Exclusive Interview: Hans Steiniger Quest For 31

Back in July of 2007 we told you about Hans Steiniger and his unusual journey that takes the idea of the professional football fanatic to a whole new level. He’s challenged himself to attend a game in each stadium in the National Football League. He’s doing it as a home team fan in an effort to find out exactly what it’s like to follow each NFL franchise. As the Super Bowl this weekend bring to a close another NFL season, we caught up with Hans Steiniger as he winds down from another season on the road in pursuit of the Quest for 31.

Tailgating Ideas: So, how did your love of football start? Where did it all begin?

Hans Steiniger: For as long as I can remember I’ve been a fan of the National Football League. I’ve spend many a Sunday afternoon parked in my leather recliner at home or out at Ralph Wilson Stadium near Buffalo, New York watching the bone-jarring hits, explosive aerial attacks and bruising ground game that makes professional football the best sport in the world.

Tailgating Ideas: You seem to really love football. Your website, nflfootballstadiums.com, is about your personal pursuit to attend a football game in every NFL stadium, all 31. That’s pretty ambitious to say the least. What inspired you to take the leap from football fan to Superfan and start this amazing quest?

Hans Steiniger: In 2006, I found myself attending home games in other NFL cities as I visited friends and family. The dynamic of the crowd was somewhat different, but their unwavering support of the home team was exactly the same. I realized that each NFL city has its own unique, traditional game day experience and that each experience was different from what I was accustomed to in Buffalo. Some fans wore different gear, some had special chants, some ate different food but our love of pro football unites us all. I decided that I wanted to experience what game-day might be like from the perspective of every fan in the National Football League. I wanted to immerse myself in local NFL culture and report my findings to any other fans that might have a similar interest. This is how the Quest for 31, my own personal NFL pilgrimage to attend a game in each stadium in the league, was born.

Tailgating Ideas: So, you have been doing this since 2006? How far have you made it on your Quest?

Hans Steiniger: I’m in my third year and my Quest for 31 journeys have taken me to 26 of the 31 NFL stadiums in the league and to over thirty-three NFL games.

Tailgating Ideas: How do you prepare yourself for each game?

Hans Steiniger: For each stadium I visit, I buy a home team jersey, meet up and go tailgating with local fans. Then I write a review summarizing my weekend. All of which can be found on my website.

Tailgating Ideas: So what is it like going to games and tailgating in these different NFL cities?

Hans Steiniger: Throughout my travels, I’ve realized that every region of the country has its own football traditions. Many of these have become so ingrained to locals that they’re taken for granted. It usually takes an outsider, someone unfamiliar with the typical game-day happenings, to point out these local gems so they can be appreciated by others. That’s what I am. I’m the guy that’s barking in the dog pound, even though my Buffalo Bills are in town. I’m the Bengals fan singing a throaty rendition of the “WKRP in Cincinnati” theme song at Paul Brown Stadium. I’m the Packer fan wearing a cheese head in the second row, as I chomp on a brat and chug a beer. I’m the Kansas City Chiefs fan who chuckles to himself every time we fire up the Tomahawk Chop chant, realizing the political incorrectness of the situation. I’m the Terrible Towel waver in Pittsburgh eating a Primanti Bros sandwich, the Raider fan in Oakland donning a set of shoulder pads with a silver face and a head of green hair, and the Minnesota Vikings fan belting out “Skol Vikings” with a set of horns on my head. I’m all of these people, the well rounded NFL fan, appreciative of local culture, and excited to be immersed in it as I blend into the home crowd at every stadium. The Quest for 31 affords me the opportunity to truly appreciate our diversity as NFL fans.

Tailgating Ideas: So, it would seem that you’re living any NFL fans dream. I won’t ask you which stadium is your favorite, as I am sure it must be hard to choose. So, more specifically, which NFL city has the friendliest fans?

