first_img Published on September 23, 2019 at 11:07 pm Contact Anthony: amdabbun@syr.edu Facebook Twitter Google+ Four blue and orange tents lined the far west end of Syracuse’s Fine Lot a few hundred yards from the entrance to the Carrier Dome. An inflatable Otto the Orange stood behind one of Saturday’s grill masters, John Ostapovich, and the smoke from his grill is visible from almost a hundred feet away.The Orange didn’t kick off against Western Michigan until 12 p.m., but Mark Bradwick, one of the tailgate’s founders, woke up at 5:00 a.m. to prepare for the Fine Mess tailgate. By 8 a.m., the first fans arrived. A whiteboard easel stood at the front of the line of food, signaling the schedule and menu for Saturday.Saturday’s selections included bratwurst, coney hot dogs, Bavarian potato salad, deviled eggs, red beans and rice and “WMU funeral potatoes.” By 11 a.m., food stopped being served, and the group of at least a hundred scattered across the Dome for kickoff.Before that though, the tailgate held two different raffles. One for a signed Dino Babers football. The other is a 50-50 raffle that’s donated a total of more than $3,000 total to ALS and the U.S. Army in the last two weeks.“Our motto is, if you want this football program to get to the next level,” said Mike Lentini, a group organizer, “we need to take our tailgate to the next level, SEC style.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textWhat began as seven diehard Syracuse fans back in 2006 has turned into one of Syracuse’s biggest tailgates. Before Syracuse’s game against No. 1 Clemson on Sept. 14, the tailgate reached 300 people, Bradwick said. They even encourage visiting fans to tailgate alongside them. The group has grown and expanded thanks to syracusefan.com, a forum of Syracuse fans who communicate and plan the entirety of the tailgate through the private messages and public subforums of the website.They’ve named the weekly tailgate Fine Mess, which is a play on both the lot’s name and Laurel and Hardy’s 1930 comedy skit titled “Another Fine Mess,” Bradwick said.“I’d go away to these road games and I wouldn’t know anybody,” Bradwick said. “I would show up here. I didn’t know who to hang out with, so I created our own little tailgate.”SU fans travel from across the country for games, looking for pregame festivities. Sometimes, they’ll end up at the Fine Mess. Last week, Bradwick said that two Orange fans from Alaska came to their tailgate before Clemson. Most of the connections come through the forum and word of mouth spreading information about “the largest tailgate in Stadium West,” Lentini said.“Pre-internet, everyone and their own families did their own thing,” Lentini said. “The internet and the sports message boards allowed all the passionate fans to finally get together in one place.”The more people at the tailgate, the more money they can raise. As a part of Military Appreciation Day in the Carrier Dome, the group decided that they’d donate half of the 50-50 winnings to Ft. Drum’s 10th Mountain Division. Last week’s cause was ALS — in honor of  Tim Green, who was honored at halftime. Bradwick said they raised $1,825 two weekends ago. Saturday, $1,117 went toward the military division. Tailgate organizers pick a different group every time for the raffle.The Fine Mess has raised money for the ALS and 10th Mountain Division in the last two weeks through its 50-50 raffle. Will Fudge | Staff PhotographerEach week, a few volunteers cook food and front the cost of running the tailgate. Some positions are permanent, as Bradwick said the Fine Mess has a “beer god” who’s in charge of getting the ice and beer each week.Ostapovich, Saturday’s grill master, drives to SU from New Jersey for each home game and drivable road games. He learned of the tailgate through the online forum and has been coming to the Fine Mess for five years.Jim Giacovelli has been coming to Syracuse games since the mid-1980s and learned of the tailgate through word of mouth. He’s since used the fan page to expand its reach and now has a group of 30 people traveling from the southern tier of New York up I-81 for SU games.When the Fine Mess hits the road — they did road trips last year to Western Michigan, Clemson and Orlando for the Camping World Bowl, among others — they’ll sit together. Bradwick will post in advance in a subforum about getting group tickets at a discounted rate. He pays the cost once people RSVP, he said, and then is repaid later through PayPal and Venmo.Bradwick and about 60 others traveled to Kalamazoo, Michigan for the 2018 season opener. That’s how Bruce Frandsen, a Broncos’ fan who has missed just three total WMU games in three years, learned of the Fine Mess. Frandsen doesn’t usually tailgate for road games, but on Saturday he watched as “Whose house? Our house!” chants broke out minutes before the end of the tailgate.“One of the people from our tailgate group was on the message board with Mark [Bradwick],” Frandsen said. “We find the college football environment tends to be pretty welcoming. This group has been fantastic.”Bruce Frandsen (left) and Mark Bradwick tailgate together despite their different allegiances on Saturday. Will Fudge | Staff PhotographerTheir numbers may dwindle as Saturday’s bright sunshine is replaced by November’s clouds, cold, rain and snow. But the Fine Mess rolls in space heaters and canopies to block the wind and keep warm.Since the Orange won 10 games last year and were ranked this preseason for the first time since 1998, crowds have grown accordingly. Not only in the Carrier Dome, where SU had its third-highest football attendance ever against Clemson two weeks ago, but also out in the back corner of the Fine Lot, where more than a hundred people cherish Syracuse game days.“It’s the camaraderie and fundraising,” Giacovelli said. “It’s about coming up here later in the season when it’s raining or snowing and dealing with the elements and being around other diehard fans. Commentslast_img read more