We flew out of Milwaukee at the ass crack of Wisconsin dawn on 12/30. Why would you fly out of Milwaukee if there are two perfectly good airports in Chicago, GMYH? Well, fair reader, flights to Phoenix out of Milwaukee were approximately $200 cheaper per ticket than flights out of either of Chicago’s world-class airports. Furthermore, Milwaukee had non-stop flights AND flights that didn’t require a 12:59am departure on January 1. Thus, Jester and I rolled out of bed around 4:33am on the 30th, hopped in The Blaab (not literally, Kevin -- we spent most of the time sitting), and headed for Milwaukee -- which comes from “millioke,” Algonquian for “the good land.” On the bright side, there aren’t many people on I-94 at 5 in the morning, so the drive up was nothing short of magical.
In case you’ve already forgotten why I would be flying to Arizona on the golden birthday of Jeremy “Floppy Burrito” DeMuth, the Indiana Hoosiers were making their first bowl game appearance in 14 years, playing Oklahoma State in the Insight Bowl on New Years Eve. The Insight Bowl, of course, is held in Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, on the Arizona State campus. I had sent out an Evite even before IU had been chosen by the good people at Insight to appear in their bowl. The response was breathtaking. Figuratively, that is. I am still with breath.
Anyway, already in Tempe were Ari and John (the latter didn’t even go to IU -- Coach Hep got him for sure), as well as Bruiser (my dad). Jester and I arrived around 11 a.m. I have to say that the ability to watch DVDs on a plane makes the flight go by much more quickly, and better yet, it takes your mind off the fact that you’re 38,000 feet above the ground in a giant metal bird being driven by a guy who’s probably still drunk from last night when he banged that waitress from the Skylark at his crash pad over on 53rd street. Having received the first season of 30 Rock for Christmas, I began to watch that from the beginning. That has to be the funniest show on network TV, Reba notwithstanding.
After checking into the hotel, we rang Bruiser, who unsurprisingly had several restaurants already picked out for lunch. We ended up going to Casey Moore’s Oyster House, a mere 1.7-mile walk from our hotel. Apparently Bruiser misjudged the distance as well, as he was more than 2 miles from the restaurant. No matter, as it was a great choice. The crab bisque was phenomenal, the dozen clams I got were dead, and the bloody Mary was made with Clamato, which gave it some extra zing. Sadly, this would not be our last encounter with a Clamato-based alcoholic drink.
We headed back to the hotel after a quick walk down Mill Avenue, which is Tempe’s main drag of bars, restaurants, and shops. We saw a dog wearing sunglasses. Only in Arizona!
We then received word that Jamie and Shepley had arrived at the hotel. When we got back to the hotel, I made sure to vigorously check my fantasy football team’s stats. You see, I was in the finals of the league I am in with my old co-workers in Dayton. After starting out 0-4 and 3-6, my team regained its focus. I stormed back in the final 5 weeks of the regular season, going 4-1 to secure a 7-7 record and a place in the playoffs at the #6 seed. The playoffs were all but mine, as I trounced through the #3, #2, and #4 seeds on my way to my first championship. My championship game starting line-up as follows:
QB - Donovan McNabb
WRs - Jerricho Cotchery, Nate Burleson, Shaun McDonald
RBs - Jamal Lewis, Kolby Smith
TE - Antonio Gates
K - Shayne Graham
DEF - San Diego
This is sweet redemption, as the team that I beat in the finals (Team Sedor) won the league last year after I traded him an injured Shaun Alexander (who I had used the first pick in the draft on, instead of LT -- nice work, me) for a couple badly needed WRs. Needless to say, Alexander came back from an injury and guided Team Sedor to the championship. Not this year. It wasn’t always smooth sailing, and my WRs often sucked, but I managed to stockpile a bevy of RBs that didn’t let me down. I’d especially like to thank Maurice Jones-Drew for showing up each week and for understanding why I didn’t start him in the finals.
