If you’ll recall, my husband is a huge Duke fan. He’s completely brainwashed our child now, too. (To recap: she thinks the Blue Devil is Santa’s best friend and helps bring Christmas presents. Therefore, she sends her Christmas lists to him and makes cookies for both Santa and the Blue Devil. Oh, and the North Carolina Tar Heel steals toys and hates Christmas and birthdays).
The brainwashing is so complete that the only she wanted for her 4th birthday last year was to go to “the Blue Devil’s house.” My husband was more than willing to grant that wish.
Her trip to Durham was a magical weekend filled with people who supported her love of all things Duke and cheered right along with her. This weekend, we decided to teach her what it’s like to be a real sports fan — we took her deep into enemy territory.
OK, enemy territory may be a bit too extreme of a description for our trip to Tallahassee for the Duke-Florida State football game. After all, it’s not like one of the top-rated teams in the country — and its rabid fan base — is concerned about a school that’s been, well, less than great on the football field for the past, oh, forever years (**puts fingers in ears as DadJovi starts to tell me all the reasons that statement is wrong**)
But this year is different for Duke football. This year, they’re already bowl eligible. DadJovi’s hopes were sky-high.
It’s about a 3 1/2-4 hour drive from Orlando to Tallahassee. Since the game wasn’t until 3:30 p.m., we decided to get up early Saturday morning and head up rather than going up on Friday.
The best part of the trip is that we planned it with our friends, who are huge FSU fans and have two kids. Their daughter, C. is only two weeks older than E. and the two girls have been besties since they were about 2 and this year, C. is in E’s preschool class. In fact, the two girls were together for E’s first-ever football game at UCF when they were just 2 years old.
We all met at our hotel in Tallahassee and thankfully our rooms were ready by noon! We quickly dumped our bags into our room, changed E. out of her gross, food-stained clothes (traveling with a preschooler is no clean feat), then all piled into their big SUV to head over to the game. We’d gone in together and bought a parking pass off of Craigslist and it was SO worth it. Look how close we were to the stadium!
The one thing I didn’t realize is that these days, there’s a uniform for football games — short shorts or a skirt and cowboy boots. I’ll keep that in mind next time.
The weather was PERFECT. Like, seriously perfect. It was in the mid- to upper 70s, slightly overcast so that the sun wasn’t too intense and there was a nice crisp breeze. I wanted to bottle that day and relive it forever and ever.
Speaking of bottles, I settled in with one and enjoyed the view and the day.
Ahhhh, life is good.
We spent a couple hours enjoying the beautiful weather with some yummy eats (mmm, KFC. It was the first time I’d had KFC in YEARS and dang, it was good … especially those biscuits) and some fun games.
Yes, E. is actually yelling “HUT HUT!” in that first picture. Sadly, this was the closest Duke-FSU matchup of the day.
DadJovi also made some new friends.
We headed in nice and early because we wanted to see all the pre-game pomp and circumstance. The girls lead the way.
Ahhh, I don’t care who’s playing. There’s nothing quite like a college game day.
I mean, c’mon. A man dressed as a Seminole Indian rides a horse onto the field, in full garb, then tosses his flaming spear into the center of the field. What’s not to love about that (well, besides the somewhat racial stereotype nature of the whole thing).
We also heard the first of about a million war chants of the day. E. was so confused by it.
Before things got crazy, we posed for one quick photo. Some of us posed better than others.
DadJovi claims he didn’t smile because he didn’t want to show weakness in a sea of garnet and gold. Oh, brother. And I made this vow on Facebook and I’ll make it here too — this will be the last time I wear a Duke shirt to a sporting event. Starting next year, both Syracuse and Duke will be in the ACC (sniff, sniff), so it just won’t feel right. It’s been a good run, Duke, but after this year, we’re going to have to part ways.
I have a feeling E’s not coming me with me. She was SO excited when she spotted her beloved Blue Devil down on the field that she wanted me to take a picture with her two Blue Devils — the one she carries and the one behind her.
Finally, it was kickoff, and all too quickly, things started going south for the Blue Devils. It was not a pretty game for Duke. I was bummed for DadJovi but with weather like that, it was hard to be too sad. It was THAT nice.
After the first quarter, I went off to find Michelle and her husband, Dan, because somehow they’d spotted me in the crowd and we were only three sections apart! I was easy to find — I was one of about 100 people (OK, mayve there were a few more) in a Duke blue shirt. Via text, I asked Michelle where they were sitting and she replies, “I’m sitting next to a girl in a yellow dress.” That narrowed it down … to about 13 girls in her section alone.
