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The Tailgate Party; A Brief History

As we found in a recent article, the tailgating experience is a uniquely American event. The roots of this fascinating, yet strange cultural activity goes back nearly 100 years - longer depending on which legend strikes you as most believable.

One interesting excerpt from The Browns Fan's Tailgating Guide, written by Peter Chakerian, writes in detail of three of the most probable roots of the first tailgate party which I will heavily paraphrase below.

The first theory is that the tailgate party occurred during the first college football game between Rutgers and Princeton. Apparently, spectators spent their pre-game ritual grilling sausages at the "tail end" of the horse. This theory seems a bit weak to me, but it has persisted for a long, long time.

The second theory seems a little bit more plausible, as it seems logical to the human mind. The story goes that a train transported a large number of fans to a Yale football game in 1904. By the time the fans had arrived to the game, most were quite famished and, according to Peter Chakerian's excerpt, the fans made sure to bring food and beverages to the stadium prior to the start of the game.

The third, and the theory I like the most, was that Green Bay Packers fans coined the actual term "tailgating" during the teams first year in business in 1919. Back then, the fans would back their pickup trucks around the field and fold down their tailgates for seating. Naturally, food and beverages were brought along to keep the appetite in check.

I wisely did not sport Orange & Blue as I'd rather not get stabbed by some ex-con. Though I did buy an orange and blue Horse balloon!

Option three seems to be the most genuine to me, if simply because tailgating had to have been practical prior to it becoming the spectacle it is today.

As for me, my only experience at a tailgate party took place on opening day in 2008. Well, not opening day, but the Monday night after opening day. The Broncos drubbed the Raiders 41-14 in that game - it was quite enjoyable for me.

One thing I learned was that the tailgate party is likely the only time when fans of both teams can intermingle without hard feelings on either side. I recall drinking some beers and eating some grilled meat with my Raider fan brother and some guys I met through Silver and Black Pride. There was some light trash talk, but for the most part it was an enjoyable pre-game party. I even got my picture taken with some Black Hole characters. I know, blasphemy! However, it was a memorable experience.

That said, by nights end, Raider fans were looking for Bronco fans to drown in the clogged urinals, the parking lot had turned into a war zone from some third world country, and all of the nice people I met were nowhere to be found.

So enjoy the tailgate party, for its the only time where both sides can come together to eat, drink and be merry - for in a matter of hours some or most will no longer be in the mood for that kind of activity.

I have shared my lone tailgating experience; how about yours?

Go Broncos!