Thursday, Jun 30, 2016
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Insider meets outsiders

People tell me what a great job I have and I m not going to argue. I could, but I won t.

Oh, by the way. This isn t Roberta, who is supposedly busy cleaning out her closets this week. Next week, she s coming out and will be back blogging. In the meantime, I m Dave Hackenberg, her sports counterpart, and I m filling in.

Anyway, back to my job. I go to big games that a lot of folks can t get tickets for, park next to the stadium, sit up in the air conditioned/heated/dry press box, eat free food (don t tell the boss because I keep turning in these receipts, you see), go down to the locker rooms, write a column, head for the hotel.

Insider-meets-outsiders

I go to big games that a lot of folks can t get tickets for, park next to the stadium, sit up in the air conditioned/heated/dry press box, eat free food, go down to the locker rooms, write a column, head for the hotel.

black / blade Enlarge

It s not a bad gig. I admit it. But I ve been doing this for some 36 years and it has cheated me out of one sports ritual.

I realized last Saturday at The Ohio State University that I had never tail-gated. Not once. Oh, I ve stopped by and visited with friends when I ve stumbled upon them in parking lots, nibbled on some goodies and the like. But I ve never backed a van into a parking spot that I paid a small fortune for, unloaded a little grill, pulled brats and burgers out of a cooler, iced down a garbage can full of beer, set out the sausage and cheese tray, opened up containers of chip dip, stirred a pot of chili, hauled out a portable generator and a color TV, plopped my big derriere into a lawn chair and seriously tail-gated.

Why did that come to mind after all these years? Well, my parking pass at TOSU gets me into a deck, called Tuttle Park Place, or something redundant like that, next to Ohio Stadium and I saw people tail-gating IN A PARKING DECK. I suppose on rainy, windy, cold, snowy days they get the last laugh because they re under cover but, frankly, holding a picnic indoors on a bright, sunny day seemed a little sad, sort of like they were doing it because they are supposed to do it.

I was in Indianapolis the next day to cover the Patriots-Colts game and I pulled into a parking deck next to the RCA Dome and parked down a level and there were people tail-gating UNDER GROUND. Of course, you can t fire up a grill indoors, so they were pretty much content to slice up sub sandwiches and scoop sloppy joe out of a crock pot.

I just don t think I would find any enjoyment in partying indoors or under ground in a concrete bunker.

But when I left Ohio Stadium about three hours after the Wisconsin-OSU game ended, I realized what it was really all about. The same people I saw setting up an ornate tent complete with TV, a portable refrigerator, and a cooler the size of Rhode Island at 9 a.m. when I arrived were still there, sitting in the near dark, watching Notre Dame and Navy in the third overtime on TV. So I stopped to watch. They were nice people. They were all drunk as skunks.

Now I get it.

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