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Jan 17, 2012 CATEGORIES: Alabama SEC Football, Athens, Auburn, Florida, Georgia Football, Gridiron Belles Tour, Gridiron Belles: A Guide to Saturdays in Dixie, LSU Football, LSU v ALABAMA football, Ole Miss Football, SEC Football, South Carolina, Tennessee Football, Uncategorized, Vanderbilt
All season I’ve preached about the importance of thank you notes. Thank you notes for your tailgate hosts, thank you notes for the people who get you tickets, thank you notes for the people who have you over to watch a game. (We really all should be writing thank you notes to our team’s players…) All season, I’ve received some ever so kind thank you notes myself from fans I’ve met along the way. So, it’s only fitting that I thank YOU for all that you have inadvertently done for me this season.
For the past 5 years I have expressed my obsession with SEC football with anyone who would listen. For research purposes, I have talked unceasingly about traditions, clothing styles, tailgate menus as well as players and coaches on the field. Then, I started asking for help. I started asking the Belles and Gents that I had met along the way to reach out to their friends to help me. I needed pictures, quotes and stories and boy did I get them!
If you’ve ever written your own book, you know that the chronic nerves that surface once the book is at the printer requires more support than anyone anticipates. For those of you, strangers and friends alike, that offered your calming words via calls e-mails, posts, and tweets of encouragement, a thousand thank-yous.
Ready or not September 3, 2011 came around and it was time for the rubber to meet the road. From the first game of the season to the last, strangers–now friends– took me under their wings. Generous fans invited me to lavish tailgates, allowed me to stay in their homes and graciously promoted my book to their friends. People I didn’t even know were inviting me to special events and treating me like kin. Southern hospitality at it’s finest.
Even those fervent SEC fans, that maybe didn’t love everything I wrote about their team, taught me something. They thickened my skin. Taught me to be more open-minded. Encouraged me to look at all sides. They reminded me that Belles are courageous and tough.
Without tearing up the way I do while watching Steel Magnolias, I’ll keep it short and sweet. It was because of YOU that my 2011 Gridiron Belles tour was a success. It is because of YOU that I was able to fulfill my dreams of being an author. My career for the past 4 months has been tailgating. And because of YOU, Gridiron Belles worked.
Thank you, from the bottom of my Southern Belle heart, for being such hospitable, generous and devoted fans of your team. It is the spirit and excitement that y’all displayed that kept me going on the road for 93 days straight without a break from the South’s greatest pastime. It is people like YOU that make Southern football the living legend that it is.
Thank you all. For everything.
Xs and Os,
If I was ever concerned that the Alabama football nation was going to grow out of the houndstooth trend and start wearing khaki pants like Saban, I’ve since been reassured otherwise. Houndstooth is the easiest way to identify an Alabama fan and there was no shortage on Saturday in the crowd of 200,000 plus fans that converged on T-Town.
In addition to the presence of houndstooth, no tailgate was complete without some sort of sign about Les Miles eating grass, a pun on what LSU players do with grass and some sort of insult of what the Crimson Tide was planning to do on the astro-grass . I personally find a lot of entertainment in reading the clever signs that fans make for their tailgate décor. In fact, if you have any good fan-signs, send’em in!
The new statue on the walk of legends is of Coach Saban. When the news covered Tide fans complaining about coach Saban’s clown-sized-bronze-shoes, I didn’t understand. Upon further review, the ruling on the field stands, his shoes are a little large for a rather small framed man. I do, however, think the statue captures his spirit and enthusiasm and gave me chills just thinking about his success as a coach. And just to be sure that no one messed with his big feet, there were more security guards for these statues than on the field during the game!
With months of anticipation surrounding the meeting of these two power houses, I was dreaming of fanatical fan bases battling it out pre-kickoff and a game with a little bit of offense. What I found was the largest gathering of well mannered fan bases in the history of college football! Yes, I just wrote that. I just categorized LSU as well-mannered and included the Tide. Hell has officially frozen over. Pigs now have wings. The pope is no longer Catholic.
This was a display of unprecedented respectful fraternizing with the enemy. I suppose it’s because neither team had too much room to talk. 60 minutes could change LSU’s entire season and the only reason Alabama wasn’t number one was because they had not yet played LSU. It was amazing. It was impressive. I was so proud of both teams.
