Why Sports are Better Live than on TV – Tailgating

Bill Peck - Monster Park - 49ers

Bill Peck, Monster Park at Candlestick Point, San Francisco, CA, 1 September 2006

I’ve blogged about this topic before, why sports are better live than on TV, here, but thought of another reason…TAILGATING! Something we in the ticket operations business talk about a lot with our season ticket holders is parking. You’ve secured your game ticket, now the next hurdle is actually getting to the game and planning the pre-game ritual. On the way in to work this morning I was actually listening to a podcast about ritual and what that means…in the sport spectator world, football rituals are very important to many fans. Part of that ritual that makes sports better live than on TV is tailgating. Sure you could try to have a party at home and try to throw the football around in the back yard, but it’s just not the same – you don’t get the smells, the sights, the journey of venturing from the pavement to the bleachers, the camaraderie that goes with high-fiving and hugging people you don’t even know.

Tailgating is one of my most favorite things to do before a game. For any die-hard college football fan, you know there are at least 6 or 7 Saturdays during the fall in which you do not plan anything else. The other weekends are away games and if you’re not on a plane to see your team, you are at a bar or at home with your TV because in this case you don’t have a choice. Also, your friends know not to schedule their weddings on the weekends of home games and your family knows exactly where you’ll be on Saturdays from September through the end of November. After all, this is your fall ritual – nobody bother me unless it’s important.

You get the to the stadium parking lot about 7am or 8am for an afternoon game or perhaps a little later for a night game and get the party started. You pull up to the spot you mapped out over the summer and set up your grill, tent, lawn chairs and coolers and claim your space on the campus for at least the next 12 hours. Next, you open up a box of donuts and chow down on some pre-made egg and potato burritos you made the night before. After that, it’s just chill time until more of your friends and family show up, throwing the football around and tossing a frisbee. You help the guy next you to set up his tailgate territory, that way you can try to hide the empty parking spot between your two vehicles, leaving more space for competition in the traditional tailgate party games.

If you really know how to tailgate and have the resources to do so, you’ve got at least a stereo hooked up, blasting old marching band remixes of the best songs of the last 30 years or maybe even a digital satellite and flat screen TV showing ESPN’s College Gameday or the early games from around the country and highlights from the Thursday and Friday night games. That’s somebody who really knows how to do it – tailgating!

Tailgating is one of the best parts of going to a game, especially football. I know fans tailgate for just about every sport there is, but at least in the US its most popular with college and professional football. When I was in graduate school, a few of my classmates did research papers on tailgating at major college football games. The findings were interesting, especially through an academic lens.

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on this particular aspect of sports business and welcome any thoughts in the comments section below.

Go Forth!

BILL PECK