By now we have all been to it, experienced it, heard of it, and seen it. The Grove. The legendary “plot” that spans 10 acres and is home to college football’s tailgating royalty. Win or lose. Its reputation is as synonymous with fried chicken, Bud Light and bourbon as John Daly getting things set up for a morning on the range.
If you are/were a student, you have surely been through the trials and tribulations that is waking up for an 11 a.m. game five hours before kickoff in order to get your food prepped and your cooler packed. You’ve probably also experienced it as a visitor and/or graduate from out of town and you have had to deal with the unrelenting traffic that seems to form out of thin air every fall Saturday in Oxford. And, sadly, if you have done either of the above, you have also experienced what it’s like to play host and to hate those who are not as prepared as you are.
The “Holy Grail” is a place where families and friends come together to enjoy fellowship and football. But, when those individuals come ill-prepared, it can quickly transition from a fun Saturday in the fall to something worse than not having the right color scantron the morning of a final exam in Biology 104.
Yes, I am talking about the 10 worst people you meet in The Grove. You know them. I know them. And they’re the worst. But, let’s meet them anyways shall we?
O Chair, Where Art Thou?
This one is quite common and is one of the more annoying. You have a perfectly quaint set-up: chairs for everyone, two tables, television, Amazon Fire TV Stick, a couple coolers filled to the brim with beverages. Then, you have a few outsiders who join you every week, which is fine, but they bring their own tools of the trade because they either don’t stay the night in Oxford, are coming from a farther than normal distance from out of town, etc.
But, when they arrive, they have a brown paper sack with brown alcohol in one hand and a cell phone in the other, frustrated by the shitty service that is forcing all their iMessages to be sent as text messages. And that’s it. No chair. This will inevitably end up being a rat race of sorts when you are bopping around playing host as tent owner and then you want to grab a seat to eat, drink, enjoy yourself, because ya know, it is YOUR tent. But, then there they are, “no chair person,” laid back, lounging with a red cup in one hand and a full plate of food.
Next thing you know, it’s 45 minutes to kickoff and you still haven’t eaten anything. Now, you must scarf down a chicken tender or two and some queso before you shove a pint of Evan Williams into a confined space and walk over to The Vaught. Don’t be the person who doesn’t bring a chair to The Grove. It only infuriates those who did and makes you look like an idiot.
Now if you do bring a chair, hell yeah, we’re off to a great start, fam. But, let’s talk about table manners once you are in the tent. If you are a guest of someone and have been asked to join them as they eat, drink and be merry before a SEC football game, great, you have moved up in the world. Eating and drinking with friends is great. But, you CAN take it too far.
Look, we are all adults here (DISCLAIMER: underage drinking is not condoned at The Cup, please do not do it) and have been brought up to act like it and not eat like an animal who has been starved for several weeks. But, when alcohol is mixed in with conversation, humidity and adrenaline, people can quickly lose sight of who they truly are and think they’re in a closet eating alone.
You definitely don’t want to be that person who is walking to the game with mustard all down the front of their brand new Brooks Brothers dress shirt or you have Chick-fil-A sauce on that red skirt you got on sale at Anthropologie. Practice the exercise “eat like everyone is watching”.
The Grove is a crowded place. There are thousands of people of all walks of life. You know a lot of them from your time as a student, or they’re a neighbor or you know them through family and friendships. Give or take the time of kickoff, you have anywhere between 3-12 hours of Grove time to enjoy and meet/convene with all these fine people. So, you could say time is of the essence.
But, one person you do not want to be in all this chaotic mess is the “re-filler.” The “hey let me top off this whiskey drink and say hey to my mom’s friend from back home and I’ll be right back” dude. You know who I’m talking about, that person who says “I'm gonna run over to this other tent, say hey to Amy Catherine and her friend from last night brb”. And then there’s the “do you have any vodka? No, ok, well I’m just gonna grab a Jell-O shot and say hey to Walker and his friend John David but I promise I will be right back”.
And they’re never heard from again. Until the next home game in two weeks and then the cycle repeats. Again, don’t.
[holding finger in ear to block out sound of The Pride of the South]
You: “HEY WHERE ARE YOU?!”
Friend: “HEY, I CAN’T REMEMBER WHERE YOUR TENT IS COME MEET ME AT THE UNION BY THE TRASH CAN, THE RED ONE, AND THEN WALK ME THERE, I SHOULD’VE ASKED LAST NIGHT BUT I FOR—SK YOU W—AND NO—” [call ends]
Please, have a plan before gameday. And know where you’re going. For the sake of us all. Please.
The Early Riser
Punctuality is a necessity for The Grove. It is a must if you’re going to beat traffic, unload your vehicle, get things set up just like your significant other wants them, relax and enjoy a few cocktails before the real madness starts and hanging with friends and family. With that said, there is always one friend who promises that they will not only be there early, but they will beat YOU there. Yes, you, the person who orchestrates this grand event eight Saturdays out of the year. And time after time, they always fall short.
