While I hated the outcome of the game itself, I thoroughly enjoyed the reduced gameday experience. How about you? Come to our message board and share your experience, whether you watched from Doak Campbell or from your man cave or pool deck.
I arrived at the stadium at 12:45 p.m., encountering no traffic along the way, easily found parking and took a walk around the stadium looking for friends along the way. I ran into a half a dozen people I know before the game, exchanged excitement to be at the stadium, and then headed toward my gate.
The wifi was extremely strong with so few fans competing for it, so the Zoom call I was on with Seminole friends came through with solid video and sound.
Two ticket scalpers were outside my gate, so I asked how much they wanted for a ticket and what they’d give me for the one I couldn’t find anyone to use. Both told me business was very slow. One offered me $10 for my extra ticket. Both were asking $250 for Dunlap Champions Club tickets but neither had sold one yet.
There was still an hour to go, more with the rain delay, and they were clinging to hope in one hand and a fistful of tickets in the other.
There was no one at the gate when I arrived and check-in was effortless. No temperature checks.
Since my wife has an auto-immune condition, she needed to stay home this season rather than use our seats in the Dunlap Champions Club. So for the purpose of this story, this week, I chose to come to the game by myself (actually no one wanted to come with me) and sit in the stadium seating and use my University Center Club membership for libations.
I had a great time.
Full disclosure: I’m not one who comes to the game hunting a party. I get all the party I want on Friday night before the game, or at a Happy Hour any other night of the week. I go to the game to watch football, so I thoroughly enjoyed being able to watch the game without all the fanfare.
If that sounds strange coming from a guy who spent 19 years trying to create Hoopla on gameday, it should. When I was with Seminole Boosters we worked every day with the athletics department to create a football weekend experience — tailgates, block parties, Marching Chief Scull Sessions, Sod Talk — all of which had to be scrapped for the 2020 season because of you know what.
While there were no tailgate parties, Seminole fans were still able to go to College Town where merchants arranged tables and chairs to accommodate pregame and postgame revelry. The Dunlap Champions Club was open for club seat holders and the University Center Club was open for members. So there were options.
I chose the University Center Club for my pregame meal and in-game food and beverages and enjoyed it immensely.
I spent most of the game on the third-floor patio, right behind the Marching Chiefs, where there were very few people. I prefer the end-zone view because I like to see plays develop. I like to see what the QB sees. I think you can see things from the end zone you simply can’t see from the 50 or from the television. Plus, it is nice to have that giant scoreboard on the far end to give you a tighter view of the play right after it happens.
I like that spot too, I must say, because there’s a really nice UCC restroom right inside the glass doors leading from the patio to the UCC Ballroom, where a really nice array of all-you-care-to-eat snacks await with a full service bar.
As the game broke bad, I avoided the temptation to make frequent trips to the bar to dull the pain of the game, instead consoling myself with a lavish array of comfort foods. My go-to pregame meal includes the hot dog with mustard, onions and pickles. Didn’t see any jalapenos or kraut, which may have been Covid-related as everything was pre-packaged but delish. Washed the dog down with a draft Bud Light and found my way to the fried chicken strips and an unusual bean salsa.
The first quarter was fun. We looked like a football team. The rain delay came just as my second draft dried up, so we made a pre-emptive stop at the men’s room, on the way to the bar for a refresh. Beer in hand, I swung by the food line and grabbed a box of popcorn, without having to come within six feet of anybody in the restroom, beer line or popcorn stand, all of which had plexiglass protectors.
Ran into Dennis Deckerhoff — Gene’s son — and his wife, Josalyn. Enjoyed some convo, a bite and a beer before hunkering back down as the action resumed. Still no one within six feet of me on the patio — other than the Deckerhoffs — so I felt perfectly safe with no fear of contracting anything I didn’t want to bring home to my wife.
Man that last sentence used to have a totally different meaning, if you know what I mean.
The Marching Chiefs were playing. You could hear the crowd doing the Warchant. All was good in my seemingly safe cocoon.
While Doak wasn’t in full voice — like you’ve heard at a Florida State Florida game — it was a damn sight louder than anything I’ve heard while sheltering in place.
We lost a few of the fans during the rain delay but for the most part Seminole fans came back into the stadium, wiped the rain off their chairback seats, and settled in for what would become forgettable football.
Ran into Orlando friends Jeremy Moore and Brad Rice and their families at halftime, when things were still good, and we shared another meal together and, you guessed it, another cold one. This time I hit the shrimp bar, grabbed a bag of candy from the candy bar for the kids but swiped the Reese’s cups for Brad and myself.
As Brad said: ”We fell on the hand grenades to save the kids.”
Back to the game. The storms had passed but one dark cloud remained, hovering over the Seminole bench, as Georgia Tech applied the pressure with a touchdown that cut the lead to 13-7. A cold breeze raised goose pimples on my forearm. Was it a breeze or the breath of ghosts from chokes in Doak past?
There’s no question these players, even with new coaches, have a propensity to expect bad things to happen. You can see it in their eyes when the big scoreboard focuses on the sidelines. Within a couple of minutes, Tech scored again, ostensibly to take a 14-13 lead, but another low-altitude kick saved the day for the moment. With a television timeout, I headed for a no longer pre-emptive strike in the men’s room. Thankfully, no one was between me and the porcelain once again. Rather than selecting a pain killer at the bar, I made a big-boy decision and opted to find comfort at the ice cream box.
A calorie is a calorie, right?
Nothing was going to help as the GT defensive end sprinted around FSU’s backup right tackle with the same quickness I had exhibited on my last trip to the John, and splattered James Blackman. Not surprisingly, a bad play turned into a disaster. The ball squirted out and a Yellow Jacket lineman picked it up and lumbered well into field-goal range before a lumbering lineman dressed in all garnet knocked him out of bounds.
It wasn’t pretty.
After three low-altitude kicks had been blocked, the GT kicker finally got his instep on the lower part of the ball, causing it to rise above FSU’s jumping linemen and directly between the uprights on my end of the stadium.
The kick is good … and the bar is closed.
With plenty of time on the clock, there was more frustration in store but let’s not relive the details.
The clock struck zero. The loss was in the books. And it was time to go home. As I headed to the exit, there was mercifully no crowd to contend with, no one complaining about the loss. Heck, there was no crowd to speak of, just a steady stream of stunned Seminoles, speechlessly sauntering to their cars and on to their homes.
I thought about making a stop at 51 on Madison — the Boosters’ venue in College Town — before heading home. Maybe I would have if the Seminoles had won or if I didn’t have a wife to protect. Instead, I pulled right out of my lot, followed the officer’s directions, and was home lickety split
OK, enough about my experience at Doak Cambell Stadium, would you take a moment to tell us about your game day experience on our message board? Ignoring whatever that mess was down on Bobby Bowden Field, please tell us about how you spent opening day for Florida State football.