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Tailgating is a great American football tradition. But where did it come from? Here are three theories that may satisfy your curiosity. One theory credits college football, another credits professional football, and the third claims football stole it from a totally unrelated place… the Civil War. Time to pick a side.
College Football: Yale University
Yale University believes they invented both the practice of and the word for tailgating. Because of a lack of parking and, probably, vehicles, fans traveled together by bus and train. To kill time ahead of kickoff, they carted along food and drink and created a big party wherever they went.
Today, Yale limits tailgating to specific areas around the stadium and specific hours on game day. They also do not allow kegs or loud music. Times change.
The NFL: Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers played their first season almost one hundred years ago, in 1919. According to legend, in those early days Packers, fans parked around the field and used their vehicles as seating to watch the game. Naturally, there was food.
Today, you can’t get your car anywhere close to any NFL field. But you can find that same spirit out in the parking lot where people sit on their tailgates and enjoy football. During the game, however, you head into the stadium for real seats.
No Kidding, The Civil War
Some historians trace the history of tailgating to the Civil War. No Kidding. Crowds of people from Washington DC flocked to the First Battle of Bull Run, just to watch. Watching from nearby hills, the civilians brought picnic baskets, opera baskets, and cheered for their side. Many of the spectators were members of congress.