I wasn’t able to pick up my press pass for the game until 5PM, so I decided to walk across a pedestrian bridge from the stadium into downtown Nashville. After grabbing a bite to eat and drink, it was getting close to 4PM. By this time, a good number of fans were making their way up and down Broadway. And as tends to happen with US and Mexico fans, there were dueling chants all the way up and down the street of, “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!” or “ME-XI-CO! ME-XI-CO! ME-XI-CO!” It was loud and boisterous but all in good fun.
As I was walking back across the pedestrian bridge, a group of three kids that looked to be about 18 or 19 asked me if I could take their picture. I set my notebook and what remained of my milkshake on a bench and snapped two or three pics for them.
As I handed the phone back to them and went to pick my stuff up, I found a guy standing on the arm of the bench like he was surfing and had four or five people filming him with their phones. As it turns out, the guy was former USMNT player Jimmy Conrad (who scored his only goal for the US against Mexico in 2007). I introduced myself and we talked as we walked the rest of the way to the other side of the bridge before I had to leave to go stand in line to pick up my credential at media will call.
By the time I got my pass, the revelry was really starting to pick up. I began walking around to try to find the American Outlaws tailgate, but never made it (turns out they were roughly a mile away and I didn’t feel like walking that far). At this point, there were probably 9,000 or 10,000 Mexico fans in the parking lot, and let me tell you something. Mexico fans go hard when it comes to tailgating.
Nashville is a big time college football town. It’s home to Vanderbilt of the SEC. The annual Music City Bowl is played there every December and a number of fans of a variety of college football teams live in the area. In fact, during the press conference that I talked about earlier, Sarachan compared the USA/Mexico rivalry to the Tennessee/Alabama football rivalry. I say all of this because college football fans (and especially SEC fans) like to pride themselves on how awesome their tailgating experiences are. I would put the Mexico fans up against any of them. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before, and I’ve been to my fair share of college football games. One group even had a huge fire pit with a spit that they were roasting several chickens on. There were bands of all sorts: one or two rock band type setups, an actual marching band complete with tubas, trombones and trumpets, and of course a mariachi band. A number of people had tents set up and each tent had its own DJ, complete with multiple speakers blasting out what I assume was Mexican rap music. And while at most football games you see kids throwing a football, just about every kid under the age of 12 was kicking a soccer ball.