You wait and wait and wait, but they never beat you there. They never help unload and/or set up. And they certainly are not there in time to visit with said family and friends. Their entrances are either one or the other. It is either a simple stroll into the tent, where they act like nothing is out of the ordinary and when you confront them jokingly on where they have been, they dismiss and say “no, I don’t remember saying that, I was like four or five Fireball shots deep at that point”. Or it is one of panic and hellacious fashion, literally and figuratively. They stumble into the tent, all disheveled-looking and still reeking of alcohol and pizza sticks from the night before.
Pay it forward, y’all. If you say you’re going to be there, be there.
Out for the Count Early
On the flip side of “The Early Riser” is the one who does in fact make it on time and helps set up and what not. Then, it’s night-night. Sure, you deserve a Maker’s on the rocks, or a vodka water with a lemon AND a lime. You worked hard hauling those tables and chairs in one trip. You even brought a table cloth. Go you! Then, the bottom falls out.
You get dibs on food first since you were part of the “crew,” then you hit the bar, maybe a four finger pour instead of a two. Maybe, you forget the mixer a few rounds. Soon, you’re slouched in a Grove chair, shirt untucked, one shoe missing and mumbling about how you don’t understand why Bret Bielema continues to win and that he should maybe get a shot at Ole Miss. No, no, no and no. Do not be this person. Pace yourself, hydrate, make sure to get some food in you, but do not miss the band playing and also the first half because you came out of the gates too hard.
Friend of a Friend of a Friend Who is Hammered
I mentioned that The Grove has been dubbed the “Holy Grail” by many sports writers and personalities throughout the country. So people who are not familiar want to come visit. Or, opposing teams’ fans who make the trip to The Velvet Ditch want to see what it’s all about. This is great. That is what makes the Grove so special. Welcoming in new friends, telling stories, explaining the quirks and traditions of it and passing those memories along to them so they can share with their friends and families.
Now, keep in mind, that is all in theory. You DO NOT want to bring the friend in from out of town/opposing fan base who tends to wear their emotions on their sleeve. And by that I mean with their vomit after they drink all your Kentucky Tavern AND Svedka before noon. This only upsets the flow of the tent and the Grove experience for everyone, newcomer or not. It’s just bad form and could potentially get you black balled from future home games. And that’s something you definitely do not want.
The Greek Tragedy
The fraternity and sorority scene is huge at Ole Miss, just like any other school in the Southeastern Conference. Hell, I was a part of it during my time at Ole Miss. It’s a blast and a great way to meet new people and network and all that other cliché bullshit. One thing that the several Greek organizations on campus unfortunately do not cover a lot of the time, is how to behave in the Grove and not look a total ass.
This is a unique one on our list because of the degrees of severity it entails. First, you have the pledge who is in a navy sport coat, tie and khakis, freshly pressed and ready for kickoff. But, by the time that ball is teed up, they are as sloppy as they come. Piss drunk from too many whiskey-cokes and not enough water. They never eat enough food if they even attempted to and probably don’t make it in the game.
Then there is the young lady who is so excited to make it to her first Ole Miss game, wearing her brand new dress from Miss Behavin and a pair of six-inch heels they have never walked in before in their life. By halftime, they’re wasted, on the ground, crying and rubbing their feet because they are battered, blistered and bruised. It’s one thing to be a sloppy drunk. And it’s another to be tragically drunk and looking awful doing it.
Our last but certainly not least of those you encounter in the Grove is none other than the raccoon himself. That individual who brings a Chick-fil-A party platter and extra sauce, but when the game has concluded and you make it back to the tent, that chicken connoisseur has grabbed the remaining platter nuggets and has headed to the house.
Then you have the friend who comes to the tent with promises of liquid treats. Now, they deliver with that promise, whether it be a six pack of some nice Oregon craft beer or a brand spanking new bottle of Four Roses (because you’re obvi bout that #yalllifestyle) that you want everyone to try because it really grew on you the last several months and it’s going to be your drink of choice this fall.
Everyone enjoys their treats, you go to the game, have a blast, then when you come back, you quickly grab those three remaining beers or the bottle with just enough left to keep your drunk going before you hit the Square and you bolt for the proverbial exit without saying goodbye. Sure, it’s yours and you brought it, but daggum it’s tacky. Don’t be a cheapskate. And let’s be honest, whether Ole Miss won or lost, you probably need to polish off that case or that bourbon with your friends anyways.
I love the Grove and Ole Miss just as much as you do. It has been an integral part of my life as a professional seeking higher education and as a human in the south growing up and loving college football. So in order to protect the integrity of our precious Grove and all it encompasses, exercise caution and avoid being any of the above. It’s not a good look and no one wants to be labeled as the “shit here they come” person in your respective tent.