The game was phenomenal. Every snap was worth holding my breath. Every play that I stood was worth the agonizing pain in my tuckered-out feet. Simply being in the stadium was enough for this Belle. It was history in the making. What made it better was sitting with my Mama and Dad in Bryant-Denny stadium while they experienced their Saturday in Tuscaloosa.
What a show, Tide fans, what a show.
Xs and Os,
What you need to know about this weekend in Tuscaloosa (Click above for a to-the-second-countdown-to-madness)
1) Swoozies is hosting a Gridiron Belles book signing on Thursday, Nov 3 at their Birmingham location in the Summit. They will be offering two prizes for RSVPing to RSVP@swoozies.com and attending–a signed copy of Gridiron Belles and a personalized Tailgate Party Pack! Be sure to get your name in the drawing by coming by, I’d love to meet you!
Plus! There is a competition between Auburn and Alabama fans to send in the most responses… I have to dress in the winning team’s colors!
2) Gridiron Belles is kicking off the Alabama week with a Friday morning appearance on Birmingham’s CBS 42 “Wake Up Alabama” at 6:00AM. If for some reason you are already up, tune in!
3) I’ll be heading to Tuscaloosa early on Friday morning to stop by Buffalo Phil’s, Dreamland BBQ and Rama Jama. Please send in info if I should be going anywhere else? I’ll be tailgate hopping around the Quad on Saturday so let me know where you’ll be so I can come visit and take pictures for the next book!
4) Just to get you excited, here are some articles that people have sent in about this weekend’s historical matchup. My feet keep dancing and my head wont stop signing a special combined rendition of “Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer” and “Hey Fightin’ Tigers.”
Articles to read:
See you in Tuscaloosa!
Xs and Os,
PS- I can’t really endorse the foul mouthed commentary on the YouTube Honey Badger video, but if you happened to find it, it may help you make the connection about a honey badger and Mr. Matieu
Monday night, I was welcomed at the Vanderbilt KD house by an eager audience of fellow KD ladies. Twenty minutes later, I was out in the dining room signing books for some of the most wonderful women I have met this fall.
These women were kind, genuine and excited to read about their school and it’s place in the world of SEC football. These KDs were asking questions about pass interference, how to improve their tailgates, how quickly thank you notes should be sent and how to land a post graduation job in Washington, D.C. .
This stop at Vanderbilt was exactly what I hoped my tour would be, a chance to reach out to young women and help motivate them to follow their dreams the way I have followed mine.
Fast forward to Friday at the You’re Invited book signing. What a huge success! Anna, the owner, was generous enough to lend me her adorable tailgate items so I could display them on Talk of the Town, a local variety show. You’re Invited has everything a Gridiron Belle needs for hosting a tailgate and stocking up on hostess gifts. I did some shopping myself and checked off my hostess gifts for my last 5 games of the tour!
Saturday morning was a beautiful day for a football game, and almost the perfect day for an upset. However, an early morning text from my favorite KD, Hali, assured me that hell had not frozen over and in fact, it was eerily quiet on fraternity row just two hours before kickoff.
Because I needed to know for myself, I headed to campus anyway to gather what material I could. Sure enough it was a ghost town. I saw tumbleweeds in the road, empty lawns and grills still covered without hot charcoal.
Arkansas on the other hand, had arrived early and was collapsing on the stadium in large numbers. I was impressed by the Arkansas faithful and the outfits of their Belles!
A slow start in the Greek world, however, did not influence the speed of the Commodores on the field. The Vandy football team dominated the entire game against the 10th ranked Razborbacks and started to show the SEC world just how much potential the ‘Dores have.
I scooted out of town before I was able to see the post almost-biggest-win-of-the-season festivities but I heard the celebrating was in full effect. No fear, pictures have been sent and clearly indicate those Commodore students know how to party… they just get a little bit of a late start.
Vanderbilt moved up in the Gridiron Belles rankings. I loved the people, the town and the tenancity that the team played with on the field. I’m looking forward to my next visit and a chance to wear black and gold again!
Thank you Kappa Deltas, Hali, and You’re Invited, you made my trip so very memorable.
