This is the first in my series of Throwback Thursday posts – things I’ve done in the past year but haven’t blogged about til now. All subsequent throwback posts will begin the same way, with the #tbt header.
In the fall, W- asked if I wanted to go to the Battle at Bristol with him on September 10th, which also just so happened to be the very next day. For anyone who doesn’t follow college football, the University of Tennessee Knoxville and Virginia Tech University decided to play a game halfway between the two schools at the Bristol Motor Speedway, temporarily converting the NASCAR venue into the largest college football game ever played. W- graduated from UT and is a Massive fan. I attended UT for one year before transferring, but somehow never went to a single sporting event. So this sounded like a ton of fun, plus a once in a lifetime opportunity.
As an extra bonus ESPN’s College Game Day program was broadcasting from the Battle at Bristol. We got there at 10am, missing the first hour of College Game Day, but still catching the last two hours. The people watching was epic, the signs people brought were hilarious, and the atmosphere was intoxicating. There were definitely a few people who had started drinking very early that morning, or maybe they never stopped drinking the night before, including the man in front of us who kept randomly yelling “Win for Harambe!” Randomly enough, I actually managed to run into someone I knew, a girl who works at my aunt’s store. I mean, I knew the odds would be good that I would know someone attending the game, but what are the odds that in a crowd of 156,990 people that I would manage to run into one of them??
After College Game Day was over we still had 4 hours before stadium gates opened and we could go inside, so we spent the time walking around the stadium, eating, drinking, and checking out all of the vendors. The walk around the stadium was actually surprisingly hilly, so we did take the free tram periodically to get around. After all, we didn’t want to be completely exhausted by the time the game started. Sadly since this trip was planned so last-minute, we didn’t make tailgating plans, which might have helped the boredom that set in around hour three. There was also zero shade around the speedway, so we both got burned to a crisp. At one point we lingered inside the speedway gift shop just to get out of the sun and into the air conditioning for a bit.
Despite the gates opening at 4pm, W- and I didn’t go inside immediately because he insisted I needed to see the Vol Walk. Never having gone to a UT game or cared really at all about college football, I had no idea what he was talking about. Turns out a Vol Walk is somewhat like a parade route. The football players and coaches get off the buses and then walk through a massive throng of fans to the stadium (or speedway, in this case), while the band plays Rocky Top and everyone sings along and cheers at the top of their lungs. Instead of being crushed by the throng, W- and I managed to scramble up a very steep embankment with a few other daring souls to get a bird’s-eye view of the festivities.
Finally entering the speedway was exhilarating. The newly constructed football field was in the middle of the track with giant tv screens larger than my entire apartment hanging above the field so no-one could possibly miss any of the action. Even though the location was supposed to be a halfway point for both teams, the majority of the crowd was decked out in the distinctive UT orange, and their enthusiasm was infectious. The only downside to the entire game wasn’t actually football related – the staff manning the concessions was used to a racing crowd and not to a football game, which entails being slammed in between quarters and at halftime instead of a slow trickle throughout. They also ran out of water and alcohol by halftime, which left many people, including us, disgruntled and drinking warmish Pepsi.
Overall it was a great once in a lifetime experience. Would I go again if they decided to do a Battle at Bristol 2? Probably not, but that’s because I’ve been there, done that now, and better prepared concession people is not enough of a draw for a repeat performance. But at the same time, I’m happy W- and I went in the first place.