Relocated Lot J fans have new neighbors at Missouri football tailgate

Monday, September 1, 2014 | 7:52 p.m. CDT
Chuck Link and his tailgating crew enjoy pregame festivities Saturday before Missouri's opener against South Dakota State. For Link, who played football for Missouri from 1971 to 1973, and some of his friends, Saturday was their first time in Lot I.

COLUMBIA — Tom Petty said it best: "You don't have to live like a refugee."

On Saturday before Missouri's opener against South Dakota State, Danny Grant — a "Lot J refugee," in his words — tailgated for the first time in his new spot: Lot I. Grant and his longtime friend — and former Missouri Tiger — Chuck Link had to move to Lot I because of the revised parking allotment plan that the Missouri athletics department announced Aug. 11.

While Grant and Link said they'd heard grumbling from other Lot J refugees about having to relocate, the duo was not fazed. In their minds, changing lots didn't dampen the mood.

Lot I is on the south side of Memorial Stadium, between the stadium and Mizzou Arena. Lot J, meanwhile, is on the east side of the stadium.

Grant, 51, is a longtime Tiger tailgater. Before the 2014 season, he'd spent 20 years tailgating in Lot J. Prior to that, he'd spent eight years in the parking lot next to the Missouri softball stadium.

"There's a lot of people upset (about being relocated from Lot J)," Grant said. "But change occurs. It was a great run, but now we're in the SEC. If you really love Missouri football, you have to make it happen."

On Aug. 11, the Missouri athletics department announced that a record number of parking requests meant that 450 donors' requests for spots could not be filled. Moreover, the athletics department said that "many others will not get in the lot that they had requested."

Like Grant, Link wasn't bothered by this year's parking changes.

"We're talking about 100 yards here," Link said, pointing in the direction of Lot J, where he used to tailgate.

And Link, 62, knows a thing or two about yardage. The former Tiger had quite the game in the 1972 Fiesta Bowl, setting Missouri bowl game records for receiving yards (80) and longest reception (48 yards). Those records stood until 2005 and 2006, respectively, when they were broken by Chase Coffman and Danario Alexander.

Link, who prefers to watch Missouri games on TV from the parking lot, said that where he parked his television was less important than the people gathered around it.

"Tailgating's about the people," Link said. "Our legacy is not where we are — it's who we have with us."

Link and Grant met in 2000 on a rainy game day that washed out the tailgating scene. They bonded over a keg stand, a drinking game where someone is held in a handstand over a beer keg and drinks from the tap. For Link, then 48, it was his first attempt — performed in one of the University Hospital parking lots. He managed 12 to 15 seconds, he said.

Since that day, the two have been a tailgating tandem.

If you visit their tailgate, you might see Link passing out pieces of his highly regarded tenderloin. He marinates the steak with a special blend of seasoning — Tiger Spice, as he calls it. While he's not keen on sharing his recipe, he's happy to let you try a bite.

And he's always looking to meet new people — like his new Lot I neighbor Jason Allen, 35, owner of Tiger 911, a refurbished ambulance turned mobile entertainment center.

Allen said Saturday's tailgating scene was slow at first and some folks were confused about their new parking assignments. But the pace picked up closer to game time, he said.

"I'm looking to make new friends," Allen said.

He was happy to welcome new folks to the lot — folks like Lot J refugees Grant and Link.

Supervising editor is Mark Selig.

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