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Greek Organizations, Families Take Part in Festivities

By Jay Gold Contributing Writer | 9/4/2013, 5:34 p.m.

When Alabama played in the very first Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game in 2008, Leslie Thompson, an Alabama graduate and Omega Psi Phi brother, decided it would be a great way to get some people – particularly other Alabama grads and fellow “Que Dogs” – together. Five years later, when the Crimson Tide returned to the Georgia Dome for the team’s 2013 season opener against Virginia Tech, he was again manning the grills.

Despite sweltering heat, humidity that reached 100 percent and more sweltering heat, Thompson and other like-minded tailgaters turned up the heat for a full day of what Thompson called, “football, food and fellowship.”

“It’s about us being frat brothers, repping as Ques and we all love the University of Alabama and football,” Thompson said, “so it’s a win-win.”

Thompson’s group, which he said routinely numbers between 50 and 75 people, is one of a noticeably small fraction of African-American tailgaters at events like the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game that feature predominately White institutions.

For fellow tailgater Kerry Goode, a 1987 Alabama graduate and former football star who spent four years in the NFL, that lack of representation helped spawn the desire to create what he calls the Atlanta-Bama tailgating connection.

“That was a catalyst when I first started doing this,” said Goode. “I didn’t see too many of us. I said that when I’m done playing and done coaching I’m gonna [create] a tailgating club. I saw other people having fun, and I thought we should be a part of that.”

Goode estimates his club is now around 120 people strong, and includes his nieces who graduated recently from the university. He says almost all of his guests are Alabama graduates and it’s a great way to do more than watch football.

“When I got to Alabama there wasn’t a lot of us there and we all knew each other,” said Goode. “My nieces go there and now things are different. Everyone here, they went to Alabama and this is an opportunity to keep people together, see people and how they’re doing and network.”

Groups like Goode’s and Thompson’s helped Alabama fans decidedly outnumber those from Virginia Tech at the contest between the two out-of-state schools. Virginia Tech, located in Blacksburg, Va., is about 410 miles from Atlanta, more than double the 202 miles from the University of Alabama’s campus in Tuscaloosa.

In the Georgia Dome’s stands, Alabama’s fans got the better of Virginia Tech’s almost as thoroughly as the Tide got the better of the Hokies on the field. The Alabama crowd erupted from the player introductions to the last whistle in their team’s decisive victory, drowning out almost any crowd noise the Hokie faithful were able to create.

While many weren’t particularly convinced of their team’s chances of winning the game even before kickoff, Virginia Tech fans who turned out were in good spirits. Tech fan Ezra Yohannes, who drove overnight from Springfield, Va., to be at the game, said he had “hope,” but not “faith” in his team pulling off the upset before kickoff.

“It’ll be a hell of a time, either way,” said Yohannes of his time in Atlanta, “and hopefully a win.”