Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford

Tailgating: When A Picnic Turns Into An Event

Green Bay Packers fans take advantage of a warm September to tailgate outside Lambeau Field. i i

hide captionThe Good Life: Green Bay Packers fans take advantage of a warm September to tailgate in the parking lot outside Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.

Scott Boehm/Getty Images
Green Bay Packers fans take advantage of a warm September to tailgate outside Lambeau Field.

The Good Life: Green Bay Packers fans take advantage of a warm September to tailgate in the parking lot outside Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.

Scott Boehm/Getty Images

I can't remember the last picnic I went on. How about you? I mean one of those classic old-fashioned picnics — where you take a blanket and a hamper, a cooler, maybe, or a thermos, and drive out to the countryside and sit down peacefully in a lovely field of wildflowers, alone with nature, and have a picnic.

Really, does anybody do that anymore?

But, of course, what Americans do now is tailgate — that grand old football tradition — jammed together, on asphalt, amid exhaust fumes and exhausting vulgarities. Even late in the season, football fans will tailgate, foregathering on the cold, hard tarmac for hours, dining al fresco Americano, when it's cold and raw and very un-picnic-y.

There is nothing selective about tailgating. It crosses all ethnic, racial and religious lines. You just have to like football and, likewise, alcoholic beverages. You don't even have to have a vehicle with a tailgate in order to tailgate.

I suppose the reason tailgating is so closely tied to football is that football games only come once a week and are events. In fact, traditionally — especially at college games — we refer to football "weekends," not merely football games.

And while tailgating has never fully migrated to other sports, there is one other entertainment where it has caught on, and that's rock concerts.

We used to think that the most popular item consumed by concertgoers was weed, and while that sort of thing has hardly gone out now, I am assured by my crack concert spies that nowadays the primary smell wafting around parking lots before concerts is more likely just to be that of good old all-American football-style hamburgers on the grill.

Concert tailgating appears to be limited, however. It is more likely to be the case where aging entertainers like Bruce Springsteen or U2 are performing. They attract a more mature, boomer audience. Teenyboppers don't tailgate. Tailgating is a sign of growing up. People tailgate before the Santa Fe Opera. Honestly.

And, of course, another reason why tailgating has superseded picnics is that at least there are no ants in stadium parking lots. So does life evolve right before our eyes.

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Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford
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