Prior to the Super Bowl, I was interviewed by Matthew Hall, a reporter for the San Diego Union Tribune, for a story about the potential death of tailgating if San Diego were to get a new downtown stadium. Along with interviewing me, the reporter also got some opinions from Joe Cahn, the self-proclaimed Commissioner of Tailgating along with some San Diego Chargers fans. The piece focused on if the Chargers moved to a downtown stadium location that tailgating would be severely limited if not extinct.
San Diego Union Tribune: Tailgating gets boot in stadium plan
The article was published a week ago and 272 comments have been left at the base of the article. (Many comments were on topic while a number of others were Jets’ fans rubbing the playoff loss in the Chargers fans faces.) Today, the San Diego Union Tribune published three letters to the editor it had received on this issue. One letter was from a fan who said he would give up his tickets if tailgating was curbed while the other two letters expressed that a new stadium was more important in keeping the team in San Diego than preserving tailgating. Those letters can be found HERE. Here are the letters:
Evan Patrick of San Diego sees tailgating as part of the entire experience:
As a season-ticket holder, I would feel a tragic loss if there weren’t tailgating in San Diego. We would lose the last legal opportunities we have to get outside and enjoy the beautiful San Diego weather with friends to eat, drink, socialize and bond with our community and team.
And why would this pleasure in life be lost? Doesn’t anyone remember that the entire premise for a new stadium was that we needed it to have a competitive football team? Obviously, the Chargers are one of the best teams in the NFL! So, why do we ‘need’ a new stadium? It seems to me that it’s just about a business maximizing profits without regard to the fan experience. They seem to forget that it’s the fans that pay for absolutely everything.
If tailgating is lost, I won’t go to Chargers games. It’s for this reason that I don’t go to Padres games at Petco Park anymore. That pitiful Tailgate Park has essentially become a VIP parking lot. The new Padres ‘experience’ includes higher prices, more traffic, less parking, no tailgating, fewer day games and an uncompetitive team. I pray the same fate doesn’t await the Chargers and their fans.
Erik Ferree of San Diego is concerned the team could move to Los Angeles
I agree that tailgating is the biggest change facing Charger fans if they move into a downtown stadium. However, you have failed to recognize a much greater change that will occur if the Chargers fail to secure a new venue. The Chargers, who have been working on a San Diego stadium solution for at least eight years and so far have been unsuccessful, are better positioned to move than any other NFL team. The greatest potential change is not parking spaces, but thousands of fans screaming, “Los Angeles Super Chargers!” We will rent out Ace Parking, or buy a round at the Tilted Kilt. Without a new stadium, how many of us will drive north?
Brooke Baquial of San Diego thinks the threat of the Chargers leaving is more important than tailgating
Life without tailgating or life without the Chargers? Our number one concern should focus on keeping the Chargers in San Diego. If we really are Chargers fans, tailgating should be the least of our complaints. It’s more imperative that there is a game to watch or go to in the first place.
Obviously, the last two letters concern me. Being an advocate for tailgating and promoting the tailgate party lifestyle, I truly believe it is apathy and inaction that will kill tailgating as we know it. I am willing to bet that both Brooke Baquial and Erik Ferree are not Chargers season ticket holders. They may be Chargers fans but I would be hard pressed to believe that they have attended a game or tailgated if they have been to a game in person. I would guess that when the game is blacked out on local television they would either shrug their shoulders and go to the beach or the all that day or watch whatever NFL game the local station would air.
I know I am biased but anyone I have talked to that has gone to a game and tailgated has loved the experience. It is easy to be ambivalent to an activity or cause if you have never done it. There is no attachment to it. So the easy answer to preserving tailgating is to bring more people into the mix. On top of that, those that do tailgate, whether it be regularly or on a casual basis, need to act and show solidarity. By being organized and standing together you can make change. You can preserve tailgating.
Labor unions are successful in getting their demands met because they have solidarity amongst their ranks and are willing to make sacrifices to achieve goals. Now I am not proposing we organize a “Tailgaters Union” per se but I am encouraging tailgaters to stand up for what they want. Look at how the New Orleans Saints fans were able to convince the NFL overstepped its bounds regarding the usage of the term “Who Dat?”. They proved that targeted action and solidarity will get results.
When your team starts cutting back on your tailgating time, send them a message. Encourage all your friends and fellow tailgaters to send a message. Refusing to buy merchandise, concessions or anything else that can harm them financially really sends a message. But the key to being effective is to be organized and have solidarity amongst your ranks. Trade union strikes are effective because all workers walk out and refuse to show up to work, thus bringing productivity to a grinding halt. If you can get your fellow tailgaters to send a powerful message to the powers that be, they will be forced to listen.
I have said it before and I will say it again, we are at a crossroads right now when it comes to keeping tailgating the way it has been for years. Inaction by tailgating nation will allow the reduction of your rights to tailgate be further dwindled and taken away. But when it comes time for you to make a difference, be ready to make some sacrifices that may not be attractive at the moment.