Whether it’s savoring a juicy slice of brisket or swapping tales with friends, tailgating at football games can truly be an enjoyable time.
The tailgating experience for me is a relatively new thing, however. As I related in a previous column, I didn’t grow up with high school football in my small town of Fayetteville, Texas (population 400 when I was there; 253 is on the sign now). The only fall sport was girls volleyball, with basketball practice starting up in October.
I didn’t have a favorite college football team growing up. And now the Texas A&M graduate in me is ashamed to look at a photo from my 10th birthday party in which my second cousin Dennis convinced all of us to do the Hook ’em Horns sign around my cake. The shame.
But I loved my NFL, especially the Dallas Cowboys and quarterback Roger Staubach. America’s Team was my team. Sundays after church in the fall were spent watching Brent Musburger (long before he went ga-ga on air over a former Miss Alabama) and Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder on CBS’ “NFL Today” pregame show before those noon kickoffs for the ’Boys.
But none of those years included even Super Bowl parties, much less tailgates. At A&M, I covered the football team for The Battalion, the school newspaper, so no pre- or post-game festivities. It was work, prepping for the coverage and then interviews and writing the game story afterward.
That continued as I worked as a sports journalist and editor in Orange, Texas, covering one of the all-time great high school programs in West Orange-Stark (who are still winning state championships with Cornel Thompson, the Mustangs’ defensive coordinator when I covered the team in the early ’90s).
Fast-forward to 2014 with the construction of McLane Stadium and the creation of the Creekside on the Brazos tailgating crew, and I’m finally experiencing what others have loved for years. The bulk of that team is made of up our Calvary Baptist Church Sunday School family, so it’s always been a welcoming group.
And boy, do they work hard and do tailgating right, from the setup of the area (occasional live music!) to Jonathan Grant’s succulent briskets and other meats and sides. The good fellowship is a bonus.
When it came to writing a story about Creekside for October’s issue last year, I had an initial reluctance, as I do with all stories that involve my friends. As a journalist, I don’t want our friendship to influence the way I cover a story. But I also realize that by knowing them, I can write a better article.
Then there’s the nagging thought in my head about whether I’m exploiting their friendship for my story (although in my mind’s eye I can picture Creekside member Josh Borderud saying, “Dude! Exploit me!”)
There are other excellent tailgates out at McLane Stadium, but between Creekside on the Brazos and the long-standing banquet cooked up by Hobby Howell that we also feature in this edition, I hope that I’ve captured the flavor of the experience.