Football is religion. For most of the country, football is a way of life, something that people eat and breathe daily. Places in the south like Starkville, Gainesville, and Fayetteville look forward to six Saturday’s every year, and this weekend, I found out how truly religious every fan in Arkansas is about their Hogs.
I’ve wanted to go to a SEC game for as long as I could remember. Seeing a game with 75,000+ fans all cheering for their lifelong team is something special to witness, so when I found out we were playing Arkansas to open our season in Fayetteville, I had to go. I planned the trip for eight of my friends, and after a month of waiting, we headed out of Cincinnati Friday morning before the game to head down south.
10 hours seems like a long time in a car (and it is), but having four guys to talk football, movies, fast food, or whatever comes to our minds, it goes by quicker than expected. A stop in St. Louis also broke the car ride up, and we had to try Sugarfire Smokehouse while we were there. I’ve always wanted to try barbecue from St. Louis, and I hate to admit it, but it lived up to the hype.
Three hours until we were set to arrive at our Airbnb, we stopped to get food, and when we tried to start our car, it wouldn’t budge. With rain drizzling down on us, we were stuck with no jumper cables in the middle of nowhere, Missouri. Luckily, someone stopped by us and asked if we needed help, so he went to the mechanic shop he worked at and got us jumper cables to start our car. I don’t know if I’d be writing this article right now because we would have been stranded if he didn’t stop to help us. He literally saved our trip, and if you’re reading this Tyler, thank you.
We arrived in Fayetteville around eight, got some food, then headed out to the bars on Dickson Street to check out the nightlife. While we were walking through the main strip, we continuously saw Bearcat fans all over and would get cheers of ‘Down the Drive’ and “Let’s go Bearcats!” It was like a bowl game atmosphere, and Bearcat fans definitely made their presence felt, which speaks to the dream of Fickell building a top 10 program. Good teams can travel in a season in which they’re good, but great programs travel every year, and that’s what I witnessed in Arkansas.
After a night at Sideway’s, it was finally time for game day. Before the game, we went to a fraternity house to tailgate, and their house was massive, unlike anything in Clifton. They had a rooftop patio too, and that’s where me and all my friends spent hanging out and mingling with the students at the University of Arkansas Razorbacks. Some people would come up to us and give us a hard time for being Cincinnati fans, but for the most part, the jabs were friendly even though they all thought the Hogs would win by 30.
Walking over to the stadium, our group filled the campus with UC chants that echoed through out the buildings. When we got to the stadium, the ticket lines were backed up for what looked like forever, but we found a line at the end of the stadium that was relatively quick. Our tickets were in the top section, but the stadium only offered elevators to get up, which had another crazy, long line, so we decided to just take the stairs. After we got to the top, we went to our seats, but after sitting there waiting for kickoff, we decided to take a break in the shade before the game started. Saying it was hot would be an understatement, especially with the reflections from the metal bleachers, but we were all willing to get through it in order to see our Bearcats play.
At the stadium, I was excited to hear the famous “Calling of the Hogs”. When the fans actually did it, I was underwhelmed as it was quiet, and all my friends and I agreed it was overrated for the hype surrounding it. The fans, however, were pretty nice during the whole game and welcoming of a team from Cincinnati, besides for a couple of fans that were taunting the UC section at the end of the game. All in all, the fans were very warm to us and it was a great showing for Cincinnati fans.
After the game, with morale low, we decided to eat and get out of the sun, so we stopped at Plomo’s on Dickson Street, and they had some great quesadillas that were much needed. Half of our group went back to the Airbnb to recharge their batteries while me and the other half went to Grub’s to watch the other football games going on and grab some drinks. After an hour or so at Grub’s, we walked up Dickson Street and ended back up at Sideway’s. Our group met up with some other Cincinnati fans, and while we were all still bummed out from the loss, we made the most out of our time in Fayetteville while we still could.
Looking back and writing about my first trip to an SEC game, I think it was good experience. While I wish the outcome of the game was different, it was still a fun college town and it’s always exciting experiencing new environments in college football. Arkansas fans were also warm and welcoming, which made the experience more enjoyable for everyone from Cincinnati. Fayetteville is a unique town, and while I don’t think I’ll be traveling back anytime soon, I know I made the right decision going down there to cheer on the Cincinnati Bearcats.