Posted On: 11/03/2004
With no pickup trucks to speak of, Ivy League eggheads of yesterday started the tailgating tradition. In the 1860s, when college football was in its infancy, the Ivy Leaguers, uptight and ostentatious, made football an upscale, ceremonial, society event, rather than just a game. Not just halfback sweeps for the Ivy Leaguers. Halfback sweeps AFTER wild-game skewers. Not just quarterback options. Quarterback options AFTER chilled Champagne. Today, in any football stadium’s surrounding parking lots, the bourgeois tailgate ceremony shames the haughty ritual of 1860. The pre- and post-game tailgates entertain some college and professional football fans for entire weekend days. So, with the Rams in midseason, only a few opportunities remain to burn an entire Sunday drinking in a parking lot.
The look …
Featureless asphalt and gravel offer a great canvas for the ceremonially face-painted Rams faithful who fill more than a dozen parking lots and garages surrounding the Edward Jones Dome before each home game.
The best lots are framed by Interstate 70 to the west and Laclede’s Landing Boulevard to the south. Blue, gold and white RVs, buses and trucks, all flying huge Rams flags, filter in three to six hours before kickoff. Once a prime spot along a lot’s edges is secured, the required tent (circus to small), barbecue grill(s) (mini-Weber to professional smoker), pre-game-show-tuned televisions (small to big screen) and Portapotties (authentic to homemade) are assembled. Hondas and SUVs fill the middle, setting up their own, smaller tailgating shops. At the other lots and garages throughout northeastern Downtown and The Landing, the same goes down but on a slighter scale.
It’s with The Landing that St. Louis tailgating presents local flavor. Kansas City swears by its stereotypical tailgate scene, but with our lots adjacent to one of St. Louis’ better entertainment districts, STL tailgating offers something KC can’t – The President’s craps tables and Club Buca girls selling beer to “Blister in the Sun.”
The more corporate tailgates and tents sit directly east of the dome. In Baer Park, a huge Budweiser tent shelters, while red beer booths sell frosty Buds. In the Missouri Athletic Club lot, more booths sell pizza and cigars, while at another, footballs are tossed for dough. Other brat and beer vendors line Broadway.
The scene …
Substitute a Marc Bulger jersey for Lederhosen, a Rams stocking cap for Mardi Gras beads and a cold 22-ounce can of Bud for lukewarm green beer in a plastic cup. Rams tailgating is a sprawling outdoor party.
In the lots, barbecue, drink, eat, toss the football/washers and socialize with the RV next door. (Lot access runs about $20 per car and $50 per RV, with many requiring an annual pass. Call the Ram ticket office for details.) On The Landing, do exactly what you’d normally do – eat, drink, smoke, talk.
The Smash Band, in Baer Park, and Butch Wax & the Hollywoods, in the MAC lot, duel for lamest ‘60s and ‘70s cover band. Before the Oct. 18 game, I heard them perform “Pink Cadillac” at the exact same time.
Tailgating and game crowds are identical, so expect large groups of 21- to 55-year-old white dudes. While in the minority, women are well represented and wear face paint so much better than 48-year-old plumbers. For the most part, it’s a family-friendly atmosphere.
Bedlam peaks about 90 minutes before kickoff and obviously dies for the three-hour game, continuing after. The more important the game, the better the tailgate. The best overall tailgating experience surrounds 3 p.m. Sunday games, but it’s hard to top the national media hype of Monday Night Football. Regardless, 60,000+ come strong. Dress according to the weather, but wear blue, gold and white, or a Rams jersey – throwback (Eric Dickerson) to obscure (Shane Conlan). The most popular accessories are your first-born son and a can of Bud. Remember all the rules about layers and bring a fully charged cell phone. It’s easy to get cold or
lose your friends.
The products …
Unless you intend to hit a bar on The Landing, everything about the food/drink is self-determined. You’ll want more than a bunless burger and handful of Krunchers, so plan the menu ahead of time, doing most prep work well before the game. Unless you RV, you’ll be outside without a counter, sink or many utensils.
If you inhale beer-boiled shrimp, bring some. If you consider salsciccia better than brats, grill some. If you like getting warm faced to Scotch on the rocks, drink some. If you live off of white chili, bring a spoon. If you eat Bud only, stock the cooler. If you’re lazy or rich, simply have your tailgate catered.
Lastly, and most importantly, have tickets to the game.
The straight 411 …
For ceremonial, easy Sunday morning parking lot eating, drinking and football tossing, head to northeastern Downtown before the next Rams game.
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