ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 15: Fans of the Atlanta Falcons wave flags which read "Rise Up" against the Green Bay Packers during their 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Georgia Dome on January 15, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Each and every NFL team has their super-fans, and that includes the Atlanta Falcons. These fans show up rain or shine, whether their team is winning or losing. And one of the biggest pet peeves of these genuine diehards is the fans who only seem to show their support when the team is winning.
It’s easy to break out the jersey and baseball cap when your team is doing well — like this year, when Matt Ryan and company are soaring toward an NFC South title and the playoffs at 10-1. And it’s definitely easier to get up on Sunday morning, get out to the parking lot with all your gear and start tailgating. Atlanta Falcons fan Gerard Grimes is far from the fair-weather fan. He’s been out there for years. Some might even call him a tailgating legend.
Gerard Grimes (far right) (Photo Credit: Rick Limpert)
This Georgia native has been going to football games in Atlanta since he was a child. He remembers the days of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, but is now thankful his teams plays in a first-rate facility like the Georgia Dome. For six years, Grimes and his crew have tailgated in a private lot on Northside Drive across the street from the Georgia Dome. He says that it gets bigger and better every year, but this fun comes at a cost. “At Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, it was so easy to get into games,” explains Grimes. “It’s so expensive to go to games now that we just tailgate, bring the television sets and watch the games in the parking lot.”
Crowds gather for Falcons tailgating (Photo Credit: Rick Limpert)
Being the fan he is, the Georgia native does go to two or three games a year to root on the Falcons. As for his tailgate, the theme each week is just to have fun. “We average around 25 people per week, but for the bigger games like New Orleans, Philadelphia and Green Bay, we can handle 50,” Grimes laughs.
Grimes, who lives in Smyrna, Ga. and works for a documentary production company, is out in his favorite lot for every home game and usually tending bar. His specialty drink is appropriately called “stuff.”
Delicious beer-butt chicken (Photo Credit: Jim Hileman)
The menu each week is as diverse as the crowd, but usually features staples like ribs and chicken. Attendees are free to bring anything they choose, and recent additions have included turkey sausage, turkey burgers and crab legs. Beer-butt chicken is also quickly becoming a favorite of tailgaters in his lot. When it comes to beer, Grimes’ group sticks with favorites like Corona and Yuengling… perfect on a hot day.
The party continues for away games as well, usually at Grimes’s house or a friend’s. And once in a while, when he gets the urge, Grimes and his crew head to Athens, Ga. to tailgate and watch the Georgia Bulldogs.
If you’re a Falcons fan, or the Falcons are hosting your team, stop by Grimes’ tailgate and say hello. They welcome most, but be prepared for some friendly trash talk.