College Football Edition

by Prescott Johanson

It's hard to understand the depravity of a situation until you're smack in the middle of it. You see, I have what's called "don't know when to stop syndrome" when it comes to drugs and alcohol. Under normal circumstances this can become a real problem. Fortunately though, on any given Saturday or Sunday in America during football season, the rules of normal behavior get stretched to their limits. That's why I find myself in Tallahassee, FL on this beautiful Saturday in November, to test how far these limits are and get a front line perspective of the quintessential American holiday, "Game Day."

Today happens to be the biggest game of the year in Tallahassee, and one of the biggest college football games in the country as the Florida State Seminoles take on their longtime arch rival the Florida Gators. I'm trying to get right to the core of it and experience it like a true fiend, recording every detail of the phenomenon.

Game time for this contest was 7:45 p.m., but we set out with some friends to our tailgate spots at 2 in the afternoon, leaving plenty of time for heavy drinking. We were riding in D's truck, with me in the back, stopping along the way to pick up a keg of Bud Light. We stopped at Gordos, a local restaurant down the street from the stadium that we frequent, to pick up Tessa, James, and Mandy. Emilio, a good friend of ours, was DJing for the pig roast they were having that day, so we cracked our first beers and hung out for a few minutes. After a couple of laughs, we hopped back in the truck and got to the tailgating spots a few minutes later. It was a beautiful day for drinking and football. We set up the tents, hooked up the satellite TV to watch other games, and tapped the keg. They were out of bins at the keg place, so we rigged the ice up with a MacGyveresque contraption of trash bags and bungee cord. The beer tasted great; we already had about 15 of our regulars and plenty of food and liquor.

Now mind you, these are good people, all of them productive members of society - parents, executives, business owners, etc., but on game days all bets are off. During the next couple of hours I had numerous beers, as did everyone else. Some of us did a shot of Seagrams 7, ugh, that resulted in Barb projectile puking near the food. We all laughed and someone put 4 cones around it to mark off the spot. I joked with Barb not to worry, that by the end of the night people would act so silly that her little misstep wouldn't even be considered. We also had numerous meetings of what we like to call "The Ricky Williams Fan Club." Basically, this is our code to go into the hallway of the classroom building we party in front of to smoke bowls. I had my camcorder, which made almost everybody wince and moan, understandably; but again, I wanted to get a real sense of the situation. These were fun times, true heads doing what true heads do. Namely smoking out and bullshitting about politics and any other issue that comes to mind; joking and carrying on like idiots, great fun. A few different people walked through, which was always funny, but most of the people around were getting wasted on something or other, so who are they to judge. One guy walked through and D said, "you're not a cop are you," and the guy replied, "do I need to be?" Fucking idiot, I thought about hitting him in the back of the head with the beer I was holding, but us potheads are a nonviolent sort. Jesus, I muttered, this alcohol is really starting to creep up on me; it won't be long til I'm a complete raving madman. I shook it off, took another hit, and walked back down to the tailgate spot. D tosses me the football and John joins in and we set up in the 15 X 15 ft or so grass space between our tents and the people next to us. The game is one-on-one football with beer in hand, so there's only one hand to catch the ball. There's also the obstacle of the 20 ft high brick wall of the academic building that was just 15 ft in front of us, no long routes to say the least. We all took turns with QB, and I made a couple great one-handed catches, nearly slamming face first into the building on one. On one play with me at QB, D threw his beer backwards into John's face as I loft a perfect pass to his open hand for a TD. A small beer fight ensued, all in good fun, so we decided to end the game and get back to why we were here, drinking.

I decided to take a walk around with my camera to see the crowd and mingle amongst them. It was about an hour and a half til game time, and there were people everywhere. The game day crowd is very diverse, people of all ages and every walk of life. The overriding theme for game day anywhere across the country is drunken debauchery in its purest form. Even mother who never touch the drink get back to their roots and get wild, leaving their inhibitions at home. There's food everywhere, ribs and burgers on grills dotting this very colorful landscape of people, tents, and tailgates. There's a real sense of comradery, people offering me food and drink along the way. The only thing I took was fried gator tail, which I gulped down with a guzzle of beer. Lots of yelling and cheering, a big wild crowd. One person in particular is yelling louder than the rest, "Let's go Noles" repeatedly echoing along the road. What the, that's me, where am I? I must be out of my mind. A man can get torn apart if the disposition of a crowd like this were to shift unexpectedly. I noticed a private party happening behind a small fence, so my first inclination was to go on in camera in hand. There was nobody at the front gate, so I strolled on through, camera rolling. I got about 15 ft. in when I heard a commotion of shouting, "Sir, can I help you, sire who are you with?" and such like that as an older gentleman was scampering towards me. He repeated his question and my reply was, "I'm here for the game, to party." He said it was a private party and I said, "I'm an alumni, I belong here; this is my campus." As I was saying this I noticed I had a full beer in my hand, which is the norm all around me but still probably open container if the cops arrest me for causing a disturbance. He told me a last time, in a snotty tone, "this is a private party, so unless you're with my X company, you have to go." Considering my mission was done, I scared the shit out of the poor sap; I left and sauntered on. I walked all the way to the stadium, a glorious modern building with a brand new giant stained glass window of FSU's head coach Bobby Bowden, the winningest football coach in Division 1A college football history, a legend. He is still living and coaching the Noles, so it seemed a little odd to me that they would do that and rename the field after him before he retires, but oh well. As I was walking by the stadium, I noticed a scalper had 2 tickets for sale. Being that there were people in our group that needed tickets I asked him how much. I had lowered the camera and told him I wasn't recording, but he still wouldn't speak to me. I heard him tell someone else $200 each for them. "Good luck with that asshole," I muttered to myself and started walking back to our tailgate spot. I stopped for a minute to gaze in on the private party, equipped with free liquor, big screen TV, and FSU cheerleaders. I wondered what was so special about the people inside and longed to join them with their stiff conversation, unloved wives, and neglected children. Where's a molotov cocktail when you need one, best to just wipe these folks off the face of the earth right now. These were Americans though, my brothers and sisters, so my hatred subsided, and I realized I didn't know any of them. The same guy that harassed me before must have read my mind because he eyeballed me with a stern stare while I walked by the front gate. He was ready to pounce at the first instigation, but I just walked on and arrived back amongst my friends. I filled up my now empty beer and called another "Ricky Willams Fan Club" meeting. It was nearly game time, so we packed 4 or 5 bowls to try and finish off the job. I finished my beer and got another refill. I grabbed my gallon of rum and filled up the flask; we passed it around till everyone's was full. This is also a game day tradition, sneaking liquor into the games. While this was going on I finished another beer and filled up again for the walk to the stadium as we left for the game.

