Nov. 19, 2012
A fall Saturday and a Bearcat football tailgate
By David Boyce
Two hours before Northwest Missouri State football team started its 2012 NCAA Division II playoff journey Saturday afternoon, I literally got a taste of Bearcat family hospitality.
Vinnie Vaccaro, one of the most enthusiastic Northwest alums, invited me to join his group of equally supportive fans for their gathering just west of the football stadium.
While the biscuits and gravy and rolls were tasty and awesome, the conversations I had with loyal followers of Northwest was even better.
The conversation I had with Bruce Thiessen was particularly enjoyable and reminded me again why football Saturday afternoon at Northwest has become so special for so many people.
I first met Thiessen when I covered Washington High School in Kansas City, Kan., for the Kansas City Star. Thiessen was the principal who cared about the students. He promoted college education and brought students to Northwest for football games during his time as an administrator.
He wanted to introduce the college atmosphere to teenagers who might never have considered a college education as an option.
I haven’t seen Thiessen in almost a decade. It was great to catch-up with him and let him know what I was doing and what he is doing.
As I was walking back to the press box to prepare for the game, I realized this kind of camaraderie takes place at the many tailgate stations near Bearcat Stadium.
Former players, alums, players’ families and residents of Maryville gather and enjoy each other’s company. They talk about the game, about family and so many other things that just put a smile on your face before the first kickoff.
Through the years, tailgating has grown. During the infancy of success that former coach Mel Tjeerdsma brought, there was very little tailgating. In fact, it was very easy to get a parking spot an hour before the game in the lot that is designated for tailgating. That’s no longer possible.
Each tailgating group probably has a Vinnie Vaccaro. Vaccaro is the type of alum that every school needs. Whether the football team wins or loses, Vaccaro promotes the positive aspects of Northwest.
Vaccaro went out of his way to introduce me to as many Northwest fans as possible and still made others who he talked to feel as if they were the most important person in the world.
Northwest fans who haven’t wandered over to the tailgating area before a football game should give it a try next season. You are bound to meet somebody you know, and if you don’t, within minutes you will feel like a longtime member of that group.
Ultimately, the Northwest football players have built this great area. Their classy way of playing football and conducting themselves made it easy for so many people to give up a Saturday morning and afternoon to watch them play.
For more information, please contact:
Media Relations Department, Northwest Athletics
firstname.lastname@example.org | 660.562.1118 | Fax: 660.562.1582
Lamkin Activity Center | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468