Music blaring, two televisions showing early college football games, plenty of barbeque and seemingly endless amounts of beer. The scene is similar to plenty of tailgates across the country; however, all 80 men have moustaches and are wearing denim shorts.
“It’s really just a way for us to bond over a common love of beer, ASU football and shenanigans,” longtime ASU fan Chris Cullen said. “We get to act like little kids again.”
Meet Moustache Nation, a devoted group of ASU fans that has been tailgating in style since the Sun Devils travelled to Eugene, Ore., to face the Ducks in 2001. The group throws one major tailgate each season, usually at the biggest non-conference road game.
If no non-conference games stand out, the group finds a conference game to attend, such as the 2001 trip to Oregon, the 2008 trip to the University of Washington and a couple others.
The trips are usually planned and organized about a year in advance by Jay Nielsen.
“It was actually just a group of guys that started going to the games,” Nielsen said. “It’s built up along the way. It really started getting bigger for us with the Georgia trip in 2009. That’s when we doubled our numbers and kept that up into Wisconsin, Illinois and Columbia.”
The group continues to grow in size, but it is different than a generic club of Sun Devil fans, which anyone can be a part of.
“To this point it’s been one of those things like Fight Club,” Nielsen said. “Everyone is one degree of separation from someone else.”
While many agree with the group’s origins and customs, such as starting at 7 a.m. and wearing T-shirts that read “Moustache Nation,” the origin of the Moustache remains a mystery and a topic of discussion.
Some believe the moustache pays tribute to Sparky’s moustache, while some say it is to pay homage to the moustache that former ASU quarterback Jake Plummer wore while playing for the Denver Broncos.
There is also the theory saying it began simply because the group wanted to stand out because pop culture had put a sense of taboo on moustaches for guys under 35.
Nielsen has his own take.
“The moustache evolved in 2005 when a couple of us actually wore (moustaches) to a home game against USC when “College Gameday” was (at ASU),” Nielsen said. “That started the whole moustache era, after that we decided to take them on the road and we wore them to Iowa that next year.”
The group is composed of ASU fans and although they bleed maroon and gold, the ability to go to various stadiums across the country and experience different collegiate atmospheres is certainly one of the more enjoyable aspects.
Nielsen believes the group had its best set-up earlier this year in Columbia, Mo., but thinks the atmosphere and crowd at the University of Wisconsin was the best the group has experienced.
On the other hand, Cullen’s favorite memory was his first trip with Moustache Nation in 2009.
“We had a chance to bring Moustache Nation to (Georgia) and it blew my mind,” Cullen said. “They definitely didn’t expect us to roll in, and we made a pretty substantial impression.”
In addition to the horrendous rainstorm, the Georgia trip was unique because the group was unable to set up its spot until Saturday morning, but they wanted to make sure no one took it. So, Moustache Nation used all available resources and found someone on Craigslist to camp out and reserve a patch of land.
Although the 2012 football season is still in progress, Cullen, Nielsen and the rest of Moustache Nation are anxiously awaiting trips to Dallas in 2013 and Baton Rouge, La., in 2015.
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