story by Greg Houser
Editor’s note: Welcome to Tusk to Tail, a special “web reality” presentation of the tailgating experience as organized, performed and perfected by a group of Hog fans who have been tailgating together for more than a decade. Members of the Tusk to Tail Team are Sean Casey, Jack Clark, Dale Cullins, Greg Houser, Craig May, David Rice and Mark Wagner. Link here for the explainer story and the photos and “stats” of the core Tusk to Tail crew. Tusk to Tail is managed by The City Wire and sponsored by Preferred Office Products.
Follow the crew on Twitter — @TuskToTail
On 8:15 Saturday night, Tusk to Tail had just witnessed Texas A&M play above their heads while Alabama could not stay perfect after an emotional win in Cajun country the week before.
This, of course, is our focus of the night after watching our talent-rich piggies once again play under their ability in Columbia.
South Carolina was quite welcoming from the get-go.
The temperature was an exceptional 70-75 with cool nights. The people of Columbia were just as hospitable. One theory for the warm welcome is that the game itself hardly mattered. The Gamecocks are playing second fiddle to Florida and Georgia in the SEC East division. They probably will not be playing for a BCS bowl and their “Old Ball Coach” knows that our beloved Hogs are in desperate need of a General.
Forget the fact that Arkansas owns the series, this weekend was all about the experience. Tusk to Tail was ready from the moment we dropped our bags at the hotel.
The university campus is located in the heart of Columbia, and our hotel was only a mile and a half away. Dale Cullins, Jack Clark, Craig May, and Mark Wagner had had made the trip before, so we wasted no time getting sustenance from the Liberty Tap Room and Grill. The menu is filled with tons of basic options, with a local spin on fried oysters that complements the region quite well.
We stayed at our new watering hole until our group of 12 dedicated, hungry Hog fans was mobilized. Friday’s final stop was at a higher end establishment called Cola’s.
Considering the ambience and menu options, the prices were reasonable and the staff friendly. I was graced with the opportunity to split a bottle of wine with our consigliere known as the man Mulcahey. I am certainly a fan of a good bold red, such as Cabernet or Zinfandel, with my meal.
Considering our early happy hour, some of Tusk to Tail got out of the gates fast. But alas, the old guard is called old for good reason. After a day of traveling and fine food, with an early game the next morning, several of us were in bed by 9:30 p.m. The town of Columbia kept rocking without us.
We awoke to a cool morning. Mark was concerned of being chilled during the game, but the Palmetto state delivered a sun-soaked, warm gameday atmosphere. Dale’s efforts to get the guys to check out the campus were all for naught. Traffic cones were set and the police force funneled traffic to the stadium.
What we did see of the campus reminded us of that typical Southern Comfort feel. Uniform Colonial architecture set the university apart from the city, while keeping the campus open by its absence of high walls and cut-off streets.
Once parked, we made our way to the tailgates. It seems early starts hamper even the successful teams. There were a few impressive set-ups in addition to the world famous “Cockabooses.” Not one of them, however, had the buzz and excitement that should accompany a game with big time bowl ramifications for the home team.
We found two inviting tailgating spots. The first was the Razorback Alumni tent. Chris Serven, a Little Rock native living in Charlotte, gets the official Tusk to Tail nod for setting up the spot with only three-day’s notice. A small contingent of loyal Hog fans provided a friendly environment, but the safe haven was not needed, for the Gamecock nation did not feel threatened.
We found one other spot to grace with our presence when a local group of Gamecock fans treated us to a pig smoked on a grill. We did our best to act surprised, and loaded up on hospitality, food, and a beer or two.
The game certainly does not need to be re-lived. Let’s just focus on the fact we have eight more quarters to enjoy food, friends, family, and a host of like-minded individuals in the college football world.
One thing to stay excited about is the coaching search. The fact Auburn, Kentucky, and Tennessee could all be looking means things could get interesting.
Tusk to Tail will give it our best in the tailgating section. We’ll expect the piggies to continue fighting the good fight, and we certainly will be looking for Jeff Long and the board to find us that General to lead the charge for the next several years.
For all the readers, let us remember our freedom to enjoy football, food, and tailgating.
Thank you, Veterans!