Posted on November 17, 2013
By PATRICK RILEY
TALLAHASSEE, Fla., – I was always of the opinion that, when you boil life down to its bare essentials, you end up with a grainy concoction of good and bad that we call memories. Really, all you have in life are memories – for better or for worse.
And so it was early in my freshman year at UM that I decided that I would one day drive up to Tallahassee when the Hurricanes take on their arch-rivals to do just that – make memories that would last a lifetime. For better or for worse.
Three and a half years later, I was granted that wish, a perfect storm of two unbeaten teams, finally relevant again, playing for more than just bragging rights. So I followed through with my freshman year promise to myself and documented what transpired.
3:18 p.m. And so it begins. My buddy Max, his roommate Chris and I cram into a 2004 Hyundai Elantra and make our way to campus to pick up my roommate and good friend from home, Andi. As we crawl down U.S. 1 Dan LeBatard, a local sports radio host and UM School of Communications graduate, reminds us how hopelessly overmatched Miami is and how the Seminoles will make short work of the Canes. “We’ll see,” I think to myself.
3:31 p.m. After a solid 13 minutes in the car, inching down the asphalt hell that is U.S. 1 on a weekday afternoon, it already seems to be an approximate 115 °F. The Miami weather is apparently oblivious to the fact that it’s November.
3:46 p.m. Max, a big proponent of the “let me continue to speed up even though the person before me is stopping just so I can slam the breaks shortly before I rearrange their bumper” school of driving, just gave somebody the finger as we continue to be stuck in traffic purgatory. Vegas set the over/under at 31 ½ for the trip. I’m taking the over.
3:50 p.m. Max honks and proclaims that his goal is to honk 100 times by the time we get there. What did I get myself into?
4:05 p.m. Second near-death experience courtesy of Max’s insane NY-style driving habits.
5 p.m. After coming to terms with the fact that this may be my last car ride anywhere I decide to take a refreshing 30-minute nap. Because that’s what you do on an eight-hour ride.
5:25 p.m. I flash the “U” at an FSU fan we’re passing. Clearly annoyed he gives me a sarcastic thumbs-up. Yup, we’re those guys.
5:56 p.m. A spirited Tallahassee discussion flares up. Max calls it a dump and Chris says “it’s not what you expect” which leaves me with more questions than answers. The result: We Google the population. It’s 186, 000 in case you wondered.
8:29 p.m. The last two hours featured me driving and an animated debate about whether “F**kin’ Problems” by A$AP Rocky featuring Drake, 2 Chainz & Kendrick Lamar is in the top 10 all-time best rap songs. I say no. Max says yes. So I proceed to introduce him to Mr. Shakur and “Hit ‘em up” claiming that that’s what rap should sound like and that it might even be No. 1. (We’re all whiter than white but that’s neither here nor there.)
8:34 p.m. Chris: “That’s a very angry song.” Damn right it is.
8:41 p.m. Enter our first Cracker Barrel experience, complete with the first disapproving looks by some FSU-clad customers.
8:42 p.m. Chris proclaims that he might eat breakfast the rest of the weekend. He may be on to something.
8:44 p.m. We all order breakfast.
9:13 p.m. The four of us proceed to roll out of Cracker Barrel and back into the Elantra.
9:24 p.m. Back on the road and the first gun shop billboard in sight. Florida – the more north you go, the more south it gets.
10:29 p.m. We see our first Tallahassee sign. These are the things you get excited about on an eight hour drive.
10:45 p.m. Torrential downpour and lightning. A storm is coming. That’s a good omen for tomorrow, right? I like to think so.
10:46 p.m. There is an 87 percent chance our car was just struck by lightning. This trip is starting to feel like Homer’s Odyssey.
10:50 p.m. Violent rain showers the likes I’ve never experienced engulf our car. Andi: “I can’t see anything.” Never something you want to hear the driver say.
12:14 a.m. Against the will of the gods, we do finally make it to Tallahassee and proceed to collapse on our Best Western beds while I try not to picture how many sweaty truckers have slept here before us. Goodnight world.
6:03 a.m. Waking at six in the morning is never fun. But it’s especially rough when the room temperature resembles Tundra-like conditions. (The question of how cold/warm the room should be is the root of 99 percent of roommate feuds.) Oh, the things you’ll do to go to ESPN’s GameDay.
6:07 a.m. Of four college kids in their early-20s, not one brought toothpaste. Talk about fueling the stereotype.
6:15 a.m. As we walk to breakfast, an FSU fan asks us if we’re suicidal. We’re dressed head to toe in orange and green. Might as well be.
7:03 a.m. We arrive at GameDay. There is no feeling like walking through enemy territory in the pitch black and then being surrounded by a sea of garnet and gold. It’s a mixture of chest-puffing defiance and sheer terror.
7:28 a.m. Somebody brought a huge Fordham flag. I have so many questions.
7:34 a.m. Chris is set on staying until the very end of GameDay. (More than four hours from now, mind you.) I tell him that we’ll see how he feels two hours from now.
8 a.m. One sign reads “Hey U students this is what a student I.D. looks like” and has a picture of a FSU I.D. underneath. Huh!?
8:42 a.m. Lots of country music. I mean A LOT.
8:47 a.m. A solid hour of hearing the chop and we’re already close to blowing our brains out.
9 a.m. Here. We. Go. GameDay finally starts.
9:10 a.m. Chris is making us very unpopular with the locals with repeated digs at FSU. We may get killed today.
9:15 a.m. After two plus hours of waiting and 15 minutes of actual broadcast, we’ve had enough of GameDay. We decide to instead explore the campus.