Jamie and Shepley were able to share in my joy, and soon enough, Ari and John showed up with some celebratory beers. Sort of. Instead of pure beer, which everyone in the room has historically enjoyed, they bought a 24-oz. can each of Bud Light with Clamato and Bud Diesel with Clamato. Apparently, this “chelada” was dreamt up by Anheuser-Busch in response to the dreadfully terrible Miller Chill, which is also a chelada-style beer. If you’ve ever had Miller Chill, you know that it tastes like someone mixed beer with lime sour patch kids and salt. So instead of coming up with something that tastes better, Anheuser-Busch said, “Fuck it, we’re going with clams.” John happily doled out small hotel cups of the Bud Light/Clamato mixture. Up until that point I had never seen placenta in a clear plastic cup before, but that’s about what it looked like. And it actually tasted worse than it looked, but I guess that’s bound to happen when you combine beer with tomato juice, clam juice, lime, and salt. This shit was nasty. If you’ve ever wondered what the walls of a two-dollar Tijuana hooker’s womb taste like -- and, strangely, I know several of you who have explicitly said you do -- then just drink this. Sure, it costs a little bit more, but you’re losing your dignity either way, so you might as well go with the one where you can identify the chunks as clams. I actually just puked all over my keyboard. Most of it was poured down the drain, except for Shepley’s, as he took a perverse liking to it. Limey bastard.
Jamie also informed us that his eldest son, two-year-old AC, invented his own swear word: darsh. When he says it, he thinks he’s said a bad word, which I think is pretty awesome because he can essentially say “fuck” or “shit” whenever he wants to without uttering anything more than “darsh!” Brilliant.
Around 5, Wee Wee and Lesli arrived at the hotel. We had received word that there was a massive IU party at a bar called Dos Gringos. Thus, we headed over there. I love being able to drink in a bar with no roof in late December.
On the way in, we ran into Gibson (Dan, not Dean), Eckerle (Matt, not Tim), and Devo (the Pi Kapp, not those dudes with the flower pots for hats). Jared from Subway was also there.
We headed to the upstairs bar, which was less crowded than everywhere else and we had a nice view over the rest of the bar.
On tap, Dos Gringos had $3 “Gringoritas” and $3 Donkey Punches. As I’ve always known, the Donkey Punch would be Jamie’s downfall. It was a red punch with a decent amount of alcohol in it. Not too sweet. Not too strong. Just right for a Donkey Punch. I’ve always wanted the opportunity to say, “I’m getting a Bud Light for myself, and I’m getting my wife a Donkey Punch,” and dammit, I said it that night.
To add to the fun, a crew of fellow Pi Kapps showed up, including Judson, Fankhauser (or “Hollywood,” as Lesli has now deemed to be his nickname), Mellen (who lives in Phoenix), and Gupta (big, not l’il), as well as Judson’s cousin Zack, who had made the trip with Judson and Neil from LA. We knew they were coming, but we were pleasantly surprised to randomly run into Meredith (former IUSA president -- whatever) and her friends, and then into Brenner (who apparently lives and teaches in Scottsdale) and his friend Laura, who also went to IU.
Judson was not surprised to see us, but was surprised when Jessie goosed him.
The Donkey Punches flowed like wine, and good times were had by all. Eventually Holt and Katie showed up, as well as Calvin and Abby. Holt performed fellatio on a bottle of Corona.
As a result of this crude act, we were asked to leave, and we decided to go to The Tavern on Mill, as that was where there was going to be an informal IU get-together. Some of us tried to take a cab, since it was about 2 miles away. After seeing that there was a per-person charge posted plainly on the side of the minivan cab, I negotiated a $20 fare for 7 of us, which I failed to relay to the team. After a block, the Pope twins noticed that the meter was not on, and the cabbie informed them of the $20 arrangement. A short discussion ensued with slightly raised voices. After taking us approximately one block, he kindly asked us to exit his cab. It would have been about $3/person, but on principle, we walked the remaining 1.9 miles to the bar.
Before arriving at the Tavern on Mill, we stopped at a hotdog stand, where Holt ingested several pieces of meat, while the rest of us practiced moderation. We stayed at the Tavern for 30-45 minutes or so before walking back to our hotel for the purpose of sleeping.
The night before, I had been informed by Judson that they planned on tailgating beginning at around 9. Thus, I informed those staying in our hotel that we would have a goal of being there at 11. That would give us a good 4 1/2 hours of tailgating before the pre-game festivities started at 3:30. Around 10:45, I contacted Judson, and their new ETA was 11:30. Thus, we (meaning Jester, me, Wee Wee, Lesli, Jamie, Shepley, Holt, and Katie) headed to the In-N-Out Burger across the street from our hotel. I had never been an In-N-Out before, and only heard of its glories. I will say that it is a pretty damn good burger.