Finally I found them!
We hung out for a few minutes, and then I thought I should get back and help DadJovi out with E. so that he could focus on the game. I discovered that while I was gone, she’d suckered her Daddy into a treat.
Despite the score, E. was still proudly displaying her blue. It was funny to explain to her why people would yell “boo” at Duke (not that we really heard it that often — people were very friendly) or when they clapped when bad things happened to Duke. Thankfully, the child of two sports nuts is actually showing some interest in the game. She now knows how many points you get for a touchdown and point-after. She sort of understands the four-down system and field goals.
She definitely gets how scores work, which was proven by her constant complaints. “I can’t believe Duke STILL has zero points.” Thank God they scored when they did (their one and only touchdown) because I don’t think her father could have handled hearing the “zero points” whine another time.
After halftime, we went to get some food and rather than trudge all the way back up to our seats, we took Michelle up on her offer to occupy the two empty rows in front of her group. By this point, people were leaving in droves anyway. I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t want to stick around for a game where they were up by more than 30 points. Fair weather fans.
In the new seats, we were much closer to the Blue Devil. During a break in the game, I decided to head down to the fence and see if I could get the Blue Devil to come over and say hello to his biggest fan. He did that … and more.
He didn’t just come over to say hi. He’s throwing up hearts at E. Gee, do you think she was happy to be reunited with him again?
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again — the Blue Devil is good people. We’re now 2-2 with AMAZING experiences with the mascot. Yup, E. has fallen hook, line and sinker.
Otto, when E. FINALLY meets you, you have a lot of ground to make up.
We left in the fourth quarter, passing by the statue on fire on the way out.
Is that where they bury the old Renegades? Does the spear always burn? Or only on game days? These are important questions that I need answered, Seminole fans!
We headed back to our hotel, hitting a McDonald’s drive-thru on the way home for the kids. Oh, leave us alone. The four adults were exhausted and knew the McD’s drive-thru was a MUCH smarter idea than trying to take three overtired kids to a restaurant.
After hanging out for a little while, we headed back to our hotel room, where E. surprisingly went to bed without too much protest because she was so thrilled by the novelty of a pull-out sofa bed. She was even begging for us to get rid of her bed and get that instead. I know that’d wear off after two nights of a bar in the back.
The next morning, we got up early, took advantage of the hotel’s free breakfast (it was meh, but it was free), then drove around campus a little bit. I’m not sure if it’s because it was Homecoming week, but there were paintings and decorations like this all over the fraternity rows.
We even stumbled upon what I presumed to be a sorority photo shoot. It wasn’t even 8:30 a.m. yet. I’m guessing it was an academic or volunteer sorority. Otherwise, they must’ve still been drunk. #sororityprofiling
Between the streets lined with Spanish-moss covered live oaks and all of the brick buildings, it really is a beautiful campus. DadJovi and I talked about what a good job they’ve done of making the whole campus, even the newer sections seem “old.”
God, I miss college.
After a quick drive around campus, we hit the road for the trip home. We decided to take the “back way,” meandering down through Old Florida. We learned a few things:
— When you haven’t had coffee yet and you see a McDonald’s in Tallahassee on your way out of town, stop for coffee. There isn’t going to be a better, nevertheless another, option for at least 100 miles.
— Folks in North Florida are lumberjacks and proud of their tree-cutting ways.
— Confederate flags are perfectly acceptable flags to fly at sports complexes.
— Mud trucking is HUGE. I’m sure there’s an actual name for this sport, but we passed at least 70 mud-covered big-wheeled trucks all coming from some sort of mudding festival. It.was.awesome.
— The McDonald’s in Perry, Florida, makes the world’s best McDonald’s coffee. Seriously.
— There’s no way in hell Obama is winning North Florida. For every one Obama sign, we saw about 43 Romney signs.
— There are a lot of churches between Tallahassee and Ocala. A lot. Sometimes, you’d pass through a small town and there’d be five different churches (and two liquor stores) and no restaurants. If you like to pray and drink, this may be your kind of place.
Despite the final score (48-7), it was a great, great weekend. It was E’s first Duke football game, her first game at a major school’s stadium and her first time attending a game as part of the visiting team’s crew.
Yup, she lives a charmed life.
Do you remember the first big sporting event you attended? And when you travel, do you take the highways or the byways?