It seemed like everyone and their mother came to College Station last weekend for the big game against ‘Bama. Thousands upon thousands of fans (and non-fans) invaded Aggieland to attend what they believed was going to be the college football party of the year. And it was.
If you were one of those who braved the masses to tailgate or go to the game, then you witnessed one of the biggest events in Texas A&M history. If you weren’t, then you missed out on something truly historic. If the latter was you, then allow me to give you a little photographical insight into how Gameday went, both as a sports reporter and as a member of the 12th Man.
My first stop was at the Zone 1150 broadcast tent near the Former Student Association Center. Louie and the gang were doing their usual thing, shooting the “good bull” and chatting about the up-coming match-up. Hard to believe they get paid to do this.
Next, I took a nice little stroll down Houston Street. And by stroll, I mean I pushed, poked and prodded my way through a mass of maroon and white. Tailgates and people surrounded me on all sides. To the right, Spence Park, where white tent tops and banners stretched as far as the eye could see, and to the left, Lot 48, where tailgaters had set up shop on the sidewalk.
After managing to awkwardly rub up against only a few dozen people, I made the turn around the ruins of what used to be G. Rollie White and headed through the MSC to Simpson Drill Field, where I came upon this.
Keep in mind, this was 9 O’clock in the morning, more than 5.5 hours away from kick-off. Many in the crowd had camped out all night in hopes of getting caught on the ESPN Gameday camera.
Once I got my super-duper secret ESPN credentials, I snuck back stage (which is really front stage) to the camera perch in front of the Gameday set. I had gotten to stand in that spot for last year’s game against Florida, but this time it felt different, probably because of the magnitude of the game. Watching Corso, Fowler, Herbstreit and Howard haggle over the picks for the day is something great to witness in person.
Even better were the Gameday signs. I saw everything from “Nick Saban listens to Nickelback,” to a lovely picture of Paul Finebaum dressed as a clown.
Gameday wrapped up around 11, and then I trudged across the field to our hospitality tent on Joe Routt behind The Zone. On the way, I ran into some flamboyant Aggie and Tide fans; some attractive...
...and some not so attractive.
By the time I got to the tent, it was a bustling city, with street teamers and employees running around, making sure all the guests had refreshments and food; especially Congressman Bill Flores.
In the midst of it all, I still somehow managed to call in to the West Virginia Radio Network for a couple of pre-game updates. Even though the game didn’t start for another 2.5 hours, there were still plenty of things to talk about. I could tell just by the tone of their voices that the folks in West Virginia were jealous of my seat at the game, especially since tickets were going for the cost of a house payment.
After milling around the tent and snapping a few pictures, it was time for me to make my way to the press box. Kevin O’Connor, a.k.a. “Boss Hogg”, and I walked over to the alumni side of the stadium where the elevators were waiting take us up. As we made the turn, I saw the line and stopped me dead in my tracks. It snaked all the way down the sidewalk, almost to the gate, and men and women stood crowded together, melting in the sweltering heat. Luckily, the working press gets a few privileges at the game, and we were able to sneak up to the front of the line. I could feel the eyes burning into the back of my head, but luckily, the crowd’s average age was around 72, so all I had to worry about was a stray cane wacking me in the calf.
Once we got into the press box, I started to set up my stuff. Lap-top; stat sheet; everything was in place. I tried to contain my excitement, because you’re supposed to be “strictly professional” when working the game, but it was difficult to do.
A few minutes passed and then the band started cranking up the Aggie War Hymn. Now, one thing I had heard of, but never actually experienced before this season, was the top level of Kyle Field moving when we “saw varsity’s horns off”. I’ve been to plenty of games, both as a student and on the alumni side, but I’ve always been moving with the crowd, so I’ve never been able to feel the effects of it while sitting still. Needless to say, if you’re not expecting it, it’s something that would make you soil your shorts.
The starting line-ups were announced, the players made their way onto the field and we were ready to start. I tried to contain myself throughout the game, but I might have let a few cheers and groans slip out. Thankfully, we were allowed to go down to the field for the last 6 minutes of the game, and I was finally able to yell.
The rest, as you know, is history, but the game and the time leading up to it was something very special for me and every Aggie. If you weren’t able to make it, I hope this helped you get a little bit of the feel of last Saturday. Granted, the experience of actually being there could never be duplicated in writing.
Return to: Zach Taylor Blog