Football season is fast approaching, and with football season comes a fan-favorite tradition: tailgating.
This fall, millions of soccer fans will descend on their team’s stadium hours before kickoff to enjoy the pre-game festivities while enjoying their favorite food, drinks and turf games. That’s no different in Maryland, where on Saturdays they see thousands of people don their jerseys and head to Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium to cheer the Terrapins to victory.
Perhaps no group takes more pride in their backdoor than Glenn Noble, Scott Weitz and Joel Pitt, who have been hosting their pregame feature before Terps games for more than half a decade.
“We get there as soon as they let us in, which is usually five hours before kickoff,” Noble said. “We average about 200 guests a week.”
Operating a tailgate of that size is no easy task. The trio must prepare ahead of time, gathering and setting up equipment such as tents, tables, generators, and televisions. When it comes to items like food and drinks, they turn to crowdsourcing, allowing attendees to volunteer to bring enough for the crowd that gathers in Lot 1 every Saturday.
“It is literally unbelievable. Really is. And we get a lot of joy out of it. People love it, they love it,” Noble said.
Perhaps what draws fans to pregame gatherings across the country is the family-friendly atmosphere that most public gatherings provide each weekend. For many, it’s a chance to reconnect with old friends and support their favorite school or team. For others, it is an opportunity to continue a family tradition and bring generations together.
“The last five years, [our tailgate] it has grown a lot and I think part of that is that a lot of us have had sons and daughters who are now enrolling there and that totally changes the opening,” Noble said.
Regardless of one’s motivation, tailgating comes in all shapes and sizes. Some just stop their car and enjoy a pregame meal or drink before heading to the stadium to watch the game, while others don’t sit still and wander off to explore the area. Then, at the opposite end of the spectrum, you can find those who dedicate their entire day to the experience, arriving early enough and leaving late enough to enjoy all that a football game day has to offer.
“My favorite part of tailgating is the show of the day, being there from 7:30 in the morning until 10 at night,” Noble said. “We like to be in the middle of everything. We like it when the band comes by, when the sports director comes by. We like it when rival fans come. We like it when the families of the players come… Every moment of the day is pleasant. People look at us and say ‘You’re crazy’”.
Crazy or not, they are not alone in their passion. This fall, campuses, fields and parking lots across the country will be filled with tents and flags proudly displaying fan allegiances. With Maryland’s season set to kick off against Buffalo on September 3, Noble and his team are gearing up for another season of excitement at College Park.
“I’m looking forward to the team building on last year’s momentum,” he said. “I want to see old friends, make new friends, and make people understand that coming to Maryland on a Saturday to watch football and tailgating is a good use of [their] weather.”
Whether north, south, east or west, or even abroad, tailgating takes on a flavor unique to the region it represents, proving that, at its heart, sports is not just about what it shows the scoreboard at the end of the game, but rather an opportunity to bring a community together and allow people to put aside their differences and embrace each other. Tailgating embodies these values at their core, providing an environment for togetherness and fun against the backdrop of the intense competition that takes place on the field.