We then headed over to the stadium, and ended up getting to the tailgate spot before Judson and crew. Luckily another group was holding a parking spot for them, so when they arrived, we were ready to go. It was quite impressive. Packed into Mellen’s Cherokee were 5 grown males, 2 kegs, a cornhole set, a grill, and food. We were quickly informed that, after those guys left Dos Gringos, Gupta disappeared and reappeared at Mellen’s place at 6am. Apparently, he went to a casino alone and won $500. Just like any other Sunday night for him.
The weather was what I would consider the perfect tailgating weather: room temperature, no humidity, not a cloud in the sky. Soon enough, the tailgate was in full swing, and it was pretty huge. In attendance (aside from the In-N-Out Burger crew) were Judson, Mellen, Hollywood, Gupta, Judson’s cousin, Doo Doo Brown, Garfield, Gibson, Eckerle, Chad Smith (I think that’s his name), Devo, various parents, and various other people who I did not know. Davidson would have been there, but he got snowed in in Vail. John and Ari showed up a while later with vodka, champagne, and orange juice.
About 1, several of us headed to a park about a half-mile away, where they were having a pep rally and where the Hoosiers would be doing “The Walk.” For those who don’t know, Coach Hep started The Walk when he arrived at IU. Two hours before kickoff, the team buses pull up at the street in the center of the tailgating fields in Bloomington, and the team walks through the fans to the stadium. They set it up so the team would do The Walk at this park, where a stage had been set up (from whence the Bare Naked Ladies would play later that night). Before The Walk, several people spoke, and we were informed that IU sold more tickets than the other three teams in the Insight and Fiesta Bowls (Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and West Virginia). We were the only school to sell out our allotment. That’s pretty solid, but also not too surprising, since IU fans seemed to be everywhere you went in Tempe, while OSU fans were few and far between. While there, we also ran into Brenner and Laura, as well as Meredith and her friends, and then after The Walk, we ran into Bruiser and then went back to the tailgate.
Also making an appearance at the tailgate were Matt “MP Willia” Williams and his wife Sarah, who live down there and apparently have spawned a child. Things were going swimmingly. People were getting drunk, people were playing cornhole, people were smiling.
But trouble soon surfaced with the tapping of the second keg. A seal in the tap broke, so the tap was nearly impossible to pump and, thus, was emitting no more than a trickle. The whole group came together to try to figure out how to fix it.
My favorite moment was when Judson asked Devo if he had a condom, and Devo reached for his back pocket automatically, without even giving it a second’s thought. He then claimed that he usually doesn’t carry them around, and, unfortunately, he didn’t have one this time. But the lightning quick reaction was priceless.
IU does not have an engineering school, but with some ingenuity, some gum, a woman’s hair band, and some duct tape, the tap was fixed in a mere 45 minutes. But there was still a problem. The seal was fixed, but there was no lubrication to pump it up and down. Now I know what you’re thinking, and, no, Devo did not have a bottle of K-Y with him. Gupta did, however, have a small bottle of lotion, which did the trick. As Judson exclaimed, “No one’s getting ashy!” A roar erupted from the crowd, the IU fight song was sung, and drank beer again.
However, it was close to game time, so we headed in soon after. On the way in, we met up with Laderach and his lady friend Amy, who were sitting with us in our group of 13. Get it? Play 13. 13 people in our group. There was no way we could lose.
The stadium was probably about two-thirds IU fans, and it was great to see. Also, they sold beer in the stadium. I’m not sure I’ve ever bought beer at a college football game, but I will say that I wholeheartedly support it.
Here's a picture of Jester, me, and Bruiser at the beginning of the game, blissfully unaware of what was to come. The concerned look on Laderach's face suggests that he may have known something we didn't.
IU raced to a 3-0 lead after their first drive, then commenced one of the bigger bed shittings of the year, getting themselves in a 35-10 halftime deficit and not forcing a punt until the third quarter. The Hoosiers did, however, win the second half 23-14 to go 7 1/2 and 5 1/2 on the year.
