Joe Drozda and Bob Bley are writing the third edition of The Tailgater’s Handbook which will be published in 2014. Drozda is considered the “Father of American Tailgating” by many including The Wall Street Journal. Drozda and Bley both grew up in NW Indiana and attended Indiana University together.
The art of trying to outdo someone else is obvious among tailgaters - not as a fault but just normal, natural behavior. Sociologists tell us that it’s a phenomenon of group dynamics and a significant factor in professions like management where it manifests itself as “office politics”. In tailgating we observe the urge to have a better set-up than others in the same lot, with bigger and better equipment, including our vehicles. This competitive urge to outdo our neighbor even extends to the food we serve. Why serve chips and dip when one can offer caviar with sour cream on toast triangles? At your next game, look around and take note of how this pastime of tailgating is evolving:
• People used to make their own flagpoles and jerry-rig them to their cars but now poles are available that telescope higher and higher. The highest pole and the largest flag is a great way for people to find your party. Recently we even saw someone who brought a helium tank and sent up a tethered mini blimp, with a team flag attached!
• Small portable charcoal grills used to be the norm. Now tow-behind grills - big enough to cook food to serve an entire football team - are not unusual.
• A car radio used to provide music; now people have speakers as tall as a man with amplifiers powered by generators.
• A wood-paneled station wagon once was the sought-after tailgate vehicle. Later people bought vans and now they have motor homes, and even reconditioned over-the-road buses.
• Tailgaters used to be happy with a ham sandwich and potato salad served from a picnic basket. Now fans set up buffets with quantities and menu selections that rival those on cruise ships.
If you want to try tailgate dish that sounds exotic but more importantly - tastes great, here’s a recommendation for a beef stew. The international flare comes with the French Bourgogne wine and baguettes; this dish will still be a success if you substitute your favorite red and another bread.