Xs and Os,
My opportunity clock (alarm clock to the non optimist) sounded precisely at 7:15am. By 7:45am, I had received a text from “Jim the LSU Tailgater” (as he is identified in my phone) that he and his crew would be arriving at their tailgate within the hour.
A text at 7:55am from “Mystery LSU Guy” (as he is identified in my phone), told me that not only was the mystery LSU guy (see blog post from the LSU v Oregon game) getting an early start at redeeming himself, but that LSU fans, no matter how late they were out the night before, get out early for every game in Baton Rouge.
My lovely host, Patti, dropped me off at the Parade Grounds around 9 am and set me loose on a self-guided tour through the sporadically placed tiger dens, also known as LSU tailgates.
I found my way to the famous Indian Mounds and “Jim the LSU Tailgater’s” primo tailgate spot a first down away from the Indian Mounds and directly next to the circle where the team is let off the buses. This is also where the parade of Golden Girls and both Mike the Tigers make their game day debut.
This is where the fun began.
I filled up on Boudin balls (thank you for not telling me about these before Saturday…my waist line is now in trouble), met up with my best friend from college (Lauren) and her generous LSU family, chatted with some new media friends and finally, met up with Mr. Mystery Man.
Mystery Man was accompanied by Larry, Curly and Mo. My first ab workout, from laughter, of many was completed as we parted ways for more tailgate hopping.
Lauren and I walked down the hill for a quick visit with Ms. Aimee, a competitive tailgater. Yes, that’s right, she enters her tailgates into contest because she’s that good.
To wrap up our LSU tailgate tour, Lauren and I share an authentic LSU plate of fried catfish, an Abita beer and a shocking 17 point lead Ole Miss has over Arkansas with the lovely Adams family in the parking lot surrounding the stadium.
It became apparent rather quickly that “Touchdown Tigers!” did not necessarily mean the Auburn Tigers. (I do wish the announcer had been a bit more specific about his calls.) Posters of “WE WANT BAMA” began to surface in the second half and the crowd in Tiger Stadium grew more subdued than I thought possible. Pretty sure everyone was saving their energy for the other team from Alabama.
Four quarters later and day dreams of more boudin balls, I’ll admit I was considering calling it an early night. Thankfully, I recalled my promise of meeting Mystery Man, Larry, Curly and Mo at Mike the Tiger’s humble abode before they were going to take me to my first Walk On’s experience.
Wait, do you really think those four guys waited at Mike’s house? Not even close.
More exploring of LSU’s gorgeous oak-covered campus led me to find the members of the peanut gallery dancing to Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is yoooooou”.” I suppose Christmas is going to come early (Nov 5th) this year.
What a place to let my hair down. An open dance floor and promise of a phenomenal 80s cover band coming on at any second, I could hardly stand the wait. Plus, I have a soft spot for establishments that give you take-home-cups.
I don’t know the name of the band that covered songs from Purple Rain to Courtesy of the Red White and Blue and every hit in between. But I do know that thanks to my host Patti, Jim the LSU Tailgater, Lauren and her family, Mystery Man, Larry, Curly and Mo and the unforgettable hot pink leg warmers on stage, the Gridiron Belles trip to Baton Rouge was more than complete.
Since there is never a chance for rain in Tiger Stadium, I’ll be back—because my new favorite place for Saturday nights is Louisiana.
Xs and Os,
If there was a way to bottle up the feel good effect of being in M S McClellans and sell it, I’d be a very wealthy woman!
M.S. McClellans, a men’s clothier and a Knoxville tradition since 1966, is a family owned and operated establishment based on high standards of quality and service. Such is evident when you first step over the threshold and into a fairytale land of top of the line mens (and women’s) clothes and a warm welcome from the McClellan staff. If you’re lucky, there is even a bloody Mary waiting for you!
The team at McClellan’s was wonderful to work with and ever so helpful in setting up my signing. I felt right at home—a very lavish, cozy, hunting-styled home—from the beginning.
If anyone told you McClellan’s was just a clothing store, they were sorely mistaken. McClellan’s is an unspoken social hotspot. Friends and fans alike come in for a last minute game day outfit, belt or simply a bloody Mary and a seat on the edge of the pool table to watch the early game. If only every morning was as lovely as game day morning at McClellan’s…
In addition to tailored jackets and suits, they also carry the preppy line of Volunteer Traditions. I had the honor of meeting the founder of the company, Mason, at McClellan’s. Was Mason there doing business? Not particularly. He was simply stopping by to say “hello” to Bob and gang and a few other passer bys that knew him by name and recognized him by style.
