“Will, get over here, we’re shotgunning,” they said to me as I slowly backed away and offered to take a photo of them. We started drinking outside the stadium around 3 o’clock after a big night out. I had a beer at lunch to get myself back to neutral but they still weren’t going down as well as I’d hoped. Then the notion of shotgunning a beer just seemed beyond me at that point and I figured it could only end in disaster.
Upon waking up on Sunday morning after Texas dropped 42 on Rice, I felt like hell. This body isn’t made for marathons anymore. It’s the type of form that maxes out after five hours out with friends where all I want to do is be in bed by midnight. Waking up after a full day of drinking and standing around in 90-degree heat, I could only think of one thing:
I may retire from tailgating. I can't physically or emotionally handle it anymore.
— Will deFries (@WilldeFries) September 13, 2015
See, I’ve just never been a big tailgate guy in the first place. When it comes to watching games, I’m more of a “Nah, I’m just going to watch it on my couch while scrolling Twitter” kind of dude. Between buying tickets for the game, getting to and from the stadium, and trying to get the hell out of there in the midst of overly crowded streets, I just don’t see any reason to stray away from an HD television in the comfort of my own home.
I didn’t go to a school big on football, so most of my tailgating experience comes from the weekends I’d spend in Ann Arbor watching the boys in blue square off against your Penn States and your Michigan States. Those weekends would almost always end with me being bed-ridden with some type of sickness for the following 48 hours. Once, I even got Swine Flu which caused me to lose thirteen pounds over the course of ten days. Even then, I couldn’t handle the tailgate.
Now I’m five-plus years removed from that and I still, for some reason, think I can hang. I mean, who do I think I am trying to square off with some coeds at a tailgate where the only people I know are the people I came with? Back in the day, I’d be shaming the 28-year-old dude who thought he was killing it despite being four years everyone’s senior. Now, I am that dude and I’m kind of disgusted with myself.
As an aspiring stay-at-home dad who can’t wait to get excited about lawn equipment, I dream of a day where I have too much responsibility in life and I can use those responsibilities as an excuse to get out of tailgating. I crave those halftime-into-midway-through-the-third-quarter naps where I wake up and enjoy the meat and cheese spread I created for myself before kickoff.
I thought entering a new season in a new city while cheering for a new team may have been a turning point for me. But just look at these eyes. They’re empty. And I can say I wasn’t smiling because I’m trying to be like Kanye who refuses to smile in photographs, but I just couldn’t muster the will to even look like I was having a good time at that point.
John, a seasoned LSU veteran, just looks like he’s hitting his stride. Meanwhile, Matt and his wife? They’re happy as a clam. But me? No. Not only had I had less to drink than all of them in hopes that my responsibility would give me some much-needed energy, but I even ate a spicy chicken sandwich from Wendy’s just before entering the stadiums for some sustenance. But nope, none of it helped. My eyes were hollow and my heart just wasn’t in it.
It’s with a heavy heart and sadness in my voice that I say something I never thought I’d say: I’m officially retiring from tailgating. To all the old men who I’ve snaked beers off of and all the 21-year-old junior girls in sundresses and oversized sunglasses, thank you. Gone are my days of savaging Miller Lites and blowing out flip-flops running cross routes while playing beer-in-hand football. I’ll miss it all.
Well, until October 10 when I go to Dallas for Texas-OU. That’s gonna get rowdy as hell. .