NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 26: Mariano Rivera #42 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays in the ninth inning during their game on September 26, 2013 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images
Heavens, I want the answer to be no. Tailgates are supposed to be gritty, grimy, disgusting, filthy ordeals where you’re covered in sweat and shame and everyone wants to keep their distance from you afterwards. You should stink like victory and buffalo sauce and emit the kind of odor that can only come about when you’ve spent 13 hours around propane guess, that icky blue porta-potty juice and vodka tonics.
So the phrase “luxury tailgate” makes about as much sense to me as “fancy ribs” or “polite burping.” It’s an oxymoron. It just doesn’t make sense. “Luxury tailgating.” It’s like a zen riddle, designed to clear the mind of conscious thought.
Well. I’m here to tell you that I don’t know if a tree makes a sound when it falls in the woods. But I’ve been to a luxury tailgate. And I’m a little ashamed to admit — it was good. It was really good.
Ever since the start of the NFL and college football, I’ve been unawares of baseball season. This is particularly vexing since I’m a Red Sox fan, and by all accounts, Boston’s doing pretty well this year. So imagine my surprise when my boss approached me with a few luxury box tickets for a Yankees-Rays game. He asked if I wanted to go, free of charge. Any skepticism I had was abated by the phrase “all you can eat and drink.” I was there.
Photo Credit: Brian Cullen
First of all — I’ve been to Yankee Stadium a number of times. It’s quite nice (even if the surrounding neighborhood is a little mehhhhhhhhhh). And even that, like I said, I’m a Boston fan, you can’t begrudge the amount of history and the importance of the building. When the chance to catch a game pops up, I usually take it.
What made today different was that I was going in through the swanky entrance. I passed by all those jerks with peanuts and cracker jacks and walked into an entrance where a bunch of guys in sports coats asked me my name, and then handed me a ticket straight out of the Wonka factory. Emblazoned in gold, it might as well have screamed “CLASSY MOTHERF*****” with an embedded electronic chip and maybe some lasers.
The elevator stopped at the “non luxury box” floor where I watched members of the proletariat exit to do whatever those vermin do. I was then whisked into one of the nicest rooms I’d ever been in.
I don’t know if there’s a higher power. I can’t prove or disprove any spiritual belief that there ever was. All I can tell you was that surely, I was in Valhalla. As soon as I entered, time slowed down. I heard this song play in the background.
Photo Credit: Brian Cullen
Looking around, I saw macaroni and cheese, sandwiches, chicken fingers, buffalo wings and a full bar. There was a personalized Yankees hot dog roller, full of plump, juicy Ballpark franks. The best part was — the room was populated by impossibly skinny people. I knew the type. They’d be doing vodka sodas and rum and diets. They wouldn’t touch the food. It was mine. It was all mine.
“Are you Brian?” I heard. Snapping out of it, I looked up, and saw a pleasant, helpful looking woman, who then repeated the question. “Brian Cullen?”
“Thaaaaat’s meeeeee!” I said in a lilting voice.
“Welcome to Yankee Stadium! Would you like a beer?”
I grasped her hands, and whispered.
“I would love a beer, Diane.”
She looked uncomfortable and walked away, probably because I just made up the name “Diane.” She returned a moment later with a tall, frosty one.
“Your colleagues are outside, waiting for you.”
I loaded up on my first of four mac and cheese plates that night, and went to hang out with my coworkers. We talked about Robinson Cano and Ichiro. We considered my idea for a talk show called “Charlando con Jose Reyes!” (“Amigos y amigas! My amigo bueno y mi guesto primero…R.A. DICKEY! JAJAJAJAJAJA!”).
Photo Credit: Brian Cullen
And then dessert arrived.
We were ushered like overstuffed cattle out into the hallway, where two people were wheeling a dessert cart from room to room. I curse the heavens that I was full, for a more beautiful tray of sweets have these eyes never beheld. Giant cupcakes. Huge black and white cookies, just like my dad used to eat when he was a kid. It was decadent.
“I couldn’t,” I say. “I’m stuffed to the gills.”
“Oh come on,” said the woman rolling the cart. “What about a shot of Bailey’s in an edible white chocolate shot glass?”
“Oh, I c- what? What did you just say to me??” I demanded. I started shaking her. “SAY THAT AGAIN. SAY THAT TO MY FACE AGAIN.”
Wordlessly, fearfully, she held up a chocolatey shot glass of creamy liqueur.
The game was amazing, and the entire experience likely ruined all baseball games forever for me. It’s like flying first class. How are you ever supposed to go back to coach after this? It was Baseball Thanksgiving! All you can eat! Sports! It’s amazing!
But was it a tailgate? You know what? Sure. I ate. I drank. I hung around with my buddies and had an amazing time. Why make it more academic than that? At the end of the day, if you enjoy yourself, you’re doing it right.