Currently, Volunteer Traditions does not have a line for Belles. Looks like for now, us Belles will just have to settle with dating Gents that wear Volunteer Tradition—this way we’ll know immediately that they have impeccable taste and style.
Right when I thought my morning with Bob and Mason couldn’t get much better, one of my best friends from college surprised me with a visit. My apologies to any patrons in the store that heard me shriek with joy when Nick (nicknamed “Sweet Thang”) walked into my line of vision unannounced!
Nick was on a guys trip with three other UGA fans while their wives went on a girls trip. We were able to catch up, a few of the Gents were smart enough to buy a present in the form of a book for their wives and they were exposed to the greatness that is McClellan’s and Volunteer Tradition.
After a full morning of selling and signing I had a new found appreciation for spending time surrounded by well dressed Volunteer fans. A special thanks to the Belles in the back that kept me company and the Gents in the front that kept a bloody Mary in my hand.
If you are ever in Knoxville and are craving a quality ensemble for men or women, I assure you McClellan’s will take care of you. I know I’ll be finding every possible excuse to get back to the clothing King of Knoxville.
Xs and Os,
How can I put so much fun into just one blog? I can’t, so stay tuned for more stories from my trip to Knoxville throughout the week. For now, let’s just say that I’m glad there is a second book in the works; I have gathered a plethora of information for UT’s second chapter in book two!
Let’s start with downtown Knoxville. Sure, an SEC is centered around the university, the available tailgate spots and legendary stadium– but there is so much more.
I arrived on Friday afternoon to Market Square in the heart of downtown Knoxville. I met with a sweet UT reporter, Laura, at Café 4 and then shimmied over to be a part of “Live at 5 at 4” before picking up the prefect hostess gift at Bliss Boutique. Just a brisk walk two blocks over I set up for a signing at Mast General Store. Market Square was another side of Knoxville I had never seen. It was full of lively and kind people out enjoying their Friday night before enjoying their Tennessee Saturday.
Saturday morning started off with a run with my host, Molly, with a Smokey Mountain backdrop before heading to a signing at M.S. McClellans. ( I’ll be doing a full spot on McClellans later this week because that place is AMAZING). After a successful signing at McClellan’s, Swoozies and I met up to hit the tailgating scenes on UT’s campus.
What a perfect day for college football. Not a cloud in the sky and a delightful 79 degrees made our tailgate hopping a cinch without a single threat of a glisten. We stopped by Volunteer Village, walked through Circle Park, ran into some KD Ladies on the sidewalk and visited fans in the 23B lot off of Andy Holt Boulevard. How very hospitable Darsi and her friends were! Not to mention, Mr. UT made the best French fries I’ve ever tasted. Now that’s skill to do at a tailgate!
I was eager to get down to the River. Last time I was in town, the VOL Navy was disappointingly out of town. This time, I was determined to hang out at Calhouns and see some of the water mansions decked out in checkered orange. But not before stopping by Figi Island where Amy and I were offered, and accepted, the most delicious grilled bologna sandwiched with cole slaw. Can you say “entry” for the Gridiron Belle cookbook due out soon?
It’s a good thing campus is covered with hills because after French fries and bbq’d bologna (I promise it was DELICIOUS!), I needed some cardio on our way to the South’s most perfect deck overlooking the Tennessee River . What a sight!
Short on time and koozies from Swoozies, we climbed another hill, through the G10 lot and to the entrance of Neyland Stadium. What happened next will be another entry for another day, but let’s just say, thanks to a well connected KD, Molly and I were able to see Neyland Stadium from the field!
It wasn’t exactly a pretty game for the VOLS but it sure was a beautiful day of being a part of Tennessee football.
Stay tuned for more stories about wearing orange…
Xs and Os,
PS- this is possibly my favorite photo of the season so far. Rivalries start young… really young.
1) The Gamecock’s AP and Coache’s Poll ranking may have gone down, but they sky rocketed in the Gridiron Belles Poll
2) South Carolinians use the Palmetto symbol more than Texans use the lone star.
