DALLAS – The Texas State fairgrounds is just outside the Cotton Bowl. It has been closed since mid-October, but on Tuesday, with fans of Arkansas and Missouri flocking to the stadium for the New Year’s bowl game, the area was alive again.
The 72nd Cotton Bowl began at 10:40 a.m., and it was a chilling 30 degrees outside an hour before kickoff. Patrons walked around the historic stadium appearing to be dressed for the slopes. Scarves shielded their faces, mittens covered their hands and fleece blankets were used as protective capes.
“We’re just hoping to get some sunlight and get out of this shade,” said Patrick Johnson, an 18-year-old from Columbia who donned a black-and-gold jester hat. “At least it’s better than Missouri weather.”
John Gramlich hid his winter gear under a homemade T-shirt. Like his allegiance to the Razorbacks and Tigers, his shirt was split down the middle: one half gold, one half red. “Go Hogs” was written in black permanent marker on the red side, while the yellow side read, “Go Tigers.” Below that, “Sisters Divided.”
Gramlich, a sophomore in high school, was torn deciding which team to root for. His oldest sister, Amanda Gramlich, is a senior at MU, while his other sister is a freshman at Arkansas.
“By rooting for both teams,” he said, “I win either way.”
His parents were more invested. Both his dad, Jeff, and mom, Mary Beth, graduated from Arkansas.
“We support Mizzou,” Mary Beth Gramlich said. “As long as they’re not playing Arkansas.”
As for their torn son’s future?
“Who knows?” his father said. “He’ll probably go to Florida.”
SPIRITED FANS: More than 5,000 fans escaped the cold by filling Centennial Hall on the fairgrounds for the Tiger Tailgate, sponsored by the Mizzou Alumni Association.
Lines snaked around the large barn-like building, with crowds waiting about an hour for food. Athletic director Mike Alden dropped his administrative duties to stir the crowd for a moment, leading fans in the “M-I-Z Z-O-U” cheer.
“You guys are warming up your diaphragms,” Alden said.
Alden announced that more than 20,000 fans were representing the Tigers in Dallas. The game sold out in 24 hours.
One of the Tigers’ rivals took longer to sell its ticket allotment. The Orange Bowl is now sold out, but Kansas needed more than two weeks to sell all of its 17,500 tickets.
One fan illustrated this disparity with a sign: “Dallas = Sold out. Miami = Good tickets still available.”
HOG HEAVEN: Before the game, Arkansas’ mascot was locked up in a pen outside the Cotton Bowl. He paced back and forth, stopping only to shake hay shavings off his massive back.
Tusk is a 5-year old Russian Boar that weighs a svelte 475 pounds. About an hour before game time, Tusk was the embodiment of serenity. He laid on his belly in the front corner of his pen and seemed unfazed as spectators stopped by for pictures.
“He has a pretty good life,” said Chip Stokes, one of Tusk’s handlers. “He loves the trips, he’s got a good personality, and he loves people.”
Stokes said that Tusk’s days usually start around 6 a.m. when he is let out to stretch and graze. He wakes up for good around 10 a.m., and his eyes shut again around 7 or 8 in the evening. Tusk eats about 70 pounds of a corn and grain mixture a day, Stokes said, an amount of food that would put offensive linemen with even the most healthy of appetites to shame.
Most game days, Tusk can be found in a pen at one of the corners of the stadium. But because of construction going on around the Cotton Bowl, he is relegated to the parking lot during Tuesday’s game.
He likely won’t make a fuss, though. Tusk looks meaner than previous Razorback mascots, Stokes said, but his demeanor is much more amiable than that of most hogs.
“He’s not aggressive at all,” he said. “He is more like a big family pet than a farm animal.”