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A tale of two tailgates

Families vs. students: rituals at Rentschler reveal sharp contrast between the two

By Sam Marshall
On October 3, 2011

  • There is always a mixed crowd in attendance for home football games at Rentschler Stadium in East Hartford. Families and alumni bring a more sophisticated spread to tailgate with, while packs of college students generally stick to grilled food and drinking games. FILE PHOTO/The Daily Campus

It was around 11 a.m. when a roommate slammed on my door. "Game time!" he shouted, with all the excitement of a 4-year-old on Christmas. I threw on my game day shirt and hopped it the car. It was Saturday and UConn had a football game. This meant only one thing: tailgating.

I have been tailgating for the better part of seven years now. What started with my family sitting in a circle of foldable lawn chairs eating pre-made Subway foot-longs has progressed to a three-hour event consisting of my fraternity brothers and pure mayhem.

When we parked my minivan at Rentschler Field's parking area, we prepared our usual Saturday ritual. We unloaded the 30-packs, prepared the grill for the superfluous amount of hamburgers we had brought and began mixing the concoction known as jungle juice in a five-gallon water cooler. Directly across from us was a family, the father tossing the pigskin with his son, with a beautiful spread including hummus, veggies and crackers.

It is this duality in which the tailgating world lives. The rowdy side respects the calmer one, and the peaceful side laughs at the raucous. I approached the family across from us and asked if they wished to be interviewed for the paper, but they refused to give their name – probably because of the group of people with whom they just witnessed me. They simply said, "We've been doing this for a few years – we've got it down to a science."

As I wandered around the massive parking area, this seemed to be the theme. No matter the type of tailgate, everyone seemed to have fun in what they were doing and knew exactly what they were involving themselves in. There were one or two lost freshman girls stumbling about, and one lonely Western Michigan fan that asked me for directions with Smirnoff Blueberry Lemonade drink in hand. But for the most part, the lot looked like one huge Husky family.

There was one clear distinction between the two groups. When it got closer to game time, the families began packing up in order to not miss a single moment of the game. The boisterous people, however, seemed to be doing the complete opposite – they continued to drink as if they didn't want to remember the game at all. I asked Greg Parker, 7th-semester finance major, why he hadn't moved into the game yet. "That's what SportsCenter's for," Parker said, as he duct-taped his newest beer to the one he just finished. He had done this with each of his previous drinks in order to signify how many he had finished, and by the time he left for the game, his "wizard's staff" was taller than him.

By now, even my veteran body was growing weary and beaten. I headed to the game with the rest of the stragglers, being herded along by men in golf carts and state police. It was then I realized what really separates the two different tailgate groups. For the peaceful ones, the tailgate is a prelude, the introduction to the game. For the others, the tailgate is the event. It is the game.


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