As we wind our way down the Florida Turnpike towards Orlando, we’re reflecting on Toby’s year so far. As many of you already know, we’d been talking about a tailgating van since fall 2009, and had actively started looking to buy one in April with disappointing results. Most of our friends and family were sure it wasn’t going to happen when the calendar reached August and we still didn’t have a van.
Fortunately, the four of us still believed. When Wade found the Craigslist post with The Van That Would Be Called Toby for sale, everyone dropped their plans to come see it. An hour-long inspection and $2500 in cold hard cash later, the van was ours. Toby quickly took on a life of his own, and the project rapidly grew beyond our formidable expectations.
One of the catalysts that kicked Toby into top gear was the unexpected early success of our marketing efforts. Brian had contacted Jim Young, the Senior Assistant Athletic Director shortly after Toby’s debut at the Sacramento State game, and Jim told his contacts at ESPN about Toby. The ESPN crew got in touch with us on the Wednesday before the Wake Forest game and said that they would come by our tailgate to do some filming. We’d only just begun Toby’s modifications at that point, and we wanted to make the best possible impression on ESPN in case the footage hit national TV.
Suddenly we were ordering Stanford Fathead decals and beer system parts with overnight shipping and frantically preparing. Brian, Ryan, Mike and Wade worked on Toby from 6pm Friday until 3:30am Saturday morning getting Toby ready for what we hoped would be his TV debut. While ultimately ESPN didn’t broadcast any of the Toby footage, we never really lost the momentum from that marathon night of work. Thanks to tremendous support from all of you, we kept growing and building our operation until we peaked with over one hundred people attending our tailgate before the Stanford-Arizona game – and we expect to rival or even surpass that number on Monday in Miami!
We know that a lot of people think that we’re crazy to put this much time and money into a tailgating project, especially at a school like Stanford which is not a traditional football powerhouse. The effort we’ve put into Toby, however, is not just about tailgating and Stanford Football. Of course, if we weren’t passionate fans of both, this project would never have happened. However, it has become more about the people involved – both the four members of the Toby crew working together on a shared goal and also the people attending Toby’s tailgates and following Toby from afar. It’s been a great way for all of us to reconnect with friends we haven’t seen in a while and to make entirely new ones – people we would have never met if it had not been for this project. That has been an amazing experience for all of us, and it’s why we strongly encourage anyone and everyone to come out and attend Toby’s tailgates, whether you know any of us or not!
As we spend our last night on the road before our arrival in Miami, we want to thank all of our friends, old and new, for their help in making Toby’s first season such a memorable one. We have ambitious plans for next year’s football season as well as plenty of plans for the off-season, including collaborating with the Stanford Women’s Basketball team. The Toby that kicks off next year’s football schedule on September 3rd against San Jose State will be bigger and badder than ever before, and even more fun for us and for our guests. When you participate in the Toby experience in any way, it makes all the labor worthwhile for us. Whether you’ve driven from San Antonio to Miami for the Orange Bowl like Lorene Juarez (class of ’77), written a fantastic blog post for the Alumni Association like Glenn Garvin (class of ’75), or done something as simple as commenting on our blog or Facebook page, you are making the Toby experience unforgettable for all of us. Thanks, and see you in Miami in 2011!