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Mason Tailgate: Pig Snouts and Water Pong

One of three pie-eating heats.

When Will Thomas made a free throw to move Mason into a tie with UNC Wilmington in the final six seconds tonight, the sold-out Patriot Dome got very, very loud. When T.J. Carter then drove the length of the floor to hit a game-winning layup at the buzzer, it got very, very quiet. It was Mason's first home loss of the season.

That's my game summary; the rest of this is just about tailgating.

At first glance, the parking lots outside the Pat Dome had everything you might expect from a sunny mid-afternoon basketball homecoming tailgate. There were pie-eating contests and couples lip syncing to Boyz II Men, Mr. Mason contestants wearing kilts and fraternity-sponsored DJ's sending out their love to the female thong, beer-pong tables and young men guzzling boxed Franzia wine, cheerleaders asking George Mason trivia questions and cars painted with the latest in CAA smack ("Beat the poo poo out of UNCW").

Love it.

And, of course, there were the foam hands with the index and pinky fingers extended, which were given away in honor of this year's homecoming theme: Mason Rocks. I just had to beat fight off some kids to claim one of these prizes.

What was missing from the tailgate? Well, the mechanical bull, for one thing. Also, I'm told that beer pong is traditionally played with beer, but maybe that's a 20th century thing.

Brief back story, which I'm retelling for the benefit of my editor. After Mason turned its winter homecoming into a non-BYOB event last winter, hundreds revolted, taking their party off-campus to a mall parking lot, an event that drew hundreds and sucked much of the life out of the university's event. The Fairfax Social Club, that alumni group that in tailgates past had been responsible for beer pong games inside Ryder trucks, giant racing tricycles and remote-controlled NASCAR races, led that defection.

Better than tossing a football around, that's for sure.

But for the first time this winter, the university got an ABC license for homecoming, and the Fairfax Social Club came back, promising, among other things a mechanical bull. That got shelved by the university, due to risk management concerns, as did a request to bring back the giant racing tricycles, developments that made several FSC members quite sad, consumed by the feeling that their school was finding another way to diminish the fun.

The FSC still erected a stand-alone basketball rim--sponsored by the all-powerful Brion's Grille--and held shooting contests yesterday, and there were still hundreds of pounds of grilled animals and thousands of fans enjoying about as nice a mid-February tailgating day as you could imagine. There were also plenty of hosannas to the new, post-Final Four George Mason, the George Mason that can sell out two consecutive home games for the first time in school history.

But there were also those who missed the bucking of that mechanical bull, those who wished for a slightly different security-to-revelry ratio, those who wondered why the beer pong cups had to be filled with water and cola. One group took a sign announcing an absolute prohibition on drinking games and planted it in the middle of a beer pong table; the game was shut down in a matter of minutes, but dang if it didn't make for a nice photo-op.

"This tailgate represents Mason well; it's a lot of people trying to have a good time and being held down by the man," said junior Alli Coates. "They're trying to keep it always clean and fun, but this is college, and they can't wrap their heads around that."

The FSC's members framed their concerns in a slightly different manner. Now in their mid-'30s, several of the group's members have started families; others have children on the way. They no longer attend tailgates primarily for liquid-based reasons, but rather to attempt to top their previous stunts, to continue turning this Patriot homecoming into an event.

"We created this from scratch, and we tried to do something bigger and bigger every year, because we don't have 40 years of history to draw upon," said Greg Brown, one of the group's leaders, who chalked up any hurt feelings to "growing pains" but was nonetheless highly disappointed about the nixed events.

I have one of these and you probably don't.

And yesterday's event, they said, might have been their last.

"It's the Danny Glover thing--we're getting too old for this," said Mike McNutt, another FSC organizer. "It's not just showing up. We want to show up and bring it to the next level, not just have a DJ playing "I Love Rock 'N Roll,' " as the frat's DJ played "I Love Rock 'N Roll."

(As for concerns that they were bringing risk to the event, "hell, we're 35 years old, if we wanted to go get drunk somewhere the last place we'd go to do it is at a college campus with cops walking all around," McNutt said. "There's a bar across the street. So who's abusing alcohol? Who's always abusing alcohol at college campuses? Not the 35-year-old alumni who've just spent two hours putting up a basketball hoop.")

Anyhow, the younger generation has been busy creating its own traditions. One fraternity roasts a pig every homecoming and takes photos of its members kissing the blackened pig on the snout; another provided two of the three pie-eating winners yesterday.

"I still smell pudding in my nostrils," pointed out Mike Daversa, one of those Pi Kappa Alpha guys, as he attempted to expunge the dining-hall produced cream pie from his nose. "My girlfriend called me an idiot for doing it, but she won't be complaining now that we got a free dinner out of it."

Anyhow, far be it for me to tell anyone how to celebrate, but here's one view: sure, the tailgate was slightly sanitized, and we all missed the bull terribly, and there were no blow-you-out-of-the-asphalt moments, but as you walked out past the trio lip-syncing "Barbie Girl," past the pig kissers and the Tony Skinn jerseys, past former Patriots guard Tim Burns and past the Fairfax Social Club members posing for group photos by their basketball rim they had spent over an hour erecting and that they would later donate to kids, you couldn't help but think that this homecoming was a lot better than no homecoming at all.

"A typical basketball game, I'm one of four people drinking outside; this is 100 times the size of a normal tailgate," said senior Will Curley, as the kilted guy walked past us. "Plus you've got a homecoming court guy in a kilt. That says a lot right there."

Pig kisser.

By Dan Steinberg  |  February 16, 2008; 8:59 PM ET
Categories:  College Basketball  
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Next: Syracuse Storms the Court


we may suck at basketball but we can have some very fine dry tailgates thank you very much

Posted by: masonnnnnn | February 17, 2008 5:12 AM | Report abuse

I had a damn good time with my super big gulp of yuengling and pocket full of jager! I do wish the cops and campus would lighten up though.

Posted by: GMUDuckman | February 17, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Mike Daversa is a god among men, and his girlfriend should never express her feelings pie eating disgust... I don't think you should take her to that dinner you won Mike... i think you should get 2 for yourself

Posted by: Anonymous | February 17, 2008 1:47 PM | Report abuse

That is me in the picture with the pig at the end. I am also very single and very gay if anyone wants to know.

Posted by: Sean Bouchard | February 17, 2008 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Why do I get hungrier when you refer to it as "grilled animals?"

Posted by: | February 17, 2008 2:41 PM | Report abuse


This has nothing to do with this post, but because the link with your e-mail address above is not working I had to post here. I found a video of an English Soccer player doing the "I can't feel my face". 2 minutes and 16 seconds in-

Posted by: Mark | February 17, 2008 5:31 PM | Report abuse

"I just had to beat off some kids to claim one of these prizes."

Wow....just wow. Must have been cooler than the pic made it look.

Posted by: foam fingered | February 18, 2008 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Dan, thanks for coming out and covering the tailgate. I think you got it right!

Posted by: Zone Manager | February 18, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse

What? We couldn't play half-decent defense for ONE MORE STINKIN' POSESSION?!? Ugh. That loss hurts.

Posted by: Arlington Pimp | February 19, 2008 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Dang, sorry: "POSSESSION." (Typing in all caps quickly and "Submit"-ting too quickly is ill-advised, people.)

Posted by: Arlington Pimp | February 19, 2008 4:32 PM | Report abuse

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