CNHI News Service

Sports

January 7, 2013

Tailgating is a mix of barbecue and boasting

MIAMI —  

The Voll family from South Bend, Ind., had no problem meeting up with their friends down here in the expansive parking lot of Sun Life Stadium. They just did what they always do and put their faith in a familiar face -- Frankenstein.
 
It's a tradition that dates back to 2005 when Patrick Voll was a freshman at Notre Dame and the family hosted tailgate parties before Irish football games in South Bend.
 
"When I walked into Walmart and saw this behemoth," Patrick said  pointing to a 10-foot blow-up Frankenstein parked on top of their Ford SUV, "I knew I had to have to have it."
 
Now Frankenstein is a navigation beacon on crowded game days. Anybody who's been to a game at Notre Dame Stadium in recent years has likely seen Frankenstein.
 
"That's how people find us said," said Ann Vowell a 1976 graduate of St. Mary's College and Patrick's mother. "But this year, my son Michael told me that Frankenstein wants to travel."
 
So, Frankenstein made road trips to Chicago for Notre Dame's win against Miami and to Norman, Okla., for an upset Irish victory against the Sooners.
 
When the top-ranked Irish qualified for Monday night's BCS National Championship game against No. 2 Alabama, the Voll's knew they were hitting the road again.
 
"I told people I was going on a pilgrimage," said Ann  who took four days to drive herself and Frankenstein down to South Florida from South Bend. "They asked if I was going to Jerusalem or the Holy Land. I said no, I'm going to Miami. ... with Frankenstein."
 
The Volls and Frankenstein were'n't the only ones having fun before kickoff. Tailgate parties were in full force as fans threw footballs, sipped beers and grilled meat.
 
Throughout the parking lot were demonstrative displays of allegiance and fashion police nightmares. Particularly popular were bright red trousers with embroidered elephants, the mascot of the Crimson Tide. Equally, if not more, popular were bright green pants with embroidered leprechauns, the Fighting Irish mascot.
 
Tide fan Robin Albano of Decatur, Ala., took the excess to another level with a crimson suit covered in elephant patterns. He accessorized with diamond "Bama" bling around his neck and a grill of gold teeth in his mouth.
 
"Isn't that nice," Albano said as he gestured to his get-up and did a little turn. "My mother-and-law made it for me. I have five of them. My wife wanted me to wear this one, so I did what I was told."
 
Capping off Albano's outfit was a large button with an image from the film "Rudy." Stenciled over the image was, "Rudy confesses. Roll Tide." 
 
Notre Dame fan and South Bend native Dennis Gowalski let his boots do the walking and the talking.
 
"Check this out," Gowalski said as he lifted the cuffs of his jeans to show the front of his blue and gold cowboy boots that read "Notre Dame #1." "I had these specially made. I've been waiting 10 years to wear them."
 
Gowalski and his wife, Shannon, live in Atlanta and paid $5,000 online for four tickets behind the Notre Dame bench. This is a family that also had a blue and gold Christmas tree in their home over the holidays.
 
"That's how big of fans we are," Shannon said. "There was no way we were going to miss this. 
 
Closer to the stadium Jimmy and Caroyln Gay of Tuscaloosa, Ala., strolled toward Gate H of Sun Life Stadium. Jimmy donned a black and white Houndstooth hat like legendary 'Bama coach Paul "Bear" Bryant used to the wear. The Gay's attend most of Alabama's home games at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
 
For them, the championship game is business as usual following a team that is playing for its third national title in three years.
 
"To be honest with you, it's pretty much like any other Alabama game," Jimmy said with a smooth southern drawl. "We play to win, that's all. It will be just as hard as any SEC game we play throughout the year."
 
Jimmy said it was his family's first trip a national championship game.

 

“But it will be No. 15 for Alabama,” alluding to the number of national titles the Tide would claim if they beat Notre Dame. “Roll Tide.”

 

---
Mike Wanabaugh is the managing editor of The Goshen (Ind.) News. Contact him at mike.wanbaugh@goshennews.com.
 

 

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