The One About the Tailgate
+ A Bonus History Lesson
Hello and Happy Friyay to you all!
In one of my many (and I do mean many) dichotomies…as in the ones where I KNOW I should both abhor and avoid something and yet cannot (see: Horse racing, et al)…It’s almost football season. I’m stoked, not just because my team has one of its own alums back in the coach’s seat after years of ignominy and utter ridiculousness, but because, well, “Football Season,” we’re going to talk about the Art of the Tailgate. At the risk of jinxing things, a la men’s basketball, the fact of which we shall not speak of, at least until after we see how this season goes, I think we have earned this particular designation.
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The Tailgate Fun + a look at my early days, post-soccer-mom AND a couple of audio book opinions follow.
TGIF and GO CARDS!
Me and Mr. C, having fun at the team hotel in Boston before the SPANK DOWN of the Bearcats last December, Happy Birthday to Me!
Many of us have experienced the simultaneous joy and pain of watching our kids play a sport. I had three of them (kids who played sports), the last one going as far as playing on a Division 1 Big Ten women’s soccer team. If you are one of the parents who spent the necessary dollars and time getting your child to that point, you feel my pain/pleasure.
One of the things I found most interesting about being an Official Soccer Mom for so many years—other than the opportunity I had to spend hours and hours waiting for her to finish practicing or training so I could drive her home again—was the way it threw together people (i.e. parents) who might never otherwise meet or be friends.
I feel the same way about being an ex-pat in three different countries, but we’ll save that for another time.
For the most part, soccer parents have a fair bit in common—mainly the financial wherewithal to spend hard earned cash on expensive clubs, uniforms, and trips to Orlando between Christmas and New Year for tournaments. But otherwise, the one thing that held most of us together was our desire to drink.
Okay, yeah, of course, AND see our daughters’ teams win games, sure. But you get me.
Once we graduated to college-level soccer parenting, the drinks game also levelled up. Whether our team was winning or not, we would gather prior to every weekend game (and sometimes mid-week) with some measure of food and plenty of booze. Yes, there are photos of me with my hand in the mini-liquor bottle, draw-and-drink bucket more than once.
Which brings me in my usual charming yet circuitous way, to our topic: The Tailgate.
Most theorizing about the beginning of the tailgate party begins with the Civil War, before folks realized that war is not a spectator sport and they brought out the picnic baskets to observe the troops during the Battle of Bull Run. There are also theories about the chuckwagon, which is the OG food truck for cowboys at one time being used during the very first college football game between Princeton and Rutgers, during which fans first discovered the joy of eating and drinking together prior to cheering on their favorite teams.
But the term “tailgating” was coined by none other than fans of the Green Bay Packers (Ahem: Go Lions) in 1919. These fans would park their trucks around the field, flip down the tailgates, bring out the beer and brats, and thus a tradition was born.
Mind you, some places take this simple form of self-entertainment and opportunity for mild ribbing of fans of the opposite team to a new level. If you’ve tailgated at schools like Vanderbilt, Auburn, or Old Miss you know that your jeans and logo sweatshirt won’t cut it. But for most of us, the concept of a tailgate party before a sporting event is something that conjures up images of grill smoke, beer cans, and perhaps the odd jello shot, slurped while trying to aim a small bean bag at a board filled with holes an impossible number of yards away.
Personally, my tailgate experiences vary widely but since I lived for almost 20 years in a college town known for the breadth and depth of its pre-game experiences, I can say that most of my favorite ones occurred at or near the corner of Stadium and S. Main Streets in Ann Arbor.
Ok, Ok, it was the “home team” until I ended up with a kid who wore Spartan green for That Other Michigan School. But seriously, some people have adopted entire houses near the Big House for their weekly tailgate events and begin early, especially for those dastardly noon kick off games. I’ve had some seriously delicious grilled breakfasts to go with my Bloody Mary with these fine folks.