3) Prayer trumps all stereotypes within the stadium. And at the post office.
I arrived in Columbia, SC on Wednesday before the Auburn game to give a brief talk to the South Carolina Kappa Deltas about business etiquette and SEC football. I was told that it would be a small crowd of about 50 girls because there was a bible study at the same time that most members attended.
Thursday, I spent a substantial amount of time at the local post office where I was told to “have a blessed day” by workers and patrons alike… for no other reason than maybe my hands looked full and I could have been glistening.
Friday, at LaRoque clothing store, the owner and her friend Elizabeth (GIB Tailgater of the Game) told me they met at church.
The next day at the game, while I stood and placed my hand on my heart for my favorite part of the game, the National Anthem, I was surprised when the “voice of god” no pun intended, asked the entire stadium to bow our heads in prayer.
Let’s be clear.This wasn’t a quick, generic prayer that you’ve heard 100 times before. This was someone down on the field, in synch with the Divine, talking to the Divine and asking the Divine to bless the players, coaches, fans, opponents, and the Palmetto state. True story. The prayer went on for at least 4 minutes. You can imagine all of the things blessed in that amount of time.
I felt like I was responding to the prayer/petitions of the people at church on Sundays. Just about everywhere I turned, it seemed like the Gamecocks and Tigers needed a prayer refill…
South Carolina fans commenting on the improvement of the marching band as more significant than the football players indicates a long game ahead. Pray for us.
Auburn’s Michael Dyer carries the ball down the field 1000 times. He then gets walked off the field by trainers. Pray for us.
South Carolina’s Garcia can’t seem to connect with one receiver. Someone in the stands suggests adding liquor to Garcia’s Gatorade. Pray for us.
Displaced Auburn fan disguised in garnet and black is spotted. Pray for us.
Auburn’s quarterback Trotter took the snap. The ball is in his hands. Please pray for us.
One extra second left on the game clock didn’t get played. Whoops. Pray for us.
South Carolina fan immediately sells his season tickets to the lowest bidder. Pray for us.
Sloppiest game I’ve seen in a long time. Pray for us.
Aforementioned disguised Auburn fan didn’t brag or partake in trash talking after a win. Pray for us.
Aside from all the praying and the need for all of the praying on the field, I must say, South Carolina Belles, Gents, tailgaters and fans deserve some credit for being wonderful. Four and a half days in Columbia and I not only figured out how to correctly say “Gervais Street” and “Huger Road” but I have a whole new group of friends, I felt a part of the community and I feel more than comfortable launching USC near the top of the Gridiron Belles poll.
Thank you to my wonderful hosts, Reeve and Scott Ballew. My new favorite place to shop in Columbia, La Roque. My new favorite USC tailgaters, Elizabeth and Wesley Donehue, Allison and Joel Hughes and Morgan and George Crouch. My new media friends, 107.5 The Game, 97.5 WOC and Chloe from The Gamecock. The Columbia parking enforcement team…. You got me this time… twice… but I’ll be back!
I may never look at a crescent moon the same way again… but then again, Saturday is three days away so I’m likely to be swooned all over again. Yep, go a head, Pray for us.
Xs and Os, Christie Leigh
It’s that time… football widows are coming out of the woodwork. The season is heating up. The tune of our Gents’ love letters have changed.
Below is an actual letter from a football-loving-boyfriend to a less-than-football-loving-Belle. This is his plea to her as the football season ramps up. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Dear Jean Rose,
Football season is here, cupcake, but I don’t love football more than you. I promise. I’m penning this letter to let you know I love you more than football and also to go ahead and apologize in advance for all the things that might make you upset this season.
First of all, I apologize for Tripp. I know you’re still upset about last season when he got too drunk to leave and slept on our couch. I know you said it stunk for three months. I guess Febreeze doesn’t always work the way I want it to.
Second, I apologize for not wanting to hang out with your girlfriends’ guy friends from work who don’t have any guy friends of their own. It’s not that I don’t appreciate you wanting to help us “meet new couple friends,” it’s just that any other guy who doesn’t already have guy friends is friendless for a reason. Especially if he doesn’t even have friends to watch football with. Frankly, he stinks. Maybe not literally, but definitely figuratively. So I’m not coming over to watch games at his trendy loft condo with skylights and walls that are cool because they’re half brick and half plaster. I’m afraid when I get there he’ll be crying into his industry chic espresso machine.