As an additional slap in the face, at 6:10 p.m. (during the third quarter) my Blackberry vibrated, indicating a new email message. It was from Evite, with a simple, mocking subject line: “Thanks for planning your event with Evite.” Fuck you, Evite.
Here's a shot of one of Oklahoma State's seven extra points.
After the game, Jester, me, Wee Wee, Lesli, Holt, Katie, Jamie, Shepley, John, and Ari went to the Denny’s that was attached to our hotel. It was about dinner time, but the restaurant was very empty. Our trip to Denny’s can only be described as a comedy of errors. Wee Wee and Lesli had been there the night before, and we had the same waiter that they had the previous night. We are still not sure if (1) he can read or (2) he actually worked at Denny’s.
We called him Pepper, since the first thing he said to us was, "I might smell like pepper because my co-workers think it's funny to pour pepper on my back." That’s a ridiculous thing to ever say to anyone under any circumstances. Do you know how much pepper you would have to have poured on you to actually smell like pepper? Pepper himself had not yet reached that point.
We placed our orders, and then made each other laugh out loud for the next 40 minutes. It should be noted that Wee Wee ordered “French” toast in addition to a salad.
At some point, none other than IU football legend, former NCAA rushing touchdown record holder, 1989 Camp and Maxwell Award winner and Heisman runner-up, and 2007 College Football Hall of Fame inductee Anthony “Automatic Touchdown” Thompson walked in with his family and dined in the very same room as us. I’m pretty sure that, at 40, he could still start for the Hoosiers if he had any remaining eligibility.
Apparently being in the presence of greatness really shook the staff at Denny’s. Our orders came out sporadically and, every now and then, correctly. Holt ordered a milkshake that still might be being made. Wee Wee’s salad came out, I think. He also received an ominous order of herb toast. Frankly, there was nothing wrong with my Moons Over My Hammy, and I enjoyed the hell out of it.
As time passed, and the likelihood of Wee Wee’s French toast appearing diminished, Wee Wee asked Pepper about it. Several minutes later, Pepper reappeared from the kitchen and explained why Wee Wee’s French toast never came out: "The reason why yours didn't come up is because the cook didn't cook it." Seems legit.
Pepper comped several people their meals and didn’t charge anyone at the table for our soft drinks. We got up to leave at about the same time AT was getting up, so we kindly asked if he would take a picture with us, and he kindly agreed, so we made some bastard Oklahoma State fan take our picture. Small victories. Once I receive the picture from someone, I will post it. Because you care.
After a quick refreshening, showering, and changing, we all headed out to the Insight Fiesta Bowl Block Party, where they basically close off a mile of Mill Avenue and insert carnival games and 150,000 people. The bonus was that we got in free with our ticket stubs.
We headed straight for the stage, which is where Bare Naked Ladies would be performing at 10:15, which was also right next to the beer garden, so that helped. As expected, we ran into Meredith and her friends, as well as Brenner and Laura. BNL was pretty good. Canadians are always pretty funny.
At midnight, a sunburst dropped and I celebrated the ringing in of a new year for the first time in the Mountain time zone. I declared 2008 to be the Year of the Stink Eye. After a piercing glance at a passerby, we went to Tavern on Mill again, since it was the only bar with a cover less than $10.
After that, we went our separate ways. Shepley had to get up at 5 to fly home. I assume he’s dead. Holt and Katie rode the shuttle to the airport with Jessie and me. Katie’s flight back to Dayton included either zero or one stops. Holt, on the other hand, took a less direct route. His first stop was Page, Arizona, followed by a quick stop in Farmington, New Mexico, and then on up to Denver, before finally flying to Dayton. No, he was not traveling by bus.
Jester and I were on the same flight as Bruiser, and we three sat in the same row, where I watched some more 30 Rock for as long as my laptop had power. Upon our return to the Midwest, we were met by the bitter backhanded slap of winter’s white glove, as the temperatures were in the single digits in Milwaukee and not much better in Chicago.
All in all, a great trip, even though the Hoosiers lost. I was pleasantly surprised at how well IU fans traveled, but that’s bound to happen when you haven’t been to a bowl game since Mariah Carey’s “Hero” was #1 on the Billboard charts. I’m looking forward to next season, even without James Hardy, who will hopefully be in a Bears uniform next year, catching Super Bowl winning passes from Donovan McNabb.