Fans make first-time visits to Missouri football game

Saturday, September 15, 2007 | 4:28 p.m. CDT; updated 10:55 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA - With his wife and children in tow, Robert Ridgeway took in his first game as a spectator at Faurot Field on Saturday.

Despite being a longtime football fan, Ridgeway, a member of the United States Marine Corps, along with his wife Sandra and their sons, took in the festivities outside of Memorial Stadium before heading to their seats. Ridgeway was stationed in Iraq as a career counselor and did security before returning to the United States in February.

His first trip to the Tiger game left Ridgeway, from Fort Leonard Wood, with a favorable impression of the game-day atmosphere for college football.

“The food, the people, I’ve never been to a college game before so it’s amazing to see the amount of people that come out to see the team,” Ridgeway said.

Ridgeway has taken a long road to his first Missouri football game, but other first-time visitors have traveled an even longer way to get to their first football game. Sait Serkan Gurbuz, a first-year graduate student from Turkey, also experienced his first Tiger football game.

Gurbuz, 26, is a former Turkish semi-professional football player in his homeland, so the game is nothing new for him. As a member of Turkey’s National American Football League, Gurbuz played wide receiver and defensive back. Gurbuz came to America a month ago as a Fulbright Fellow and quickly purchased his season tickets.

The happenings outside and inside the stadium reminded the photojournalism major of another sport known for the amount of hoopla it creates.

“It’s really unusual,” he said, watching the crowds stream past before the game. “You see this at a soccer game in Turkey.”

Two other visitors from overseas also got their first dose of American football. Alberto Pievani and Davide Casati, both from Italy, are currently in the midst of a three-week stay in Columbia. Both were pleasantly surprised with the goings on outside the stadium. The two took part in a beanbag tossing game and Casati had already finished five beers before 11 a.m. They could have done without the 7:30 a.m. wake-up call, said Pievani, but it did not ruin an atmosphere that he called “beautiful.”

Telling friends and family back home about what it means to go to a football game in America is something Pievani, 22, thinks will be difficult to describe.

“No one in Italy can expect to have such a crazy atmosphere,” he said. “It will be hard to describe back home.”

One for the road: Some tailgaters carted around their coolers like passengers pulling their suitcases at an airport. But one man was zipping by them, riding around on top of his cooler.

Blake Pinkel was driving a motorized Cruzin Cooler. Pinkel works for D&D Marketing in St. Louis, which distributes the patented, battery-powered cooler.

“It turns heads wherever it goes,” Pinkel said.

The Cruzin Cooler reaches speeds up to 15 mph. The battery is housed in the back half of the cooler, and the drinks and ice in the front half. It has three wheels and a cushioned seat with a backrest. The brake is on the left handlebar, and the throttle on the right. There’s even a cup holder for the driver on the cooler’s lid.

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