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Extra Long Tailgate Redeems UM Football

September 19, 2011 By Matt Meltzer in Miami: Sports NewsMiami: Things to Do  | 9 Comments

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For a minute, it felt like Little Havana.

It wasn’t just the heat. It wasn’t just the raucous crowd and the abuse it hurled at hapless visiting fans. Nor was it the stomping our beloved Hurricanes put on an emasculated Ohio State team. It was, quite simply, the energy.

SEVEN HOURS OF HEAVEN

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After months of embarrassing mishaps, the University of Miami finally got something right. The school opened the lots of SunLife stadium a full seven hours before kickoff Saturday’s home opener against Ohio State. That’s three hours more than tailgaters usually get at UM.  And those three hours may just have saved the program.

Never mind that that in most college towns, tailgates engulf the entire city. Alumni and students prop up tents and christen the party at sunrise, continuing into the game and long after it. Win or lose.

At Miami, the best we’ve ever been able to do was start the ruckus on the streets of Little Havana, finding whichever local was ok with loud music and barbecues on his front lawn at hours when most reasonable people are eating breakfast.

But since our eviction from the Orange Bowl and exodus to North Dade, Hurricanes fans have been relegated to tailgates that last only slightly longer than the Director’s Cut of “Scarface.” What resulted was a crowd that lacked passion, a stadium that lacked energy, and a team that had nothing to feed off of but the silence of 30,000 empty seats.

But not Saturday.

A FULL DAY OF BUILDUP

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On Saturday, Hurricane fans finally got to release after four years of tailgate frustration.  The buildup began at noon. A smattering of cars dotted the Sun Life Stadium parking lot, smoke already wandering from lot to lot, a full third of a day before kickoff.

“This is the best I’ve seen at Sun Life,” observed Mary Clark, UM Undergrad and Law alum and author of the Canes blog Eye of The Hurricane.  “It feels like the old days in the Orange Bowl.”

Clark had her tailgate set up in the Green lots, a premium parking area that opens one hour before the rest of the stadium. Six hours before kickoff and the lot was already crammed with SUVs .

A STUDENT LOT UNMATCHED IN INTENSITY

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Across from the Green lot in West 32 sat the venerable student lot, a canyon of hard liquor and half-tees set to an audible thrashing of electronic music and classic rock.

The usually apathetic UM student body decided that a seven hour tailgate actually was worth the 40-minute drive from campus. So every student that could fit in a Cayenne or F-250 caravanned up I-95 and saturated the student lot with light domestic beer and plastic bottle vodka. It was as if someone had taken an entire college town and crammed it into one acre. It made Ultra look like a nice Sunday picnic.

“Where else but Miami would you find DJs on every truck, everyone carrying around individual bottles of alcohol, and girls running around in belly-shirts and painted stomachs?” asked Liz Maloney, a senior from Milwaukee.  “It’s my kind of party.”

Maloney is part of the first senior class to have never experienced a game at the Orange Bowl. And this class’ first taste of a real tailgate was a welcomed change of pace.

“This was so much better,” said Mike Serabian, a Senior from Cranston, R.I. “You weren’t in a rush to get to the stadium; you could have a beer at home before you headed out. And there’s still sufficient time for sorority women and pigskin.”

A TRADITION THAT NEEDS TO CONTINUE

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Back in the Green lots, the more subdued alumni agreed the extended tailgate hours were good, even if their reasons were more practical.

“The extra hours are necessary,” said Clark, the Canes blogger. “I think it improves traffic around the stadium and it helps the professional tailgaters put on a better party.”

Delray Beach attorney and double alum Mark Keegan concurred.

“I’ve been attending UM games since 1994, and the University of Miami’s decision to expand tailgates from 4 to 7 hours is something that I fully endorse,” he said as he revved up his Daiquiri Wacker, a combination lawn mower/motorcycle/frozen drink maker designed specifically for warm weather tailgates.

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Mark’s cousin Laura Keegan, a sports agent from Los Angeles, was pleased to see The U living up to how it’s done in California.

“On the West Coast, we tailgate for at least 7 hours. It’s all about the tailgate,” she said as her cousin poured her a frozen Hand Grenade. “The decision to expand tailgates from 4 to 7 hours is excellent.”

A SIGNATURE TAILGATE MAKES FOR A SIGNATURE WIN

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What we learned Saturday is that a seven hour party gets people excited. So excited they bring a tangible energy into the stadium, an energy that players can feel.  The University of Miami has been getting battered, both on the field and off for over a year now. The team needed a spark, and the crowd of over 70,000 brought it Saturday with an electricity that had not ever been felt for this team north of the Dolphin Expressway.

The players took the field and dominated a good Ohio State team 24-6. The tyrannical humidity and the ear-splitting crowd turned giants into boys, and for one night, it felt like the 80s again. All it took was three little hours.

Related Categories: Miami: Sports News, Miami: Things to Do,

About the Author: Matt Meltzer is a featured columnist at Miami Beach 411.

See more articles by Matt Meltzer.

See more articles by Matt Meltzer

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9 Comments on

"Extra Long Tailgate Redeems UM Football"

Ben says:

so like, i’m thinking of moving to Miami and stuff? Everyone says people are so nice. What do you think?

Posted on 09/19/2011 at 10:00 PM

Booger says:

You must realize how laughable this post is to anyone who went to a real university, with a real campus,  with a real athletics program.

Posted on 09/20/2011 at 8:53 AM

Blackford Oakes says:

Matt - You heading up to Tampa for the SFU/UM game ? I’m planning to see this ” swagger ” stuff for the first time.

Posted on 09/20/2011 at 9:12 AM

Blackford Oakes says:

Booger, I got no affiliation with UM.

You might want to take a peak at Princeton Review’s college rankings. Might be suprised.

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-princeton-review-entrepreneur-magazine-name-the-top-50-schools-for-entrepreneurship-programs-2011-09-20

Posted on 09/20/2011 at 9:14 AM

Blackford Oakes says:

Lord knows I’m now UM fan. Here’s how UM ranked with US News Report.

http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities

Posted on 09/20/2011 at 10:04 AM

Go Noles! says:

“a good Ohio State team”??

Are you high?  This is the worst Ohio State team in years.  They are completely depleted by suspensions/sanctions; with an interim coach to boot.  They almost got taken to the woodshed by Toldeo the week before in their own house.  Toledo?!?!?!  OSU is currently only a shadow of the dominant team they’ve been in the past.

Miami got lucky to catch them while they are at a low point.

Posted on 09/20/2011 at 12:02 PM

Blackford Oakes says:

ignore the above link. That MU is in Ohio

Posted on 09/20/2011 at 1:27 PM

Matt Meltzer says:

Oh man, I love when all the sports blog losers stumble on my articles and comment like I’m the type who gives a shit.

Save your trash talk for Warchant.com, bro. I’m a Canes fan, but hardly the type to get overly excited about it. Your team is very good this year. Probably better than ours. And that’s about where my thoughts on it end.

Enjoy spending the rest of your day living vicariously through a bunch of 20 year old black guys.

Posted on 09/21/2011 at 10:34 PM

Matt Meltzer says:

Weird, my comment posted #6, even though it was directed at comment #8. Something’s screwey today.

Posted on 09/21/2011 at 10:36 PM

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