Friday, 25 January 2013

A Winter Feast, Part One

By John Winter

John is one of our conference writers and normally covers the SWAC for us. He is spending this semester at the University of Tennessee and will be writing up his experiences for us. First of all the luck sod went to the NFC Championship game this weekend past...

Everything you have ever heard about tailgating is true, the fans really are there all day before the game, they really do consume unreal quantities of food, and the whole area is thriving with a buzzing atmosphere with people playing games, sharing food, and discussing the upcoming game.

Most of the sections also seem to have their own announcer of sorts, a self-elected leader of the area that DJs music and shouts loudly through a megaphone about how their team is going to win the game, this really cranks up the atmosphere and combined with all the partying and eating sets a good scene.
With each parking lot populated by different sections of fans, official areas for ticket holders denoted by ticket price, and areas generally for those without a ticket with a with a parking spot costing up to $50, the whole tailgate scene was very diverse. One area can see people casually barbecuing and discussing the game over a burger, whilst 50 yards away it could be a raucous atmosphere with heavy r’n’b music being pumped out and people freely dancing and drinking (I noticed that for some reason cognac was particularly popular in these areas).
The only thing I could compare it to would be different rooms in a club, where rooms are playing completely different kinds of music to each other and are populated by different kinds of people. But this did not spoil the atmosphere at all, though I did see a number of security guards patrolling the tailgate area I did not witness or hear of any ill-natured or ant-social behaviour and all the drinking and partying of some areas was kept within key.

What was particularly good about the whole tailgate experience was that three hours before kickoff a ‘fan landing’ area designed primarily for children and families was opened. Featuring many different games and attractions such as throwing a ball through a tire and lots of varied contests between fans this specific area did a great job of giving the kids somewhere specific to go rather than in the perhaps more adult suited areas. The ‘fan landing’ was not exclusive to kids and parents though, anyone could walk around with food and beer and it was great to see that nobody was spoiling the fun for everyone else.
So the tailgating experience was incredible, it’s something that you hear about all the time but actually going to one was great. It’s a shame that tailgating is the sort of thing that generally isn't done in the UK as it really gave me personally a sense of a collective community of fans that despite different backgrounds and social standings all come together to celebrate and the upcoming game. However, with most UK sports being played through the winter and with summer usually being a deluge of rain, don’t expect the outdoor fun and barbecuing of the tailgate to become a big thing on British shores anytime soon.

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