Tales from the tailgate

posted on October 15, 2015 at 12:02 pm

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the first occurrence of tailgating happened. In a 2014 Vice article, “War, Beheadings, and Booze: A brief history of tailgating,” writer Matt Osgood outlines the possible origins of what has become a great American pastime. During France’s Reign of Terror spectators are said to have gathered to knit and eat at public executions. The American Tailgate Associationcontends that the first tailgate took place on a Sunday in 1861, when civilians toting food and booze congregated on the sidelines as Union and Confederate forces clashed at the First Battle of Bull Run. A tamer, less bloody origin story traces tailgating to Yale football around the early 20th century, where fans from opposing teams travelling by bus or train would arrive to the stadium early, bring food, and wait for the game to start.

“Tailgating can get a bad name with regard to overconsumption of booze and the terrible violence that can sometimes accompany it, but it has its roots in conviviality,” Osgood said when asked to share the takeaway from his research. “Throughout history, even in its darkest times, tailgating brought people together with the time-honored tradition of sharing food and booze. We participate not solely to get drunk or to cheer my team against your team, but in the good-hearted spirit of a shared experience.”

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