A couple of days into the new year, I found myself standing in the middle of a massive parking lot wearing three pairs of pants. I tried to shield myself from the harsh, freezing wind by taking shelter against the side of a Winnebago that probably had not seen a good day since the Carter Administration. Around the lot, men huddled over fires in metal trash cans, evoking scenes from every post-apocalyptic film ever made.
Contrary to what you might guess, I was not trying to recreate The Road. In the dead of winter, I, and the tens of thousands of other people in the parking lot, were waiting for the start of the final football game ever played in Giants Stadium, featuring the New York Jets and the Cincinnati Bengals.
I say that we were waiting for the start of the game, but that’s not really accurate. We knew when the game would start, but we were in no particular rush to hurry into the stadium. In our encampment, there were two grills burning, a table full of food, coolers full of beer, and a fire to keep us warm. The aforementioned Winnebago had a bathroom, meaning that we didn’t have to cross the lot to brave the public Porta-Potties.
The tailgate is a sacred tradition in my family. For the unitiated, tailgates are basically boozy picnics in sports stadium parking lots. For as long as I can remember, my father, uncle, and their friends have been leaving for every Jets home game as much as four hours before kickoff to get a prime spot in the parking lot and party with friends in the lead-up to the game. I have been lucky enough to go to several of these tailgates, which only became more fun as I got older and started bringing my own friends to join in the revelry.
To fight off the extremity-numbing cold, my friends and I would take shots of Jameson’s at regular intervals. Throw in some fresh-cooked steak, fried chicken, and a handful of beers, and we could easily last the three hours until the game finally started.
But being at the tailgate last month just made me sad that we don’t have the chance to enjoy them at Georgetown. Between having a football team that could be outcoached by Helen Keller and a basketball team that plays in an arena in the middle of downtown Washington, the opportunities for tailgating are few and far between.
Being in the middle of an urban environment seriously hinders potential tailgaiting. The most essential part of tailgating is the tailgate, meaning that there need to be cars involved, or failing that, a decent-sized parking lot. The University understands this, which is why the school-sanctioned tailgate at homecoming took place in the parking lot outside of McDonough.
Sure, I’ve done my share of pregaming for basketball games and other school-sponsored events, but its just not the same. A 30 rack of Keystone Light is only so satisfying, especially when compared with the full meal, complete with five or six different types of meat, that you can enjoy while tailgating.
Clearly on-campus living severely hinders my tailgating aspirations, and my near-catatonic laziness certainly does not help matters. At this point, the most my friends and I can usually muster is heating up some Pizza Bagels, opening a few bags of chips from Vittles, and, if someone is feeling really adventurous, testing one of those guacamole kits from Trader Joe’s. And, of course, decimating the 30 rack of Keystone Light.
The key aspect of tailgating is not the drinking, though, but rather the combination of the outdoors and food. Out in the elements, providing sustenance for each other, tailgating is how the obese modern American man gets in touch with his hunting ancestors. Instead of a bow and arrow, there is a small Weber charcoal grill. Instead of a live deer, there are hamburger patties. Tailgating may not be the most challenging of activities, but it has its own unique charms.
For now, though, we are all reliant on Georgetown’s homecoming tailgate to satisfy our need for drinking and eating in a parking lot. Given the way the football team plays, perhaps the University should replace the multisport field with a parking lot.