October 24, 2008
Tennessee has no reason to be optimistic about beating Alabama Saturday, but one thing in Knoxville will never change: they don't care how tired you are of "Rocky Top." Lifelong Vol partisan Holly Anderson filed her weekly tailgating guide en route to the Third Saturday showdown to get you up on your floating parties, Power Ts and Jack Daniels, of course.
If you're headed to this game, and you were born into the Vols (are we cousins? Probably!) or Crimson Tide (it happens in the best of families), you probably don't need much in the way of direction. Like me, you've probably grown up grinding your teeth to powder in anticipation of Third-ish Saturday in October, remember being pulled out of school early on Friday afternoons to begin the drive to the away games, and hardened your hide as a young teenager in the wilds of the opposing student section against the bitter invective and airplane bottles hurtling past your head.
For the uninitiated, be of good cheer: Everything's gonna be just fine. The goodwill stops at the stadium gates, but Tennessee fans are legendarily hospitable to strangers, even if you're rocking the crimson. The hallmark of a Knoxville gameday experience is the Vol Navy, a floating tailgate that puts those suckers up in Seattle to shame. Neyland Stadium is situated on the banks of the Tennessee River, and every home Saturday an armada of boats bedecked in orange and white descends to form college football's most perfect union. There's never enough dock space for everyone, so the boats just tie off to one another, and to get to your buddies' setup halfway to the opposite bank you're going to have to cross strangers' decks. Do not be alarmed or timid. Everyone's used to this. These natives will be friendly, armed to the gills with booze and flatscreen televisions, and very happy to meet you.
Parking warning: The lots on campus are nigh-impossible to navigate and most fill up with wealthy donors' RVs on, say, Thursday night. Venture uphill into Fort Sanders, a historic neighborhood home to most of Tennessee's student population, and pay some college kid twenty bucks for a spot on their lawn (The Fort is also where you'll find the rest of the tailgating landlubbers). By the time you hike back up postgame, you'll be sober enough to drive and traffic will be marginally less horrific.
What to Wear
Bring your boat shoes! Many captains are fussy about dress shoes marking up their decks, so come prepared or resign yourself to hopping barefoot from boat to boat. And be ready for an atmosphere in Neyland that's unfriendlier than usual -- as of Thursday night they're calling for temperatures to top out in the low 60s, and there's a distinct possibility of rain. Beyond that, the dress code in Knoxville is come as you are--you'll see full-length fur coats, rhinestoned ballcaps, and shirtless frat boys in checkerboard overalls.
• For beer: Downtown Grill & Brewery, Gay Street. Yes, they brew their own beer. Yes, this establishment is located in Knoxville, Tennessee. No, these two statements are not contradictory. It's tasty stuff.
• For pizza and beer: Barley's in the Old City. Outstanding lineup of brews on tap and calzones to die for.
• For delicious meats in all forms, and beer: Calhoun's on the River, at Volunteer Landing. There are multiple locations of this legendary rib establishment in Knoxville, but this one's a mere hop, skip, and a stumble from the Vol Navy.
• For beer: Preservation Pub, Market Square. It's got a bit of a Widespread Panic/patchouli vibe on any other night, but home games tend to normalize the crowd a bit.
• For cocktails: Sapphire, Gay Street. They mix a genuine Dark & Stormy here, with Gosling rum as the Lord intended, which as far as I know can be found nowhere else in Knoxville.
• For Sunday brunch: Sunspot on the Strip. Be prepared to wait in line, and be prepared for it to be absolutely worth it.
Where You Will Tragically Not Be Stopping
It's been ten years, and the loss of the original Sam & Andy's is still keenly felt.
What to Drink
It's a night game, now, so pace yourselves, but you can't go wrong with Tennessee's favorite son Jack Daniels. And with a full day of partying before kickoff, you're bound to blow through your stash, so if you find yourselves running low just stop by our tailgate and say hello. We'll be happy to share. Otherwise, look for me in the stands. I'll be the one
in orange they're not taking alive.
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Holly is a Tennessee-born writer and digital film editor based in Los Angeles, associate editor of Every Day Should Be Saturday, and 1/15 of the PtF coven. She welcomes your adulation and scorn at nastinchka-at-yahoo-dot-com.