You may have caught the first run of HBO’s popular sports news magazine show Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel on Tuesday, January 22, 2008. The opening segment was an expose on excessive alcohol consumption at NFL games. Much of the segment focused on drinking while tailgating. If you saw the program or not you can probably imagine the images they chose to show. NFL fans drinking to the point where they are no longer able to stand up, vomiting at the stadium gates, chugging beers out of a road cone and public urination were just a few of the negative images HBO chose to include in this piece. Although the segment showcased negative fan behavior throughout the entire NFL game day experience, the public perception of tailgating took a serious hit. To that point I suggest HBO air a follow-up piece depicting the positive and responsible side of tailgating.
If you have not seen the Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel segment, the power of the internet is here for you. The entire segment was broken up into two separate videos and has already shown up YouTube.
You get the point. Drinking and tailgating at an NFL game were not shown to be a positive aspect of the entire NFL game day experience.
I understand that the piece was designed to rip the lid off of what I call ‘the dark side of tailgating’. HBO’s intent was to shock the audience. Mission accomplished. Images of NFL fans doing shots of Crown Royal at 8 am to the point where they are throwing up before kick off would shock just about anyone. Do you think HBO is going to invest a lot of time and money and bring back footage of tailgaters who have a few beers, stay in complete control the entire time and have a designated driver to take them home after the game is over? Where is the shock value in that? Yet again, the national media showcases those that take this activity to the extreme and make it look as if every NFL stadium parking lot resembles a prison riot.
As with anything in life, when you gather enough people together in the same area, you are going to have some morons who exhibit rude, obnoxious and boorish behavior. I don’t care if it is a frat party, a tailgate party or a private house party. When people drink to excess they will display a new level of jackassedness. (I know that is not a real word but it should be to adequately describe this type of behavior.)
Binge drinking is the personal choice of the individual drinker. We as a society can not legislate morality or good manners. We tried that. It was called Prohibition and it failed miserably. Parents are in the business of teaching manners and proper conduct. If you want to blame anyone for this bad behavior caught by the HBO cameras, blame the failures of America’s parents.
I am 100% opposed to drinking and driving. Everyone should designate a sober driver if they plan to drink while tailgating. If you have a responsible ride home and you will not act obnoxious outside or inside the game, who is HBO or the NFL to tell us how much we can consume prior to the game? I will admit that is a very big “if” and people tailgating to excess does pose a problem. However, this problem is not quarantined to just the tailgating parking lots. This problem persists anywhere people choose to overindulge in alcohol consumption. Until everyone in this country makes a conscience choice not to binge drink or get drunk, this problem will always be around no matter what venue or activity they choose to do it prior.
I would encourage HBO and Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel to air a follow-up piece on the fellowship and camaraderie that tailgating generates. Tailgating is not all about shots of Jose Cuervo at 9 am with a chaser of sexual harassment by kick-off. I am confident that the “Dead Tree Crew”, the well known boisterous tailgating group of Redskins fans known a the DTC, are not an accurate example of how the majority of NFL fans choose to tailgate. Unfortunately in the case of the HBO Real Sports segment, it is the proverbial “bad apples” that ruin the image of tailgating for everyone.
Will HBO do a follow-up story on how tailgating is enjoyed responsibly by millions of people across the United States and Canada? I doubt it. Showing images of tailgaters sharing shish kabobs with the fans that parked next to them is not interesting enough for TV. Informing the general public that revenue from the purchase of tailgating merchandise is a multi-billion dollar industry doesn’t really have that shock value of belligerent fans throwing hay-makers at halftime.
It’s sad, really. Then again, much like the ill-behaved tailgaters shown on HBO, why would we expect the media to act responsibly as well?