My friend invited me to the tailgate, and I was a little nervous about only knowing one person there. Those fears were quickly shut down when the whole Krewe welcomed me with open arms and a shot of Mexican Candy, a peppery concoction with a spicy Louisiana flavor.

I'll admit, I resisted the whole college football craze as long as I could. I've always been fan of professional football, but college ball was never really my thing. But after moving to Baton Rouge nearly two years ago, I couldn't hold out any longer. So last season I hopped on the bandwagon, and my journey to fandom began.

This is only my second season following the Tigers and learning the big names on the field. I went to one company tailgate last season and learned a little about what the whole experience entails.

It wasn't until this Syracuse game this season, however, that I got my first real taste of tailgating and saw my first game in Tiger Stadium. If there was any hesitation left in me, it's certainly gone now.

I have to say, I finally see what all the hype is about. (As if I needed an excuse to start drinking at noon.)

I had the honor of tailgating with KOCKA Tailgating, which won Best Tailgate of LSU at the game. I can attest that KOCKA most definitely deserved the honor.

My friend invited me to the tailgate, and I was a little nervous about only knowing one person there. Those fears were quickly shut down when the whole Krewe welcomed me with open arms and a shot of Mexican Candy, a peppery concoction with a spicy Louisiana flavor. I was off to a great start, and somehow the experience just kept heating up.

Shortly after my welcome shot, I had my initiation on the 8-Man Funnel of Death, a beer funnel complete with an official countdown and mini-bottle of Jim Beam for the fastest chug. My first attempt was laughable, as I'm sure I ended up wearing more of the beer than actually drinking it. Turns out, there's a trick to it. When the "Certified Funnel Operator Rope Puller Upper" raises the funnel up, you go down. By my second try, I was victorious and claimed my prize from the official Jim Beam rep on site.

After I finished a couple rounds on the funnel, it was time for beer pong. Because what would a tailgate be without beer pong? I'm not skilled at the game at all, probably because of my total lack of hand-eye coordination. Really the only part I'm good at is drinking the beer when the other team scores, which happened a lot. My opponents, a team of Michigan natives known as the Damn Yankees, won not only that match but several more before it was all said and done. So at least I lost to a worthy opponent.

As if all that weren't enough, KOCKA even has an official tailgate DJ, Big B. He played all the hottest tracks and had people dancing and singing along all day. The whole event was like the biggest party you can imagine.

The most shocking thing to me about tailgating was the fact that it appears to be a family affair. There were plenty of kids there, who were also having the best time. Clearly they were not drinking the beer, but one little boy found a way to get involved with the beer pong by chasing the runaway ping pong balls. He even showed up some of the grownups on the dance floor, after teaching me the important lesson that "what happens at the tailgate, stays at the tailgate." (Unless you happen to be a reporter attending said tailgate.)

Then of course, there was the game. It's hard to believe that five hours of pre-gaming isn't even the main event. My very first live experience with the Purple and Gold, and we walked away with the W. Of course by the end of the first half I was an expert, cheering along with the band and screaming for some defense. Watching the game in person, even from the upper sections, doesn't come close to comparing to the at-home or sports bar experience of watching on a screen.

I thought I loved football before, but I know I love it now. I really couldn't have asked for a better induction into fandom. The Tigers definitely stole my heart in Death Valley.

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