Extending The Tailgate: Keeping Camaraderie Alive

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By: Harrison Goo

73059521 Extending The Tailgate: Keeping Camaraderie Alive

(credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

A few days ago, I wrote an article about the concept of “extending the tailgate.” If you didn’t see it yet, you can read it here. And while the feedback I received was generally positive, I found that people always ended up wondering the same thing. Will the idea really work? Like many things that sound good in theory, (socialism, communism, democracy, etc.) concepts like “extending the tailgate” are only as good as the proof you offer for their success. And, after debating how best to quantify this proof, I thought it best to offer a few anecdotes from my past. For anonymity’s sake I have used pseudonyms for the people whose stories are retold here. I must admit that these will be drawn from their favorite players or teams. Thus, if you know them they will be easily identifiable…which makes reading their stories all that more humorous. And…if not…, well, I hope you can still find some humor in them as well.

The (Self-Proclaimed) Sports Gooru:
The first real tailgating experience that I can remember happened when I was 7. It was with my dad and his friends, sitting around a car eating a bento an hour or so before the game. Truthfully, it wasn’t all that great. My young age and lack of football knowledge saw this experience as little more than eating outside in a noisy, crowded parking lot. Even when we went into the stadium, I didn’t know any of the players and cheered only when those around me did. Luckily for me though, this was the last game of the 1992 season (the year Hawaii went 11-2 and made the Holiday Bowl), so there was a lot to cheer about.

That is not to say, however, that this scarred me from ever tailgating again. In fact it was quite the opposite. Tailgating became a way for me and my buddies from high school to get together. Once we went off to different colleges, having extended tailgates were the only times when we KNEW that we would be together (provided, of course, that Hawaii qualified for the Hawaii Bowl which happened on Christmas Eve, when we were all on break.)

My tailgate memories, however, are not all nostalgia and happiness. My worst drinking experience ever happened at a tailgate, a couple of years ago between my two alma maters (USC and UH.) I’m truthfully not much of a drinker, and made the fatal mistake that day of allowing someone else to mix my drinks. In any case, after about an hour of drinking games and (what I thought was) quite a bit of sweet tea vodka and beer, I retired to my car hot, tired and slightly sick. Big mistake. When I woke up a half an hour later I was more hot, more tired and more sick. Then, after getting up and walking around I felt my stomach churn and…well…yeah you can imagine the rest at your own risk. This was definitely not my proudest moment.

Extended tailgates though, have easily been some of the best experiences of my life. My favorite happened in June of 2005, the summer after UH beat up on Roddy White’s Alabama Birmingham team in the Hawaii Bowl and optimism for the upcoming season was high. At the time, Oceanic Cable (the cable service provider here in Hawaii), had just come out with a “UH Sports on Demand” package, making every UH game from the last 5 seasons available and viewable for a small fee. So we potlucked, gathered at “The Tank’s” house (prior to him officially becoming “the Tank” since we were underage at the time), and sat for hours in front of his TV reliving the glory games of the past few seasons (against Fresno State in 2001 and BYU in 2002, among others.) It was a great day.

AP (I Drink) All Day:
I think it was Hawaii’s 2009 season opener against Central Arkansas. Yeah, that was it. I, along with the “Denver Ewok”, decided we were going to go beer for beer with “The Tank”. Big mistake. A few beers turned into flip cup, which turned into 10 games of flip cup. Maybe it was 20? Who knows. I don’t even remember when it was that I stopped remembering. I do know that I started to regain my memory midway through the second quarter but it faded in and out until close to the end of the 4th. The final score? UH – 25, Division III Central Arkansas – 20. Guess I didn’t miss anything. Hmm, on second thought, maybe it would have been better if I forgot the game completely. (Reaches for a beer.)

After that, I don’t remember who UH was playing, but I know we managed to get together an epic game of flip cup…Punahou (high school) Alumni vs. The World with 13 people per team. Sadly, the build-up greatly exceeded the actual event. After the first guy we were neck and neck. Then we stalled on “Dez(ire more beer) Bryant”. And stalled. And stalled. And stalled. Soon 13 people from “The World” were finished and Dez was still trying to flip his cup. It was a sad, embarrassing day.

The best extended tailgate I can remember? Actually to tell you the truth, all the best ones I don’t remember. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m cool just hearing about em afterwards.

The (Shark) Tank:
All of the extended tailgates happen at my place which is sort of how it’s always been. Since I live in the most central location, we’ve been getting together here, tailgate or not, for the better part of the last two decades. And you know what? Each time its special. Enough can’t be said for having a great group of friends who always get along and always have a good time. I’ve been blessed. Absolutely blessed.

That being said, I have a ton of tailgating stories. But really the most important thing for you to know is that no one out-drinks me. No one. 25 shots in one night at a bar in Whistler says it all. As does the Keggerator in my house.

Andrew (Not Very Much) Luck:
My story is the same as the Gooru’s. Only I drank for an hour longer and threw up an hour earlier. I’m a lightweight and I’m not ashamed to admit it! Andrew Luck got robbed! STANFORD FOR LIFE!!! (Okay this last part I just made up.)

The one extended tailgate that jumps out to me happened in 2001. We were having a Superbowl party at “the Tank’s” house to watch the Baltimore Ravens play the New York Giants. Terrible game. Terrible and boring. So what did we do instead? Walked over to the park and got our own football game going. Are we athletes? No, not by a long shot. But we had a great time and in the end, that was the most important thing.

Antonio (Natural HI) Gates:
My first ever tailgating experience was in high school with Dez’s family, and it was also my real first exposure to a Jam session. His Grandpa was playing guitar, two guys were on the Ukulele and there was another on a washpan bass. The most incredible part was these 4 old-timers seemed to know the words and chords to every song I could think of. It was amazing.

As for extended tailgates, the random dinners at “the Tank’s” were something I’ve always cherished. It wasn’t even anything particularly fancy, we’d just set up a grill with beer, music, drinking games and, of course, more beer (cut to AP nodding in agreement). As we got older though, these gatherings became more and more important because they were just about the only times that we’d all get together, just to hang out. Once people started becoming busy with school or work, it was hard to just take a breath and meet up, so I’m glad that this tradition is something that has endured the test of time, so to speak.

LaDainian (Ring My Del) Tomlinson:
Tailgating has been a tradition in my family since before I can remember. I think my parents told me that even before I was born, they used to tailgate with their friends. Then my mom stopped going and we’d go shopping instead while my dad and brother tailgated with our friends. Then after awhile my brother wasn’t as interested in football anymore so he stopped going too. Just my dad was left.

It was about this time, however, that I started dating “AP” and began to develop an interest in the game again (mostly so I could beat him in our fantasy football league.) So when he’d tailgate or get together with his friends, I’d tag along. Not sure what this really means. Is this even really a tailgating story? Sorry if it’s not. But I guess my point is that tailgating is probably more than just the game right? It’s a chance for friends to get together and have a good time. At least that’s what I love about it.

The most important thing about all these stories, you see, is not just their content, but the emotions they elicit. No matter what happened, whether it was a drunken flip-cup fiasco, or a football game in the park between friends, all our activities can be looked back upon fondly. I guess what I’m trying to say is that, while I’ve described a set of recommended circumstances for extending your tailgate, it is by no means mandatory to follow them. The main thing for this type of tailgate it seems, is that it’s not just what you do, but who you do it with.

Harrison Goo is a contributor to CBS Local and the founder of the blog Sportsgooru.com. To contact him, email him at harrison@sportsgooru.com follow him on twitter at @sportsgooru.

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