEC. The rally is a throwback to a bygone era long ago, but since the cheers and chants are led by the all-male "yell leaders" while younger cadets are required to do pushups and leg lifts, it falls somewhere between boy-band concert and Greek bathhouse on the scale of manliness.
Between cheers, several yell leaders were passed a microphone where they took turns bashing Arkansas with a series of old redneck jokes. After driving through a portion of their state that could accurately be described as "chainsaw massacre country," it remains unclear where their superior self-opinion originated.
If I had to compare College Station to another SEC town, Starkville seems to be the logical choice. College Station is more affluent, but Starkville is much more diverse in terms of women and minorities. Parts of College Station look less like a major university than a prison work farm.
Having said that, Tusk to Tail is sad that the Razorbacks will not return to College Station before 2025 at the earliest. Everyone that we met was courteous and respectful, although beating us by 48 points most likely soothes even the most savage Aggie.
Their most popular cheer calls for them to "beat the hell out of Arkansas," but it remains to be seen if we have any hell left in us.