Burgers simmering on the grill while the bratwursts are slathered in a secret family recipe. Cheap beer and soda chilling in countless coolers. Games of corn hole, flip cup, and Spikeball for friendly competition. Lively chatter filled with jittery anticipation. Fellow fans flaunting your team’s colors, as far as the eye can see.
It’s officially tailgate season.
Said to have been born from epic ancient Greek feasts during late summer marking the end of a bountiful harvest, the pregame festivities as we know them have evolved a great deal from the quaint picnics before Ivy League football clashes in the late 19th century.
Nowadays, people will find any reason to get together and hold tailgates, branching out from traditional football games to other sports, concerts, weddings, or other special events. Even nursing homes are getting in on the fun!
We love tailgate season in the fall because it gives us a reason to get together with our friends to enjoy a little time outside, a little time off our phones, a little time to PLAY. Tailgating creates an environment of easily accessible conversation and readily available fun. The unifying power of pride for our hometown team or alma mater often extends beyond the sport itself. In fact, according to research, a third of tailgaters don’t even attend the game.
Sure, the game’s outcome is certainly important on some level, but it often feels secondary to the camaraderie we feel when we reunite as one, huge extended family. The community is a cast of characters mostly comprised of people who feel like long-lost brothers from other mothers, embarrassing surrogate aunts, or distant third-cousins. The memories we make are all within the hallowed land of “you had to be there” moments.
There’s the most veteran tailgater who is pretty much the de facto mayor of the motley crew. Shout out to the grill-master who takes their craft very seriously (don’t you *dare* touch Gary’s grill). And we can’t forget the modern-day carnival barker who rallies the troops with a medley of team chants and fight songs, all while being shirtless approximately 0.8 seconds into the festivities, no matter the weather conditions.
These are relationships forged in the flames of shared glorious victories and brutal defeats, scorching and frigid game days. There’s nothing like riding a cloud of euphoria with hundreds and thousands of people in your vicinity. There’s also nothing like the deafening silence of all those people’s hearts breaking simultaneously, looking to each other for comfort.
The moments of irreverence, fun, and togetherness we get while tailgating simply can’t be replicated at any other occasion. Each tailgate is special in its own way, with its own indigenous fare, folklore, and fans. The community bred from them defies boxes and labels — equal parts congregation and circus.
All that matters is one thing: TEAM, and everything that comes with it.
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