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The Problem with Tailgating

MitchThe video featured two attractive women.

It ran on YouTube.

It was shot by an onlooker.

It was viewed thousands of times.

At this point, you're no doubt thinking "sex," so let me assure you the women kept their clothes on. Unfortunately, that was the only ladylike thing about them.

On the video, they appeared intoxicated, were swearing like sailors, got in fights, then pushed, shoved and cursed until security guards finally took them away, one in handcuffs.

This was not a women's penitentiary. It was a football game. A Detroit Lions game.

Now, you can argue that watching the Lions could make anyone go ballistic. But I'm guessing these women, like so many other football fans, were halfway hammered before the game ever began.

And you could shoot a video like this every Sunday.

A game-day tradition

Look, it's bad enough that most NFL games begin at 1 p.m. and that people line up for beers before the kickoff. But with tailgating, many fans are blotto before they hand over their tickets. (One day, we'll have to explain to Martians this tradition of arriving hours before a game, sitting in cold parking lots, grilling fatty foods between bumpers of pickup trucks, and swigging beers in fold-up chairs, at which point the Martians will race to their spaceships to fly out of here, pronto.)

Make no mistake. The fists may fly in the stands. But they get lubricated in the parking lots. This will not make me popular with Budweiser, Miller, Coors or millions of drinkers, but what is the point of going to a football game for the express purpose of getting wasted? It's one thing to be out at night and one beer leads to another. But when you get up at 8 a.m., drive to a parking lot by 9 a.m. and are three beers deep by 10 a.m., you have a problem.

And it shouldn't be everyone else's problem.

Yet it is. And I blame the teams -- pro and college. By encouraging a seven-hour drinking day, football now sees its stadiums marred with behavior like last week's YouTube moment. When you watch this sad debacle, you see how two guards have to struggle to get one enraged woman under control. It's not easy. People are all around, getting bumped, getting angry, making threats. And that's just one woman! You can imagine when five or six burly guys are blitzed to the point of engagement. In stadiums with upper levels, railings and long steps, we flirt with disaster every week.

A call to action

But it never stops. You even think about cutting tailgating and the populace rises up in arms. Last year I read some angry letters to the editor when a San Diego stadium dared to cut tailgating down from five hours to four hours prior to the game.

Five hours to four?

Now I'm not saying that some people -- maybe most -- don't handle tailgating well. They do. They eat, laugh, maybe drink, but keep it under control.

But if you've ever been in the stands -- especially with a child -- and heard the drunken swearing, the threats, the bellowing or worse, been doused with beer or sprinkled with vomit, then you know the minority very much ruin it for the majority.

Which is why the NFL should take action. You want to sit in a parking lot, eat, laugh, go ahead. But no drinking. That's right. I said it. No drinking. It's not a God-given right. It's their parking lot. They can do what they want.

Not so long ago, there used to be blue laws that outlawed alcohol on Sundays. I'm not saying everyone needs to be in church. But when loaded, wasted, hammered and blitzed are the words people now associate with Sunday mornings, there's a problem.

And when it winds up in the stands -- and then on YouTube -- it's everybody's problem.

(C) 2009 BY THE DETROIT FREE PRESS DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.

2 Responses »

  1. I think that this article is well written and it's an opinion you are very much entitled to have, however; college tailgaters are not NFL and it is a very rare occasion that in a college stadium you have the drunken rowdy students anywhere near the adult fans. They are usualy seated right next to the band.
    I am a HUGE supporter of tailgating, due to the fact that not only myself but hundreds of us make our living on the hope that fans will go to the game ten hours early just to show off that new grill or team product. Condeming the actual perpetrators as people is one thing, but to totally condem tailgating alltogether... really? come one now... be serious.

  2. Oh, THAT kind of "Tailgating."

    Was thinking this was going to be about bad drivers.