(This story was published in 2005).
By: Todd Heustess
(Editor's note: College football writer Todd Heustess will make tailgate pilgrimages to at least five college football games this season and write about his experiences. He would love to be joined by other Outsports readers. His trips are sponsored by Be Gay Tours.)
When you're watching Longhorns football games in Austin on TV, you don’t realize that Darrell K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium is right by Interstate 35 and in fact much of the stadium is at the level of the freeway or below it.
It sits at the eastern edge of the huge University of Texas campus adjacent to the I-35. Sitting in the upper deck of the stadium this past Saturday watching Texas dismantle Colorado, 42-17, was a bit disorientating because I was nearly at eye level of the freeway and whenever I stood up it felt like I was going to fall 10,000 feet straight down because the west upper deck is so steep. Still, to look out to the south and west of the stadium and see downtown Austin, the capital, and the sprawling UT campus on a glorious near-fall afternoon of high clouds, sunshine and 80° weather was a special college football experience.
The game itself was not that exciting as Texas took control early and completely overwhelmed the Buffs. Vince Young was sensational, completing 25 of 29 passes (to seven different receivers) for 366 yards, while running for another 58. He scored five touchdowns, three rushing, two passing. Why isn’t he getting more Heisman consideration? In my opinion Texas looked better than all the other unbeatens. We’ll see what happens.
While the game lacked for excitement, the tailgating scene in Austin before and after the game did not. My friend, Mauricio Freitas, a soccer player from Brazil visiting me for the week, was treated to his first ever American football game. Prior to the game we had been in contact with a number of Outsports readers who were all gay Texas Exes.
The gay Texas Exes set up a tailgate just southwest of the stadium at 18th and Brazos. They told me to look for the RV with an orange tent and a rainbow Bevo flag. (Bevo is the name of the Texas mascot, a real Texas longhorn steer).
We arrived shortly before Noon (game time was 2:30) and tailgating at the gay Texas Exes party was in full swing and throughout the rest of campus. The rainbow Bevo flag was flying proudly at the gay Texas Exes spot when Mauricio and I met up with Michael O’Dwyer, a Longhorn fan from Dallas who was originally from Ireland.
Michael left Ireland in 1990 to work for American Airlines in Dallas and went to his first college football game in 1992 when he saw Texas play Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl and from then on, he was hooked. Many of his friends were UT grads and he became an UT all-sports fan over time, though his special passion is football. He loves the camaraderie and fun that the group has at the six to seven home games in Austin each year.
Most of the guys we met in the group were Texas alums, Outsports readers and avid football fans. What struck me was that their group of 40-plus guys was tailgating out and proud in the middle of campus and no one cared or made an issue of it. They were one of thousands such groups of friends and colleagues gathered around the UT campus. Most of the friends and family who wandered over were straight, and they blended right in to the party.
Just a couple of tents down, was Kurt Zeitler, another Outsports reader and UT alum from the ‘70s. Kurt grew up in Houston, played high school football on a couple of state championship teams, and now resides just outside of Austin. Kurt loves all sports and even tailgates for UT baseball games. At Kurt’s tent the crowd was mixed and just as welcoming.
Mauricio was fascinated and enthralled by the American tradition of tailgating before the games. He said, “In Brazil we are crazy during the game (soccer) and sometimes after the game but never before the game.”
As we walked between the “gay” tailgates and around the campus, Mauricio was amazed that everyone arrives so early, that there was so much food, and that everyone was so comfortable offering complete strangers food. He said that for him the tailgating was the best part, that all the drinking, socializing, eating and partying before the game created much excitement and expectations, so much so that the game itself was a little bit of a letdown.
He said all the pre-game energy that was created before the game was lost because there was no drama during the game. Luckily, the tailgate scene continued long after the game was over. Everyone seemed to want to make a whole day and night of it and from there many left to go to the downtown Austin bars. It was strictly an alums day for me as we didn’t stumble upon any hot frat boys. I guess that I’ll need to go back to check out that scene, but in the meantime, Austin is definitely a tailgate favorite.