9:27 a.m. I urge everyone who decides to attend an away game to venture into the home team’s souvenir shop. Customers and employees alike stared at us like we were the zombies from “The Walking Dead.” It’s quite an experience. Bonus points for asking where the UM section is.
9:43 a.m. Chris is hammered. I am not quite sure how it happened but this should be good.
10:26 a.m. Chick-fil-A. Ten bucks for four meals. Andi is in heaven.
10:36 a.m. We’re talking exit strategies a.k.a. departure times for tomorrow. Chris claims he is the best “waker-upper-driver” ever. I didn’t know that was a thing, but he’s got my vote.
10:45 a.m. Buying beer at Target turns into a 10-minute discussion of whether a cold Key Stone Light 12-pack is better than a 24-pack of warm PBR for the same price. We get both.
11:05 a.m. Our next stop: a sports bar called BJ’s. As an opposing fan in a college town like Tallahassee, you really feel like the main attraction wherever you go. Everyone has a comment. Everyone feels the need to give you his or her two cents – both good and bad. And all of it is awesome.
11:07 a.m. Went with the Piranha Pale Ale. Best choice I’ve made so far today.
11:32 a.m. “Sugar Magnolia” by the Grateful Dead just came on. This may be my favorite sports bar ever.
12:46 p.m. We’re two beers in and feel like we’ve been up for 10+ hours. Time for a pre-tailgate nap. Take notes future Canes.
3:30 p.m. After a much-needed nap we make our way to the stadium. Let the games begin!
4:10 p.m. We’re tailgating on top of a parking garage. Welcome to Tallahassee, ladies and gentlemen!
6:03 p.m. The last two hours featured some fierce games of cornhole, delicious shish kebabs, and smooth tequila shots. All courtesy of Virgil, a UM alum from the 1980s, who took us in like lost puppies and once again proved that it’s a Canes family, not a nation.
7:26 p.m. After navigating through hordes of FSU fans both inside and outside the stadium, we arrive at our seats. One look around me almost takes my breath away. This is unreal. I can’t believe I’m here.
8:12 p.m. I’m not going to lie; it’s pretty intimidating to see a whole stadium do the war chop. I can only imagine the butterflies the players must feel.
8:30 p.m. FSU’s first touchdown. It’s like letting air out of a balloon. My fellow Canes and I are deflated.
8:39 p.m. Have you ever stood next to a Boeing 747 when it takes off? Me neither. But that’s how loud it is.
8:56 p.m. Allen Hurns catches a beautifully thrown Stephen Morris pass for a touchdown. 7-7. Pure bliss. Voice gone.
9:14 p.m. A surefire Duke Johnson touchdown is whistled dead. These are the kind of calls that can cost you a game.
9:47 p.m. The Canes score again to cut the deficit to 21-14. Halftime. Believe.
10:39 p.m. FSU 35 – Miami 14. So much for believing. At this point I think my hands have attached themselves to my hips. Total disbelief. Not just because of the score, but because I forgot how much this can hurt.
10:53 p.m. It’s the start of the fourth quarter, the Canes are down by 21 and yet, I can’t stop thinking about some miracle happening.
10:59 p.m. Morris throws a pick. I feel empty. My face is now buried in my hands.
11:02 p.m. I’m sitting down for the first time. It’s the unofficial white flag.
11:08 p.m. As the Canes are hopelessly overmatched (Damn you LeBatard!) and trail the Seminoles by 24 points, Max goes: “We’re going to beat them in the ACC championship.” The endless optimist.
11:14 p.m. We left. I never leave games early, but this was too much. I have yet to see Miami beat Florida State in my time at UM. I am 0 for 4 lifetime. The thought alone makes me sick. But there is no time for sulking. Not yet. First we have to take on the walk of shame back to our car – head down, no one speaking a word. We’re not even retaliating as FSU fans taunt us. We are broken.
12:02 a.m. We get back to the hotel. I sink down on the couch, close my eyes and try to sooth my pounding headache. Maybe even forget this ever happened.
9:18 a.m. “Rise and shine,” Max and Chris drone. For a second everything is alright. Then I remember what happened the night before. Ugh.
9:24 a.m. Max tells me that Duke Johnson is out for the season with a broken ankle. Sometimes the sports gods think it’s funny to kick you when you’re down.
9:40 a.m. We’re back on the road again. Good riddance Tallahassee.
11:52 a.m. After surviving two hours of Chris’ maniacal driving, we arrive at what appears to be the busiest Cracker Barrel in the continental U.S.
12:18 p.m. We call an audible and have Max and Chris’ friend Vishnu show us the UF campus. Max decides to “Tebow” in front of his statue. I decide not to talk to him for a week.
12:52 p.m. We make our way to Ker’s Winghouse for our first meal of the day. As we walk in we’re greeted by a scantily clad blond and soon thereafter realize that it’s basically a Hooters without the owls. Well then.
1:03 p.m. Andi was just so enchanted by the drop-dead gorgeous waitress that it took him a solid five seconds to decide whether he wanted more water. It goes without saying that the clientele of this place is mostly male.
1:45 p.m. We’re now back on the road and ready to fall into a deep food coma after devouring a smorgasbord of chicken and BBQ.
6:26 p.m. After some napping, a few driving substitutions and some liberal interpretations of the speed limits, we finally find ourselves back in Miami. As I set foot into my own home for the first time in over 48 hours, the pain of the loss has still not completely left my body. But it is slowly being replaced by a new feeling, a revitalizing, invigorating feeling that one can best equate with hope. Maybe Max is right. Maybe we’ll have our revenge in the ACC championship game. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced. After all, I can’t go 0 for 5. I just can’t.