I'm completely lit at this point, high as fuck and 12 - 15 beers into my debauchery as well as a shot. This happens to be my limit, or rather the beginning point of me getting completely tore up on any given day. This wasn't any given day though; this was game day, and the limit is when you fall down, pass out, or get arrested, and I wasn't there quite yet. People everywhere were screaming and chanting. We got into the stadium just as the game was beginning, bought some coke for the rum and went up to our seats. My head was dizzy and my mind blurry, but there was no overriding feeling of nausea or incompetence. I was just reaching drunk at this point. I drank some of the coke and filled it back to the top with rum and took a drink. I passed the rum to Amber who commented it was too strong and gave it back. We all just looked like normal drunks, swaying and yelling with the rest of the crowd. I had drunk half the rum and left to get another coke. I pissed, grabbed the coke and made my way back up. It takes many maneuvers and quick reflexes to survive in a crowd like this, which I surprisingly had despite my intoxication. I was back in my seat, which is right behind a large away section. The game was pretty boring, and the rum was getting low. The away crowd was mocking us and chanting, as Florida was doing pretty well at this point. Jesus, was I taunting them, no not yet, that would come later. I was getting restless and wasted, a poor combination. I finished the rum and swayed up to my feet reaching into my pocket. I pulled out approximately 15 beer bottle caps, which is odd because I only had a few since I mostly drank from the keg, but nonetheless. I'm not sure what propelled me to do what I did next, perhaps the away crowd's taunting or my own inclination towards wanting to go back to the tailgate spot and drink more. What am I doing, my brain recoiled in horror as I lifted my hand and threw the caps into the away crowd, raining down on the unsuspecting Gator fans. This probably would have been fine, other than the fact that most of the people around me were sitting, and I was standing. That along with the fact that I gave the raised double middle finger to the fans as they stared at me in disgust. Thinking about it now, I still can't figure out the thought process, just pure action driven by rum, dope, and adrenaline. I sat back down and saw a few of the fans talking to a couple of cops. They started walking up the steps as I thought, "they can't be coming after me." They confronted me, and I attempted to plead my case; in a word, ignorance. "What were they talking about, I don't know officer, but if I see the hooligans, I'll apprehend them myself and bring them in." Little did I know till later that many of the fans above my group were pointing me out, fucking narcs. Anyway, the jig was up as they like to say, my friends just laughing and watching. Many of them had gotten thrown out of the Miami game the year before for falling down the steps among other things, so they were enjoying the scene. Unbelievably and quite impressively, the cops must not have gotten a true sense of how destroyed I was because they didn't so much as lay a hand on me, just followed me as I walked down the steps. I turned around about every 15 steps to further plead my case but knew at precisely the right time to let the argument go and walk another 15 paces. I simply had to save face, after all I was an "innocent victim here, of some mad conspiracy" and so on. This pattern continued all the way to one of the numerous gates. I slurred that they were just doing their job, and I hope they find the guy as I stuck out my hand and offered to shake one of the officer's hands. He backed away and said they don't shake hands. "Fucking pigs," I yelled but had the good sense to wait till I was away from the stadium and out of earshot, self preservation you know.

I arrived back at the tailgate spot, happy about the fact that I wasn't in jail and relayed my story back to the group. They all laughed, and I quickly downed another beer. From here it gets pretty hazy. I remember one more "fan club" meeting. I also vaguely remember falling down on the way to the porta pot. I set my beer on the ground to retrieve something from my pocket. I went to pick the beer back up and just fell over and scraped my knee. I'm a damn fool; a month prior, on my birthday, at the North Carolina game I was playing 2 on 2 touch football on the concrete with my friend Juan and 2 other guys. I went out for a pass and tried to run faster than I could and just bit it on the concrete, leaving a full foot long strawberry on my right forearm. I jumped up, not really feeling any pain at that point, and continued playing. Me and Juan were on defense, and he commented that I was bleeding. I said it was okay and that we should finish the game, blood dripping down my arm. It took exactly 3 plays for us to win, as I intercepted 2 passes and ran them both back for touchdowns. The nexus of this rant is that alcohol impairs my physical abilities, big surprise.

We packed everything up and headed out. I remember yelling a lot of the passing fans. I also was told later that I nearly died a couple times by falling off the tool box in the back of D's truck. That's the atmosphere at a football game, maniacal depraved behavior is simply the norm. You have to do something really wild for anybody to even think you're strange, and I pushed that envelope all day. I don't remember getting home but woke up the next day, fully clothed on the couch, with only one thought in my head, "I'm going to rehab." So goes football season in America.

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