Tailgating: The party before the game

Tailgaters pack the golf course adjacent to the University of Michigan Stadium on a game day in September. PHOTO/AJ KAJY

OU News Bureau

From battles in fields to battles on the gridiron, tailgating has been the precursor to major American events for over 100 years.

According to National Geographic, the first informal tailgate occurred in 1861 in Manassas, Virginia, where Confederate and Union forces were set to fight the First Battle of Bull Run. Civilians gathered in their wagons with liquor and food.

The history of the modern tailgate is a bit murky, with stories dating it back to 1904. The tale states Yale football fans would travel in large groups by train, and would end up famished by arrival. This led to food and adult beverages being brought to games and group gatherings that would be called a “tailgate” today.

As time passed, tailgating morphed into the phenomenon that it is in 2017. It has taken on a life of its own, and people hold it in the same regard of an actual sporting event.

Fans converge to game day sites across the country. Ann Arbor, for example, is taken over by tens of thousands of tailgaters who cheer on the University of Michigan Wolverines. The university shuts down the golf course adjacent to Michigan Stadium to accommodate the throngs.

Tailgaters line up their cars in the middle of the golf course. Attendees park in the corner.

“Getting here is not always fun, and the process is not always perfect … but we kind of have our spots and we remember them,” Jeffrey Jabiro of Commerce Township said.

Jeffrey Jabiro and his nephew Anthony enjoy the environment a tailgate offers. PHOTO/AJ KAJY

Jabiro, a lifelong Michigan fan, drives to Ann Arbor for each home football game to tailgate and said he enjoys every second of it.

“Waking up before the sun rises and driving down to this here empty parking lot to spend time with thousands of Michigan fans is what it is all about,” he said.

Once the grills are lit, the tents pitched and the beer opened, fans can begin to enjoy themselves. Depending on the kick-off time, the festivities will last for hours.

“I’m with my friends having fun in this awesome environment, and a game like today when you know Michigan’s going to win, you don’t feel like going inside,” Jabiro said.

His nephew, Anthony, said he likes tailgating, “But I’m in that stadium come kickoff.”

His uncle claims it is his early age, and once he can fully enjoy the experience he will come around. Jabiro is not alone as another person echoed positive sentiments about tailgating a few tents down.

“It’s an experience everyone can get behind. Tailgate once and you’ll be hooked,” Jason Lugibihl of Holly said. “I’m sitting here watching people play corn hole, and I love it.”

Corn hole, beer pong and ring toss are tailgate games. Each party has its own activities, and some people do have their favorites.

“Drinking before noon is the best game. Not corn hole or dancing — good old drinking,” Jay Yaldoo of Pontiac said.

Do not mention beer pong to him either.

“The goal is to not drink in that game,” he said. “Why would I play that?”

Tailgating occurs at the professional rank, too. The streets of Detroit on Lions game day fill with people, and the surrounding parking lots become tailgating grounds.

The process is not as intricate as Ann Arbor. Fans tailgate at locations throughout the city and do not converge on a single site. From right across the stadium to Eastern Market, Honolulu blue is everywhere.

“It’s opening day first of … eight amazing tailgates,” Reed Cortwright of Bloomfield Hills said.

Cortwright shows up for each home game, pays $45 to park across the street from Ford Field but never attends a game.

“I love this team. I watch every second of every game, just not in Ford Field,” he said. “I bring my truck, generator and a 55-inch flat screen.”

Cortwright connects his television to the generator, loads it on the back of his GMC Sierra pick-up and watches the game. Michigan winter will not stop him either. He brings space heaters to tackle the cold.

His friend, Samantha Jones of Southfield, has no problem staying outside come kickoff.

“I wish the tent was completely set up,” she said. “It truly rivals being inside (the stadium).”








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Posted by on Sep 28 2017. Filed under Featured article, Michigan. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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