Tailgating is a time-honored tradition, handed down through the generations of fans who enjoy flame-kissed meat, coolers of beer, and outdoor parties just as much as they love rooting on their beloved teams. I mean to take nothing away from such glorious experiences, and instead offer an opportunity to partake in them more often, and include everyone in the whole family.
In the interest of keeping the barbecue flames of tailgating burning for everyone, I’d like to suggest the following: sporting events at any level can be tailgated, and everyone can partake. After my high school football games, parents used to lay out a savory banquet for us. Not just brownies and desserts, we were treated to pound after pound of burgers and dogs, not to mention fall-off-the-bone fried chicken using a recipe one parent would make weekly from scratch. What better way to get everyone together: parents and players, teammates and friends, unite the whole community after a heroic win or tragic loss than unending mountains of delicious food?
The same idea works for tailgating your kid’s regional semifinal soccer match, or the last Little League game of the season which determines the regular season championship. In fact, the further away from professional ranks one gets, the more sense holding tailgates makes. Introductory levels of athletics these days are intended to introduce the kids to sports without heaping on the pressure of “winning is everything,” or exposing them to the dangers of full contact right away. To that end, the leagues are about more than just learning: they reinforce the idea of teamwork, friendship, and community.
At age seven, the purple team isn’t a sworn enemy; in fact, your next-door neighbor and best friend plays for the purple team. After three long periods of hockey at 7AM, or battling it out for six innings plus two extras on the local diamond, why not all get together afterward to share a few laughs and a hearty meal? Not to mention, with younger generations of players beginning to learn our greatest sports, a fantastic way to better understand them is often through conversation and story. Everyone, kids and parents, learn the rules faster, start talking strategy sooner, and may enjoy the game at a deeper level, all the while scarfing down the best food grills can offer. Tough to argue with that.
It goes without saying that tailgating for an event and its players should be age appropriate. Piecing together a spread for a rec or developmental league should probably contain water, soda, and juice in place of the NFL standards such as beer, and more beer. There may be more snack foods and sugar than homemade sauces and meat. The feast would take place after the game instead of before, but the concept remains the same. The idea of tailgating can be celebrated at every level of sports, not just elite college teams and the NFL. So give it a whirl, and let me know how it goes. Get the whole community out there warming up next to those barbecues, rooting on their hometown teams and the next generation of athletes. After all, a rock-solid tailgate simply makes the brutal losses that much easier to swallow, and the legendary victories that much more epic, and unforgettable.
Christian S. Kohl is a writer and filmmaker based in New York City. Find out more about him at DailySpew.com