By Christian S. Kohl
Tailgate Fan correspondents Nick Stevens and Jerry Miller roam the entire countryside searching for the wildest and most epic tailgates in all of football. Their travels take them to parking lots in both the NCAA and NFL: anywhere there’s a pigskin game about to be played, these two find the party that precedes it. The question is, where are the greatest tailgates: with Nick in college or Jerry in the NFL?
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The atmosphere at college and NFL tailgates is entirely different, as captured by our two fervent, investigative party journalists. The college tailgates captured on Tailgate Fan feature the preceding events to enormous rivalry games, with passion and fury in the air. The enthusiasm and energy from the youthful participants create an environment where anything goes in an intensely alcoholic preparation for the battle to come.
Jerry’s NFL tailgates depict an atmosphere of relaxation and comfort. There’s still plenty of crazy, but NFL franchises attract more lifelong fans who are there as much for the tailgate as they are for the game itself. Jerry’s segments offer us the less heated gameplay of NFL tailgates: soda chugging, wing kisses, and whether or not any Buffalo fan anywhere can sequentially list their last dozen quarterbacks.
No matter how big a college tailgate, the rivalry game to be played soon thereafter is always the main event. In the NFL, no matter how much Goodell lusts after parity, some teams are just awful in a given year, but those games must be tailgated too, dammit. In those situations, in a Buffalo or Atlanta, the food takes more center stage than the drink, and one could see himself planted in the lot for hours to come rather than necessarily packing into a raucous stadium for an all-out donnybrook.
So, as the fan of tailgates at home, you have to ask yourself a simple question this week: are you the person who enjoys the pre-party more than the party? Once you can definitively decide the answer to that question, you’ll know which tailgate is best for you. Virtually no NFL rivalry matches the longstanding vitriol of college rivalries. Many of them predate the NFL itself. Generations of families have been built and divided by these clashes. This makes the big-time NCAA tailgate the ultimate pre-party. Despite the absolutely stellar food and often unbelievable preparation, it all leads up to the battle on the field and the year to come of either jubilation or humiliation.
The more laid back atmosphere of the standard NFL tailgate captures the sentiment that this parking lot party is in fact often the main attraction. It beats watching the Jaguars. Playing games, posted up for hours, even DJ’s out in Atlanta offer us a glimpse that the fervent energy to immediately leave for the stadium is not as prevalent at the professional tailgate level. As for my tastes, I love a good meal more than a good riot, and an NFL tailgate experience is my default choice. But with meat, beverages and a game to go, you can’t really go wrong with either pregame celebration.
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Christian S. Kohl is a sports contributor for CBS Local Digital Media.