You can’t have a tailgate without corn hole, Bud Light and burgers and dogs, but you also can’t have a tailgate without football. I mean, you can, but it’s not quite the real deal. While you pack up the truck and don your jersey, though, have you considered, you know, why you show up to the stadium six hours before kickoff just to eat and drink the same way you could at home? (Besides getting a good parking spot, that is.)
Well, it’s always kind of been a football thing.
The first “modern” tailgate is assumed to have occurred at the first ever college football game between Rutgers and Princeton in 1869, but there are a number of similar events that could easily be attributed to the birth of the tailgate. Like when Yale used to bus or train spectators over to their stadium, taking hours to arrive, forcing fans to bring along their own food and drink to munch on while they waited.
Or the Civil War, which is, believe it or not, often acknowledged as the start of the custom of tailgating. At the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861 (the first battle in the war as a whole), civilians traveled to the battlefield in Virginia to stake out a seat and watch the action. Sounds crazy, I know, but they even brought wagons full of wine, whiskey and snacks to satiate their appetites. It’s a solid first instance of two opposing sides (Union and Confederate, in this case) gathering with food and drink to prepare to root for their cause.
Obviously, this circumstance had higher stakes than any Super Bowl.
Even earlier than that, though, crowds used to feast and gather in Place de la Révolution before beheadings, so, technically, some institutions consider that a tailgate, too. We could even go back to the harvest festivals of the ancient Greeks and Romans: gatherings for an event that consisted of strangers becoming friends, shared food and drink and raucous behavior. Sound familiar?
But, even so, tailgating has remained a strictly American pastime, so let’s give ourselves credit where it’s due.
It’s the Green Bay Packers, though, who get to say they came up with the name “tailgate.” During their inaugural season in 1921, fans arrived at the stadium, backed into the lot, opened up the beds of their pick-up trucks and settled in to prepare for kickoff. So, “tailgate,” I guess.
Good for you, Aaron Rodgers.