Tailgate Party – A US Pre-Game Tradition

Hồng Phương
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(VOVWORLD) - There are several ways one can enjoy a sports game, such as wearing the T-shirt of your favorite team, chanting along with the crowds, or screaming your heart out whenever a goal is scored. For many Americans, the joy of sports not only lies in the game itself, but also the festivities leading up to the grand event. Today, let’s discover a US tradition that every American sports enthusiast loves – tailgate parties.

Tailgate Party – A US Pre-Game Tradition - ảnh 1A pre-game "roundtable" discussion between a group of friends in a parking lot in Minnesota, the US. (Photo: Randy Stern/Flickr)

If you are heading for a sports game in the US, make sure to spend some time in the parking lot first – that is where the fun begins. In the teeming open space, groups of people gather around pickup trucks, handing each other beers and piping hot burgers from a sizzling grill, while discussing the upcoming game. Since these parties are held out of a truck’s “tailgate” – the hinged flap at the back of the vehicle, people started to call this activity “tailgating”.

Pedro Pastrano, former American lecturer at Vietnam National University, described the tradition, “Tailgating is basically a pre-game party. It was previously held with a pickup truck, and its tailgate folded down looks like a table. Now it has become very fancy. The purpose is to get the fans excited, to get them motivated, to cheer on the team, and to bring the community together.”

“Tailgating is a critical part of the sports experience in the United States. Why? Because if you have ever been to America and you go to Candlestick Park or some other big stadium in America, they have very large parking lots for the cars and trucks. Tailgating often takes place just outside of the stadium or the arena.”

Tailgate Party – A US Pre-Game Tradition - ảnh 2"Tailgating" began during the American football craze in the 1980s and 1990s. (Photo: Pixabay.com/Creative Commons)

The advent of modern-day tailgating can be traced back to college football, according to American Heritage.

As automobile ownership boomed in the post-war period and college football’s popularity grew exponentially, tailgating became an integral part of the American sports experience during the 80s and 90s. These parties give fans the chance to socialize with like-minded people before the match and enjoy various forms of entertainment to pass the time.

For the avid tailgaters, these pre-game gatherings might be even more fun than the actual game. In fact, according to National Geographic, 35% of tailgating people do not attend the game – they simply want to enjoy the exciting atmosphere found in the parking lot.

“At the party that I went to, people brought outdoor speakers and stereos. They played music and it was so loud. From one place to another, there was music going on. At these parties, they also hook up television sets so people can watch the pre-game activities, and they use electric generators to watch the sports. If they don’t want to go in, or they don’t have a ticket, they will watch from outside from their tailgate,” Pastrano said.

“There are games in the parking lot. But these games are usually drinking games. Because there is no space, people will play games like beer pong or flip cup. Basically, these are games that don’t take up too much space and organization. We call them lawn games”.

Tailgate Party – A US Pre-Game Tradition - ảnh 3A simple game of beer pong is an effective pasttime during a tailgate party. (Photo: Frank Schulenburg/Creative Commons)

The wide selection of mouth-watering food at tailgate parties are also what draw in people. Tailgate parties remain relevant nowadays, yet the range of food served at these gatherings have evolved from simple BBQs to charcuterie boards with artisanal cheese, Pastrano said.

“From my experience, a long time ago, people brought alcoholic beverages, and barbecued and grilled food. People who came to these parties were called tailgaters, because many people participate even when their vehicles don’t have tailgates. If you don’t have a pickup truck, they will put picnic tables out or something on the ground and they sit down and have a tailgate party. People also bring their own alcohol. But now it has become fancy. People also bring wine and champagne. They have expensive BBQs and food. People move around sharing food, drinks and toasting good luck among the fans.”

Now that Pastrano is living in Vietnam, tailgating for him is a thing of the past. Still, he can find something relatable as he experiences the Vietnamese enthusiasm for sports through street storming, a massive gathering to cheer on, or celebrate the major wins of the country’s football teams.

Tailgate Party – A US Pre-Game Tradition - ảnh 4A football fan grills some ribs for his team during a tailgate party at Camp Lemonnier in 2012. (Photo: Public Domain)

“For example, if there’s a football game coming up in Hanoi, the motorcycles are hitting the street with the team flag or the national flag with fans waving, chanting, and cheering. And also, after the game, if they win, the place goes crazy with the motorcycles honking and screaming.” Pastrano said. 

In the past few years, tailgate parties have grown in size in the US, with large-scale events hosted by celebrities or sports clubs. In September 2023, 2.5 million fans tuned in to an online tailgate event held by Kansas City Chiefs – the professional US football team. This figure indicates that tailgating will continue to be an indispensable part of American culture.