After a little bit of a slow start, it seems that the Super Bowl Tailgating Petition is gaining some legs. Apparently one of the signees has taken it upon himself to contact a few members of the sports media and has promoted the petition to anyone who will listen. Who was listening? Apparently the NFL league offices caught wind of it and sent me an email about the petition. It was from Brain McCarthy, the NFL director of corporate communications. Whenever you get an email in your inbox that has @nfl.com on the end of it, you’d probably open that one up first too. Here is what it said:
It’s Brian McCarthy from the NFL. Can you please give me a call at 212-450-XXXX when you have a chance? I want to help clarify the Super Bowl tailgating matter.
Fans can enjoy their own food and beverage near their vehicles. However, due to traffic flow and security matters for an event of this magnitude, you cannot grill or take up more than one parking spots or set up tents in the Super Bowl parking lots as you would during a regular season game at some stadiums.
National Football League
(I intentionally edited out the last four digits of his phone number because the last thing I need is Mr. McCarthy angry with me because I published his direct phone line on the internet. The rest of the email is verbatim what was sent to me.)
Naturally I called him but unfortunately got his voicemail. I left a nice message, let him know I received his email, he can call me back on my cell phone, blah, blah, blah. About 45 minutes later my cell phone rings. The area code on my caller ID was from the 212. You know what that means. New York City and home to the National Football League’s offices. I pick up and lo and behold, it’s Brain McCarthy of the NFL calling me back. The phone conversation lasted almost 22 minutes (I checked my cell phone log) and here are the highlights. Keep in mind I did not record the call and I am paraphrasing from memory. I am confident that my memory serves me correctly that I am not printing any false information gleaned from the conversation.
In a nutshell, Brian McCarthy explained to me that there is no ban on tailgating at the Super Bowl. He did confirm that there is a ban on open flames and grilling in the parking lot before the Super Bowl. He also confirmed that putting up tents and taking up more than one parking space is also forbidden. That includes no RV parking at the Super Bowl as well. He said fans can still travel to the game and tailgate as long as there is no grilling or open flames. He suggested fans attempting to tailgate at the Super Bowl to pack sandwiches or other food items that do not require cooking while in the parking lot.
I asked Mr. McCarthy, “Isn’t banning grilling essentially banning tailgating?”. He didn’t share my opinion that tailgating, by definition, involves preparing food in the parking lot on a barbecue. He did agree with me that the NFL and the Super Bowl XLII Host Committee should explain their “no tailgating at the Super Bowl” policy in clearer terms and not just use the generic term “tailgating”. Since our conversation this morning I did notice that the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee Website has since changed the wording on the Parking and Transportation Information page. It used to clearly state that the NFL has “a strict NO tailgating policy at the Super Bowl”. (Yes, that word “NO” was in bold on their website and I did not add that for emphasis on mine.) The ban on tailgating is no longer mentioned on the Host Committee’s site but it does state “No RV or motor home parking is allowed at Super Bowl XLII”. The revamped Host Committee site does not mention anything about open flame grilling being banned at the Super Bowl.
We then discussed the reasoning for the tailgating ban. Mr. McCarthy confirmed that since the Super Bowl has evolved into an event of such magnitude that heightened security was the main reason for the tailgating ban. He said open flames from a gas or charcoal grill present a higher security risk. If the NFL can alleviate that risk then the Super Bowl security people will have one less thing to keep track of. He went on to say that the Super Bowl is such a major event that it can not be compared to Week 4 or any other week of the NFL regular season. He explained that the parking lots normally open for tailgating during a regular season game are now utilized for other Super Bowl related purposes. Apparently the Fox TV compound for the Super Bowl requires much more room compared to when it broadcasts from an Arizona Cardinals regular season game. He also added that the NFL Experience interactive display takes up about 1 million square feet of the parking lot. An average parking stall is 100 square feet (10 feet by 10 feet) so that equates to roughly 10,000 parking spaces gobbled up by the NFL’s own interactive display.
The phone conversation was quite enlightening yet I think that both Mr. McCarthy and I ended the call by agreeing to disagree on what we both believe to be the true definition of tailgating. I am of the opinion that the NFL needs to clarify this non-tailgating policy at the Super Bowl to avoid this confusion as to where it stands on the issue. I still fail to understand how a fan using an open flame to grill hot dogs poses a security risk.
I understand that parking spaces might be at a premium because of the expanded TV compound and large displays eating up potential parking spaces. I get that. Why not tighten up the rules for tailgating instead of banning it all together? How about a policy that all tailgaters need to remain in their own parking stall directly behind their vehicles? Make sure if you erect a canopy or instant shade that is does not encroach on a neighboring parking stall? And how is it that a guy grilling brats or a tri-tip poses a major security concern to the overall safety and well being within the one mile radius of the Super Bowl?
Not once during the course of the conversation did Mr. McCarthy ask me to abandon my support of the petition. The phone call was more of an open line of communication to clarify the NFL’s stance on the Super Bowl tailgating ban. I appreciate that show of respect and common courtesy shown by Mr. McCarthy and the NFL in general. I still do not share the NFL’s opinion regarding this issue and will still encourage the league to reconsider this policy. If more people sign this petition and agree to boycott Super Bowl advertisers if this policy is not revamped we may never get “traditional tailgating” back at the Super Bowl. If you think packing a soggy sandwich in wax paper and bringing it to the game is tailgating, then please do not sign this petition.
Then again, ask yourself how many personal freedoms are we willing to give up just because of “security reasons”?