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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Steaking Your Claim

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At 12:30 p.m., nearly four hours before kickoff of a game between the Jets and the Patriots, the air around Gillette Stadium is thick with the smell of charcoal, meat, and booze. It takes a special kind of person to pack up their car with hundreds of dollars worth of food, drive an hour or more to the stadium, and spend up to five hours in the parking lot before even finding their seat. That’s just what diehard tailgaters are. These special fans built a tight-knit community in New England and beyond, and the practice has been growing steadily in recent years.

Tailgaters are often cast in a bad light. They are often thought of as “boozers” and “disorderly massholes.” In reality, most tailgaters are season ticket holders and have refined their craft over many years. The cuisine that comes off of the grills in those parking lots rivals what you would see in a steakhouse. Twenty-seven-year veteran tailgater Monty said he spent “around $800 and the last three days getting ready.” He also said, “I have a big roast, some ribeye steaks, swordfish, stuffed zucchinis, cheesy potatoes, and tons of drinks and desserts.” He said he expected to feed 30 people, but “anyone is welcome to come and have a bite.” That trait is common amongst most tailgaters. They are not in the least bit snobby or selfish. They’re happy to share their culinary masterpieces with anyone in the lots and they expect to eat fellow tailgaters’ creations as well. There is very little rowdiness within the lots, the only exception being inexperienced college kids who drink too much, too early.

UMB students have differing views on the practice. Sophomore Vinny Torcasio is in favor of it. He said, “Going tailgating is a blast. If I wasn’t tailgating I might as well be sitting at home watching it on TV.” He added, “People who don’t like tailgating probably have never been tailgating.”

Welina Farah agrees. She said, “Tailgating is alright. Although I’ve never been, there’s a lot of alcohol[…] if I were invited to a tailgate party I would go. It seems like a good time.”

Junior Robbie Smith chooses to do some pregame drinking, but likes to avoid getting to games early. He said, “Tailgaters are diehard fans[…] although drinking is a critical element to tailgating experience, you don’t need to tailgate to drink.”

The pregame drinking has fans within organizations as well. Gillette stadium beer hawker Alex Sopper said, “Tailgating is basically all part of the tradition of attending a stadium event[…] does affect beer sales for a beer pourer like myself? Well, I suppose you could make that argument, but either way I’m still making more money in a 3-hour span than any other side gig that I could imagine.” When asked if he ever has issues with rowdy fans, he said, “Sure, there’s always ‘that guy’ in the crowd who gets shit-drunk and causes a ruckus, but that’s what security is there for.”

Fan conduct has been a major issue for the NFL over the last few years. So much so that tailgating has been regulated and restricted by new policies. Parking lots at stadiums are starting to open closer to kickoff, and the Patriots released a list of acceptable and prohibited items as well as a strict code of conduct. Tailgate setups are also being scrutinized more each year. Some of the biggest offenders are a certain faction of tailgaters that go to the parking lot only to sit outside the stadium with no intention of entering the game. Every veteran tailgater we spoke to was supportive of the practice. Concourse supervisor Krystle Moran doesn’t agree with the fans that show up without a ticket. She said, “For me, tailgating stinks in some ways because no matter what time I show up or leave work, there is always traffic that I end up getting stuck in.”

Love it or hate it, tailgating is a way of life in New England, and whether it is taken to the extreme or just done for fun, it’s not going anywhere. If anything it’s a practice that’ll become a bigger part of sports culture as years go by.