Tailgate parties or “tailgating” is an unique American phenomenon occurring at sporting events that has grown to be more of a cultural tradition. However it is apparent that there is no clear answer as to when and how this pastime we all enjoy started. This TTP entry will look at three legends and give our opinion on which one is the most plausible. All information comes from a book titled The Browns Fan’s Tailgating Guide written by author Peter Chakerian.
The oldest piece of lore details that tailgating began with a college football game between Rutgers and Princeton. According to the story those attending the game spent their pre-game time grilling up sausages at the “tail end” of a horse. We don’t know about you but that doesn’t sound like a very good or sanitary tailgating experience with eating food that has been close to the business end of a horse but who knows. This legend is the oldest and continues to persist till this day.
The second bit of lore comes to us by way of the railroad. According to the story a train carrying spectators to a Yale game in 1904 arrived pretty famished after their long trip. According to Chakerian, the travelers found food and brought it with them to the stadium. Naturally it’s pretty hard to have a large gathering of people with food and drink and not make a party of it. The rest is “history” but is feasible to think this story to be the origins of tailgating? We find it reasonable but there is one last bit of folk lore to consider.
The last story includes the iconic NFL team the Green Bay Packers as the originators of tailgating. During the team’s first year of operation (1919) fans would back their trucks up to the stadium and let the tailgate down for seating. They would bring food and drink so that they could sustain their appetite until kickoff. As previously mentioned this is the perfect combination and excuse to have a party. This is also our favorite piece of lore and seems the most logical. It has all the right pieces and parts and they fit together nicely.
So there you have it the jury is still out and likely there will never be a definitive answer to the question of; where did tailgate parties originate? There is likely truth in all of the legends that we offered, it is up to you, the fan to decide which is more believable. For us the last tale just seems more believable since the use of truck tailgates are used to this day for tailgate parties. But be sure to drop us a line and let us know what stories you have heard as being the beginning of this growing American pastime.