Great SEC Weekend Ends With a Bang

All we wanted was a couple of free hotel rooms and a chance to mingle and put faces to the names of fellow Gator Country folks. When Franz Beard came up with the idea to have a Gator Country hotel in Atlanta for the SEC Championship, the thought was to get a good deal on a nice hotel and if we sold enough rooms we could cover our room price for us reporting the game.

Just 30 rooms would be enough. Well, you guys know how to make us look good…

Just a couple of weeks before the game Franz set out to find a great deal and he did. The Crown Plaza was a very nice hotel and the $69 a night really made for a deal no one could pass up. As a matter of fact, the 30 rooms turned into 75 rooms before the end of the week. By the start of game week the list was already over 100 rooms and counting.

That is when I stepped in and decided Gator Country needed to really have a get together. We thought about a restaurant, but I thought if we made it convenient enough and had it at the hotel, more people would come by and have a good time. So, we made the plan to have a get together at the hotel and after a little haggling back and forth with the hotel management, we were able to come up with a solution that was affordable for everyone to get in the door and have a party.

That Tuesday I started ordering food from a Publix I found with a search engine that was the closest to the hotel. We ordered 12 deli trays of food, over 300 sodas and water, and I would add chips and cookies when I got there. We had a big variety along with a cash bar so everyone would be happy.

Then all hell broke lose… When we arrived in Atlanta on Thursday, we found out that our piddly goal of 30 rooms became 230 rooms and climbing! I had to add way more more food. Yeah, that’s how I think.

Then the next issue: the Publix I ordered all the deli trays from was seven miles away. When I asked at the front desk for directions, I found out there was a brand new Publix just across the street from the hotel. I certainly wasn’t making this any easier.

As most of you remember I posted a thread asking how many would be coming to the party and got a good response. So, it was full steam ahead. I will be damned if I wasn’t going to have enough sustenance for everyone that walked in the door and that meant six more trays of food, more sodas, and add on some more chips and cookies.

Friday rolled around and with the party that night I was sweating all the specifics. A 50 dollar cab ride to the original Publix meant I could check in and pay for it all. Luckily the night before I got it arranged for the manager at the Publix to deliver the trays to the other store right across the street from the hotel. I paid the over 800 dollar bill at that store and finished my taxi rip-off drive back to the Crown Plaza.

I went to the new Publix and ordered the extra food and got a few other preparations. One problem, when I used my credit card again, the CC company locked up my card because they thought someone was riding all over Atlanta spending money. Why the heck someone would steal a card and buy tons of deli food is beyond me, but o.k. they were looking out for me.

A few hours rolled by and finally it was time to start setting up for the get together. Mark McLeod and I made a quick trip across the street and grabbed the chips and a few other things. Then we took the hotel van and the van driver helped us haul the 18 deli trays and 500 bottles and cans of soda back to the hotel and into the party room. A couple of Gator Country patrons also helped us set up. The line started forming before eight so I headed up to get the front door necessities.

We considered the party a huge success and hope everyone had a good time as well. Franz spoke a bunch on the stage, McLeod got up there and spoke a bit, I did my turn about recruiting, and even the shy Ray (Solari) made an appearance on stage and said hello to everyone. Before the night was over, nearly two hundred of you guys wandered in the door and we learned a lot about you guys as you did us.

I was right about the food, you guys can eat. However, I won and there was plenty left at the end of the night. I can remember calling my wife that afternoon and telling her about everything and all I remember her saying was, “Quit buying food.” Luckily I took her advice.

On the record, you guys put away a tray and a half of sliced roast beef, a large tray plus some of turkey, and the same for ham. You guys ate four large trays of chicken wings. The two cheese trays were hit pretty hard as well as three fruit trays. But, I am calling every one of your mommas—we had two and half veggie trays out of three left. Tisk, tisk. Meanwhile, the cookies went down fast.

The cash bar was hopping all night. Yes, you boys and girls can drink too. The bartender was seeing dollar signs and was a happy man by the end of the night.

This led to a good atmosphere and lots of Gator love. Next time we will have a little music handy for the dead spots (we actually brought music, but it turned out the Gator Songs CD Ray bought was all rap music), but I think most enjoyed the company of fellow Gators. The success of the party was more than I could have hoped for.

Then it was game day. It started out much like the last few days. I woke up late and eventually headed down to go to lunch. On our way out of the parking lot we ran into some Gator students. Let me amend that—we literally ran into some students. Franz was backing his car up and some Gator students, who were parked at the front door only seconds before we started backing out, decided to move their car right behind Franz’s and just to his left when backing. They stopped to read a map to know where they were going.

The thumbnail sized scratch on the rental car worried the kid driving since it was dad’s money. I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same thing, but it was annoying that the cops had to be called for such a minor thing. The silly thing was, we told him it was probably his fault and would be better off not calling. He did anyway. So, we waited a good bit for the police to arrive and fill out a report and to tell Franz to leave because it wasn’t his fault. We finally got to lunch.

We had a good laugh about the life lesson learned there and preceded to a restaurant where we had the world’s slowest waitress. That was okay though, we weren’t in a great hurry. We ate, came back to the hotel and headed to the game.

I don’t have to tell you guys about the game, you know all of that stuff. But afterwards I got some cool video from the field which I will share with you now. I think it captures the moment and the little bit of angst that goes along with knowing there just may have been a shot at the national title earned that night.

The next day I rode most of the way back to Gainesville with Franz. For those of you familiar with E-ticket rides, I would recommend a cruise in the BeardMobile. On our trip home we got word that the coaches’ poll was out and that the Gators had a commanding lead on Michigan. The goose-bumps started coming on hard. I switched to Ray’s vehicle around Valdosta, Georgia so Franz could head over to Tallahassee for the basketball game.

Ray has a Sidekick cell phone that has an always-on internet connection and we started getting news about more polls and more goose bumps. It was on that drive that we got word that the Gators were good as in at the BCS Championship game. I said on the field the previous night that I thought the Gators had done it and it started becoming a reality while we were driving.

That night the media was called to the press box to report the announcement for the big game. There was no way they were calling the media there to have a negative outcome. Still, no one really knew until they announced it on television. At the end of the video presentation, you can see the celebration. It was definitely one heck of a weekend and one we were certainly glad to share with you guys.