By: Stacy Thompson
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
There’ll be much mistltoeing
And hearts will be glowing
When loved ones are near
It’s the most wonderful time
Yes the most wonderful time
Oh the most wonderful time
Of the year
Eddie Pola and George Wylie (as sung by Andy Williams) had it right, with the exception of one word — remove the “mistloeing” and insert “football-tailgating” and it is clearly the perfect song. Yes, friends, it is Christmas in September, that Most Wonderful Time of the Year — Football Season!!!
Since my family moved to South Carolina (when I was a mere 6 years old) we spent our fall Saturdays together in the shadows of Williams-Brice Stadium or in front of the TV with only the Garnet and Black on our minds. Winter and Spring was spent cheering on basketball or baseball, but once August hit, we looked forward to two things — school supplies (who doesn’t love a brand new box of Crayolas or brightly colored Mead folders?) and football season. With the exception of a big guy named George in ’80 and the glorious ’84 season (can we pretend the Navy game never happened?), maybe our team hadn’t had too much to crow about, but that didn’t stop us from turning each Saturday into an event and an opportunity to come together.
Tailgating evolved through the years, as did our family. The early years were marked by dirt-laden tracks in the State Fairgrounds parking lot. (Seriously, we had to hold our breath and cover Mom’s succulent deviled eggs every time a car went by!) As the years passed, dedication to our team landed us in a prime paved spot in the shadows of the Willy-B — so close my brother could launch a football into the upper-deck concourse and we could make the most of game-day access to actual restrooms. (Yes…major score. Are Port-o-Johns ever tolerable???) Later we moseyed into the big-time with cable access, electrical boxes and the most gorgeous vista one could have! (Yes, that’s me, laying on my parking spot.)
Our new tailgate homes are beyond amazing, but the highlights, as always, are the camaraderie and opportunities gather together. Carolina Park may be the ultimate draw for fans, but look around and you’ll see families and friends savoring time together and experiences shared, even when our team isn’t victorious. (OK, I’ll admit, my ‘experiences shared’ may at times include me moping around and giving a stink-eye those in the vicinity if my team loses. Give me a break, I’m ultra-competitive and take these things personally!)
I loved and still love every single second of the football games on the field, but treasure even more the before and after. To me, Fall means spending time with friends and family while making the most of the season. Regardless of the team you support (or if you could care less about sports!) cherish the time you have when your loved ones are near! Each and every season can be that Most Wonderful Time of the Year — you simply have to find the joy in it.
I’ll finish by sharing two of my favorite tailgate munchies — one passed down from my mom and the other a gem I discovered a few years ago.
- 2 large tomatoes, chopped
- 3 or 4 green onions (1 bunch), chopped
- 2 small cans black olives, chopped
- 1 small can green chilies (jalapeños)
- 2 bell peppers, chopped (can be mild or hot)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 tablespoon vinegar
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon hot peppers
- Mix well, chill, and serve with tortilla chips.
Slap yo mommas (Not condoning any actual violence, but using the colloquialism — these are just so darn good, you’ll want to….)
- 1 sleeve Club crackers
- 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
- 1 pound thinly sliced bacon
- (You can substitute a teaspoon of brown sugar or pimiento cheese for the Parmesan)
- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
- Lay the crackers face up on a large rack over a baking sheet (or broiler pan).
- Scoop about 1 teaspoon of the grated Parmesan (or brown sugar or pimiento cheese) onto each cracker.
- Cut the package of bacon in half and wrap each cheese-covered cracker with one half piece of bacon.
- Place the bacon-wrapped crackers onto the rack. Place the baking sheet in the oven for about 2 hours.
- Serve immediately or at room temperature!