Researchers at the University of Notre Dame (surprise, surprise) reveal that tailgating is not just a huge excuse to get drunk, but an important community-building exercise that brings value to a university.
It’s probably fitting that a study about the venerable institution of tailgating would come out of the University of Notre Dame, home of the Fighting Irish. Cultural anthropologist John Sherry and colleagues examined their university’s tailgate parties — and their rivals’ — as well as those at other universities. Their recently completed research shows that tailgating parties, far from being a nuisance, “build community, nurture tradition, and…contribute to a college or university brand.”
What’s the Big Idea?
Tailgating is primarily associated with football, a sport that represents many things that make America unique. However, anthropologically speaking, Sherry takes it all the way back to ancient Roman customs associated with harvest festivals, when people put on one last huge party (or parties) before the advent of winter. By bringing out their grills and comfortable furniture, tailgaters create a “consumption encampment” that also allows them to experience game day in an active way. “Tailgating is all fan-generated. They understand it as a contribution to the team’s victory. They are literally surrounding the stadium with their expressions of loyalty and love, and it’s much more communal.”