Party in the Back

I can’t imagine life, let alone sports, without tailgating

Trevor Kupfer, illustrated by Catlin Felix Kramka

The Brewers are still playing in October. The Badgers are on track for the national title game. And the Packers are on the road to repeat. For most people, it’s a darn good year to be a local sports fan. But, for me, I rarely measure a good year in fandom by the number of wins, playoff appearances, or titles. 

Nope. I count things like the number of high fives from complete strangers in bars, because watching The Crew at The Mousetrap or The Pack at Court’N House brings about instant camaraderie. If you haven’t experienced this, you’re going to the wrong places or rooting for the wrong teams. I implore you to change, because there’s not much better than getting a hug from an old lady because The Packers just returned a punt and she can’t wait for her free Jell-O shot.

Or the far more important number at the end of a season: the number of tailgates. I’ve always been a fan of Wisconsin sports, but I shudder to think how I’d feel if tailgating wasn’t always associated with the games. For me, that’s not “half the fun of going” (as some might say), but “somewhere between 90 and 99 percent of the fun of going.” 

Tailgating experiences, ingrained in me since I was a child, shaped my entire experience of “sports.” And today, I continue to enjoy tailgating as a culture and artform unto itself. It has the warm-and-fuzzy power of a holiday dinner with family, with the culinary potential of Iron Chef, and the drinking game-invention creativity of Minute To Win It, all wrapped in one. 

It’s a well-known and -documented fact* that tailgating is a regional thing. And in Wisconsin, it’s an institution. And why not? It’s a simple concept in both theory and execution. Call up friends and family. Track down the biggest cooler you can find (or fit in your car). Grab a grill. Pick up charcoal, brats, burgers, beverages, and whatever else ya fancy. And don’t forget to pack games (anything from involved activities like beer pong to simple pleasures like a ball to toss around). Then drive there, set up, turn on the radio, and get your gameface on.

* So much so that I’m not even gonna look it up to prove it to you.

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