With another WSU home game just a couple days away, it got me to thinking about some of my favorite things surrounding game days in Pullman. Wandering campus, buying more hats and shirts I don’t need but must have at the Bookie, listening to the band wander Greek row Friday night playing for revelers of the Cougs.
Some things are unique to Washington State but one universal truth about pre-game traditions in college football is tailgating. From the Power Five conferences, all the way to Division Three, the smell of cooked meat, heart-healthy side dishes like potato salad, baked beans or (a personal favorite and yes, I know it’s nowhere to be found in these parts) collared greens, and cooler upon cooler filled with beer can be found on any college campus on Saturdays from September through November.
But beyond the food or the drinks, what really makes for a great tailgate, especially the first of the season, is the experience. Its been nine solid months since you pitched the pop-up tent, nearly a year since you shook hands and man-pat-on-the-back hugged alums and others who always park nearby. Sure, the ribs the guy a few tents over is smoking in what looks like an old ammonia drum from his Uncle Ray’s farm are good, but just being here is the best part.
Whenever I’m in Pullman, first on my to-do list is a walk of campus and Greek Row. There’s something special about the feel of it on a gameday in one of the most isolated locations in FBS football, especially as the season moves into fall. After that, it’s a stop at Valhalla and the Coug for at least one drink and, much to the chagrin of everyone I’m with, a Boone’s pass.
Finally, we make it over to the tailgate lots to find whatever friends have enough room in their cooler for me to plop down the beer I’ve just paid way too much for at Bob’s. Then comes my favorite tradition at tailgates: trying to throw a football around AND hold a full beer at the same time. An easy task for the seasoned drinker/tailgater but my coordination, which I would describe as being on par with a baby giraffe on ice, ensures half of my beverage will end up on my shirt.
For me, the experience of a college tailgate far surpasses any in the professional ranks. There’s a bond of a shared experience of attending and loving your alma mater that you just can’t get in SODO on a Sunday. Everything about Pullman on a Saturday before the Cougs take the field makes going to Pullman four or five times a year a much easier decision. It’s easy to get a yes out of me; even easier if we’re eating some kind of cooked pork.
So, that’s what I like to do in Pullman on Saturdays. What about you?