Rushed by my boyfriend and friends from the MBA, last Saturday I ended up at Sunlife Stadium in
, FL. “What’s going on?”, I asked. “The Canes vs. The Noles” they replied. My boyfriend, who is desperately trying to brief me on American matters including football, told me our University’s team -the Miami Hurricanes- were playing against one of their biggest rivals: the Florida State University Seminoles. Miami Gardens
When we arrived at the stadium thousands of cars were parked outside. “What is this?” I asked. “This is tailgating”, they replied. Tailgating… tailgating… I’m trying to figure out this word on my own…like a tail on a gate? Like a gate on a tail? What is this jungle of cars, hot dogs, college students, beach chairs, TVs, beers, stuffed animals, plastic cups and plates, beer pong games, potato chips, music, tents, burgers, flags, ketchup, footballs, aluminum foil, bottle openers, grills and coolers? Seconds after one of my friends proceeded to present a formal definition for tailgating: “a tailgate party is a social event held on and around the open tailgate of a vehicle and it involves consuming beverages and grilling food”. “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”. It sounded and looked weird to me but we kept walking as we entered the venue.
Inside the stadium people were walking in all directions. Rivers of mostly college students but also moms and dads and children too. They were all wearing orange or green or white UM T-shirts, the colors of which represent the fruit, leaves and blossoms of
trees. Occasionally I saw some red wine color and gold FSU T-shirts. Later on I learned it's called garnet, which means dark red or crimson combined with purple. We had to find our seats before kickoff –that’s when the game starts. Pipi break first, then beer in one hand, ticket in the other, we went looking for our seats right in the middle of student section. Florida was prevalent as the students decided in advance which color to wear. The stadium is huge. On the football field a guy with a duck costume jumps up and down. “It's Sebastian, the Ibis, our mascot” someone said when they noticed my "is-it-Halloween-yet?" face. Since I should probably know more about my school’s mascot, I googled it. The Ibis is a symbol of knowledge and it is also the last sign of wildlife to take shelter before a hurricane and the first to reappear after the storm. Beautiful, what a great idea for a mascot, I thought. Orange
The game started. My troubled expression said everything. My boyfriend tried to describe what was going on. An intensive lesson in Cantonese would have been clearer than his futile efforts to explain the game’s rules. After a while, I managed to follow the ball flipping between 22 guys wearing helmets, and huge shoulder pads. Ball flies and falls and players land on top of each other like a 10-layer club sandwich with extra butts, arms and legs. It’s all part of a rough game filled with testosterone, despite the flashy skin-tight pants. The game still manages to be a show with music, the fan-cam, cheerleaders and band appearances during half time.
Nonetheless, I had fun at the stadium. I learned to sing against the Noles, I ate cotton candy and took funny pictures of a guy sitting above the student section who looked just like Bernie Madoff. “Give me my money back!!!” I yelled at him while leaving. Although I will always be faithful to my beloved futbol –or soccer-, I’m planning on buying a book about American football and returning to the stadium because…… it’s all about the U!