Whether you’re a Big Ten, SEC, ACC, or a pro football fan, there tends to be an order of drinking to a proper tailgate. If you’re a Seriously Serious Fan, you start early enough to set up a nice Bloody Mary bar. Bring some decent, chilled vodka, a lot of ice, a couple of options for mixes (spicy and not-so-much) plus a boat load of garnishes—the basics being limes, olives, pickles, and celery but you can get super creative with some crispy bacon, jumbo shrimp (one of my personal favorite oxymorons), cheese cubes, anchovies, smoked salmon. Heck, anymore it seems as though anything goes with Bloody Mary garnishes. My favorite version is one with either Ugly Dog or Lake Life from New Holland vodka, chilled way down over a lot of ice. Top that with McClure’s Bloody Mary Mix which is heavy on the pickle brine (yum). I keep the garnishes simple but want the olive stuffed with blue cheese, and the bacon, apple smoked. No, I’m not high maintenance I just know what I like.
And you haven’t tailgated until you’ve paired that first, early in the day Bloody with a grilled chorizo breakfast burrito while shivering in your Block M sweatshirt (I mean it’s not like I could wear my Louisville Cardinal ones to these things, now could I?) Nope. You have not.
Once that stage of drinking is done, it’s time to move on and for me that means a session-able (read: low ABV) beer. There are so many fabulous options, but I’m partial to pilsners or even a nice, crisp Helles. This is not the time for heavy ABV, you will regret it later. Tailgates are about pacing yourself, see also: how (not) to day drink.
As for food pairings, well…that’s the beauty of a tailgate. Most anything goes, really. Some folks, including a family on my daughter’s college soccer team, broke out the grill each time, treating us to sliders, corn, smoked pulled pork, you name it. Others go the covered dish route—pre made sandwiches, chips, and the ubiquitous veggie platter. But the food isn’t the point. It’s the opportunity to hang out, drink a beverage or two with your like-minded fans, and prep for the sports event to come. See also: pre-gaming.
On the audio book front I finished The Wanderers, Chuck Wendig’s long and sprawling, The Stand-like end of the world as we know it tome and will say, I wasn’t a fan of the ending although I guess I’m meant to be getting the sequel queued up. I might, eventually but I took a break from Evil AI making everyone (literally in the world) die except a few of their choosing to go with some history. The Evil AI is an excellent way to go at something these days btw and overall I give this one a high recommendation.
Quick reminder of my scale. It’s simple and to the point.
For this one:
Do NOT f**k with Black Swan
NOW I’m getting my history on with Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, the book that inspired the musical (which I adore). I’m about 2/3 of the way through which is to say I have 15 hours to go 😬 but it’s highly entertaining. A biography that reads (listens) like a fiction novel in many places with the help of an excellent narrator who gives life and interest to even the most boring bits. I mean, Mr. Hamilton had his foibles and in the end he made a Really Dumb Mistake getting involved the the Reynoldses, but the guy basically created the banking system as we know it currently out of, literally, nothing, AND he was one of the reasons we won the Battle of Yorktown AND he pretty much created the stock market out of whole cloth, for good or ill. Never mind he pissed off people who thought the new country could run on “no debt” and also “no credit” which is…I don’t know, impossible?
One of the best parts is you get little mini bios of George Washington, James Madison, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson (who really comes off sounding like an proto Oliver Anthony just sayin’), Elizabeth Schuyler—btw where is this woman’s book Mr. Chernow?— and many more along the way which accounts for the heft of the thing (it comes it at a whopping 35 hours and 58 minutes).
My dude was a thirst trap which got him into all kinds of mess.
What’s amazing about listening to it now, and its tales of merchants and bankers v. farmers, the strength of a centralized government v. the strength of individual state governments in the years leading up to our own bloody civil war (the north. v. the south) is the fact that the feud between Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Jefferson is the reason we have political parties in the first place. No, I won’t deign to call myself a scholar of this moment in U.S. history but the ways things started….it’s no wonder we continue to bite ourselves in the butt over, well, bankers v. farmers and the executive v. the people.
Once this is done I’m headed to some rom coms, or maybe the Bible in audio. I hear that’s a light listen, lol.
Carry on, my friends and enjoy your weekend!
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