When Worlds Collide (in a Parking Lot)

Each week, contributor and new parent Joey will post his thoughts as he undergoes the transformation from fanboy to father.

Last week in this space, I shared with you my own personal enlightenment upon tearing down my man-cave. This entire transition from Delirium to Dad has its perks, too. One of which is coming to fruition this very weekend.

I’ve become somewhat of a Tailgate freak. Go ahead and make your jokes about there being no tailgating at Carolina football games, tailgating in a parking deck, etc. Trust me, I’ve heard them all. I’ve also personally disproved all of those stereotypes over the last seven or eight years.

Sometime after graduation, like most folks who regularly attend games at Kenan Stadium, I found myself looking for a new pre-game routine.  Since I no longer lived with college roommates near campus, the days of killing beers on the deck up until 20 minutes before kickoff were gone.  I got lucky enough to have some buddies who were friends with some Rams Club members who parked their RV in the Smith Lot.  Eventually, I learned enough from them to start setting up our own tailgate in the same lot.  I’ve gotten as detailed with it as to sending out a listserv notice for RSVP’s the Monday prior to a home game, and a follow-up email with the Menu on Thursdays.  I enjoy the production:  We’ve cooked everything from 20 racks of ribs to smoked turkey legs, made-to-order omelets to a chicken wing bar. We’ve got multiple tents/tables/decor, etc., and we’ve got the setup and breakdown down to a science.  At our peak, we had 52 folks tailgating with us one day last season, and the group just kind of happened…it was grown organically by friends bringing friends and the like, and there are folks in our group that I only see for those six or seven days during the fall.  To us, tailgating is a big deal.

The point is, organizing and hosting our tailgate parties has become one of the things I enjoy most in the world. I enjoy the family atmosphere, and honestly, there’s just something awesome about cooking outdoors for a bunch of people. It probably gets me the closest to finding my xi as anything I do.  As a matter of fact, one of my biggest frustrations with the timing of Butch Davis’s firing was the idea that putting a damper on football threatened those six or seven fall Saturdays that had become so close to my heart.  Yet I digress…

Thus, you can imagine my personal struggle with the coming football season, knowing that tailgating as I knew it may no longer exist due to my obligations as a dad.  Remember, I only got six or at most, seven days a year to experience this.  I was at a real personal crossroads:  giving up something I really loved seemed imminent, and if you’ve ever sacrificed doing something you love, you know it’s never easy.  That is, unless you’re sacrificing it for the dimpled beauty I get to lift out of her bassinet every morning.

The Rutgers game came, and for the first time in about six years, I wasn’t hosting a tailgate.  I have to admit, it was weird.  I missed it.  It pained me to answer questions/emails about what the menu was going to be for the weekend.  The Virginia game came, and went…same thing.  (Luckily, my angel of a wife gave me a pass to at least go to the games.)  I did sneak off to Greenville last week, sans family, to experience what the Pirates had to offer, but I wasn’t hosting a tailgate.

This weekend brings a huge match-up to Chapel Hill  Two entities are on a collision course at breakneck speeds, and will square off on Saturday.  This weekend, worlds will collide; my worlds.  You see, Saturday we’ll get to take my 11-week old daughter to her first tailgate and subsequent Carolina game.

The wife has already designed an outfit worthy of a Carter’s Collegiate-Wear Magazine Spread. I’m giddy. I want my baby to smell bacon/egg/cheese biscuits cooking in the fall air. I want her to be amazed at all the colorful flags flapping in the breeze. I want to see her eyes light up the first time she hears a marching band. I want to do the appropriate number shoulder presses with her above my head every time Carolina scores (and I’m pretty sure that idea will get shot down in the same amount of time it took me to type it).

In reality, she’ll probably fall into a drooling sleep on the walk up to Kenan, and will stay that way until she wakes up to eat. But in my mind, she’ll be dreaming of exactly what is happening all around her, and loving every minute of her first tailgate and college football Saturday. In fact, she’ll love it so much that she never wants to miss a single home game until she graduates from Carolina in 2032. Hey, a dad can dream, can’t he?

That’s where I am with fatherhood; I’m getting used to “me” stuff becoming “we” stuff. I’m still jacked for Saturday, but this time, I may have replaced a few beers in the cooler with baby bottles.

Tailgate grillin'

Tailgate Grilling

About Joey

While I cannot say lifelong (thanks, Dad), I am a long-time Tar Heel fan, '01 UNC grad, and consider myself just as passionate and knowledgable as the next guy. My wife, also a UNC alum, and I recently became first-time parents. I'm going to attempt to chronicle my personal struggle to come to grips with going from mouth-breathing Fanboy to only-somewhat-crazy Fan-Dad. The thoughts I share in this space are my own...though they may be heavily influenced by a lack of sleep.
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