Third, when I go out of town to attend football games I promise I won’t do keg stands this year. I’m grown now. You were right when you said keg stands were only for frat boys. You left off girls wearing skirts but I’m not holding that against you. To prove it I won’t even look at the girls wearing skirts.
Fourth, I apologize for not only being unavailable for Saturdays and Sundays in September but also for being unavailable for all of October, November, and December weekends. See, television dictates game times. And while I’m sure I can squeeze in a couple of hours before or after kickoff, I’m not even really sure when kickoff is going to be for later season games. You can imagine how difficult this is for me.
Also, and no matter what, I’m not going to your cousin Lorraine’s wedding that she scheduled for the Arkansas v LSU weekend. Not because I think she’s going to be divorced within six months of the wedding, well, I kind of do, but just because she scheduled her wedding when she did.
Fifth, I’m sorry for whatever I break when my team loses. I know this disappoints you because you “expect more from a grown man.” And I know you’re still upset from last year when I tried to be mature about breaking things and asked you to move everything that was breakable out of our den during football season so I wouldn’t be tempted.
I thought this was being “proactive” but you told me I was being “malicious and destructive and passive aggressive.” Or something like that. You used a lot of big words and lost me because you were wearing a tank top with your good bra. Not that your other bras are bad but just that one is really good.
Sixth, I apologize for not letting you wash my lucky T-shirt. I know it smells. It’s just you’ve always had a lot better sense of smell than I have. Except for those scented candles you always burn … those smell great. They’re lovely. Like burning cinnamon. You know how much I like cinnamon. But when my team is winning it could upset everything if I start washing it. Don’t worry if your friends are coming over, I’ll stay in the basement so they don’t smell me.
Seventh, when I curse in front of your nieces and nephews who have such strict parents that they’ve never even had a Coke or tasted sugar in their life, I’m not trying to corrupt them. Also, I apologize for trying to cover for myself last year and telling your nephew that I was just saying “fruck” and that when you saw a really cool truck it was a fruck. I know how much your sister Mary Claire was bothered by him picking this up so quickly. Who knew kids were such sponges? Finally, I’m not going to give the kids real sugar cookies and lots of caffeine again. I’ll give them straight shots of whiskey. It’s a joke, a joke honey. Only water. Not even any lemons.
Eighth, please don’t ask me right after a loss, while I’m still mad and cursing, whether a “silly football game” is more important than our relationship. I can’t be responsible for my answers right after a team loses. Especially if it’s because of a late fumble.
So, I guess what I’m saying is I love you … and football.
Your ever loving and supportive when it’s not football season boyfriend,
P.S. Can I watch football at Caldwell’s house on Saturday?
This can only mean one heckuva football season is on it’s way. I think I’ll pen my letter to my family and suitors explaining why they are taking a backseat to the gridion…
Xs and Os,
There is something to be said about tailgating in a parking lot.
Fortunate to have friends with a pass in the Red lot, Gridiron Belles was able to set up shop 4 cars away from the entrance to Commonwealth Stadium. Of course, the short walk into our seats was a huge plus, but what I learned to appreciate more was the ability to pack our car full of tables, platters, delicacies, chairs and people and unload right at our spot. No lugging from miles away. No drop off and pick up systems. No glistening from manual labor in a sundress. Could this be my new favorite way to tailgate?
It could be possible that I am slightly biased toward my Old Kentucky Home, but after an afternoon relaxing with CAT fans I’m realizing it may not be all bad to be a Kentucky fan. Unless of course, you like winning.
Top 5 must haves for a Kentucky Tailgate:
- Parking spot in the Blue or Red Lot
- Ale 8 ( A Kentucky brewed ginerale)
- Bourbon Brownies (KY people will put bourbon in anything)
- A bright blue “CATS” t-shirt (Unless you’re with the fraternities and then a dress is required)
- Hope… hope that basketball season will hurry up and get here!
Thanks, Kentucky for a great week of signings, tailgates and hype about basketball season. It was so lovely to be home!
Xs and Os,