Hans Steiniger: This question is just as hard to answer as which is my favorite stadium. Every city has been kind to me in its own way. That being said, the friendliest fans in the league, in my experience, are Green Bay Packer Fans. Take a short walk through the neighborhoods surrounding Lambeau Field and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Packer fans rise early on Sunday mornings already dressed in Green and Gold. The entire community seems to gather at Lambeau Field to support their local NFL franchise and many actually offer game-day parking on their front lawns. Strangers are always welcomed with a smile and a cold-one. The small town atmosphere, with its traditional values and solid character citizens, makes for great ambassadors of the game of football. Folks in Green Bay are eager to lend a hand and happy to strike up a conversation with anyone that stops by.

Tailgating Ideas: Pro Football’s history in Green Bay is almost iconic. Is this what initially drew you to their city or was it just another check mark on the Quest to-do list?

Hans Steiniger: It was definitely more than just a check mark on the Quest. Lambeau Field is like the Mecca every football fan has to visit at one time or another to complete themselves as true fans of the NFL. The mystique of the “Frozen Tundra” and the Packer’s storied history as the first Super Bowl Champions are enough for any fan to want to visit. It combines the history of the winners of the first two Super Bowls with a fan base that actually owns its own football team. Small town values and an extremely loyal and welcoming fan base, is what characterizes the game day experience in Green Bay. I approached several Packer fans when I was in Green Bay out of curiosity. Every single one of them welcomed me over, offered me a beer, and offered me some of what they had cooking. Overall, the warmth and devotion of the fan-base, amidst some of the most inhospitable weather in the NFL, will most certainly make you want to come back for another visit.

Tailgating Ideas: I’ve been to Green Bay and have tailgated outside of Lambeau Field. You are correct in that the fans and the atmosphere is truly unique in all of the NFL cities I have personally seen. As far as tailgating fare, which fans, in your opinion, serve the best pre-game feast?

Hans Steiniger: The folks in Houston grill up the best barbecue in the NFL, bar none. Arrive early on game day and you’ll find that Texan fans will come prepared for a full day of putting meat to flame. Most fans actually trailer in their custom grills and smokers behind their pickup trucks and they’re more than happy to pay for the additional space it requires. Massive custom-made, welded-steel Frankenstein creations show up all over the parking lot. Double-barrel steel drum smokers, horizontals with smoke pipes and flues and smokers made from random scrap metal will all appear in the lots outside Reliant Stadium prepared to cook up a variety of meats. But what sets the fans in Houston apart from the others, is their preparation and their mastery of the open flame. Texan fans bring homemade marinades, barbecue sauces, and dry rubs to accentuate the flavor of their meat. Family recipes that are handed down from generation to generation all find their way to the blacktop on game day. These prepped meats are then charcoal grilled, slow roasted, or smoked using exotic hardwoods and custom grilling surfaces. You won’t find Houston Texan fans hovering over a hibachi grill with a couple of ballpark franks. Grilling is a way of life in these parts and the folks down in Houston take their barbecue very seriously.

Tailgating Ideas: So we’ve got the basics- best fans and best food. Your Quest is impressive and would make any fan easily envious. Football fans across the country drool at the thought of going to every NFL stadium to tailgate. But most are financially prohibited from doing so. Are you just independently wealthy or is there a secret to being able to pull this off and still not be drowning in debt?

Hans Steiniger: Well, the Quest for 31 is mostly self-funded. I rely on the friends and family I know living in NFL cities, the kindness of my tailgating brethren from around the League, and I do produce one of the best underground fantasy football cheat sheets on the world wide web. But mostly, it’s trying to keep travel costs down by driving to stadiums or splitting costs with others who want to join me.

To learn more about Hans Steiniger and his pilgrimage to each stadium in the NFL, visit NFLFootballStadiums.com. On the website, you’ll find stadium reviews, NFL tickets and merchandise, local weather, tailgating information, and of course, Quest for 31 Gear. Good Luck, Hans!