The scent of charcoal, cheap beer, and team spirit mingle in the air in an unmistakable and all-American scene: a college football tailgate. And hallelujah, it’s that time of year — or it would be, if the stadium hosting the College Football Playoff National Championship hadn’t decreed that pre-game, parking lot fun is banned.
In what can only be described as an unprovoked act of cruelty, SoFi Stadium, the location of the championship contest, will not allow tailgating in its parking lots prior to the game’s kickoff on Monday. Recreational vehicles are also prohibited from parking at the stadium. So if you thought 2023 couldn’t be any worse than 2022, think again.
As Fox News reported, SoFi’s ban on tailgating for the matchup between the Georgia Bulldogs and TCU Horned Frogs means fans “won’t be able to bring their charcoal grills, coolers or anything else that resembles a tailgate” to the stadium. The policy is baffling, considering SoFi permits tailgating “in designated parking lots and other areas for ticketed guests who have purchased a tailgating pass” for Los Angeles Rams and Chargers games.
The outrageous decision has since evoked criticism from notable political figures such as Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who expressed his displeasure in a tweet on Thursday. “While California may not know this, in the South a tailgate with friends & family is the only way to prepare for a big game,” he said.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz took his annoyance in a different direction, offering to co-sponsor parody legislation guaranteeing Americans a “right” to tailgate before sporting events.
The Importance of Community
The decision to prohibit tailgating ahead of Monday’s championship game is absolutely ludicrous. College football without tailgating is like Hillary Clinton without pantsuits. One can’t exist without the other.
While tailgating certainly has its material perks, such as unlimited beer and grilled food, the social component of the pregame festivities is much more significant. Tailgates offer fans the chance to interact with people they’ve never met before. Unlike many areas of our culture that have become infected with groupthink politics and division, college football remains one of the last vestiges of sanity where Americans can put aside their differences to come together for a common cause.
In many ways, it offers people a sense of community and belonging. When tailgating, strangers get to share joy and life experiences with others they wouldn’t have met anywhere else. Interactions forged by mutual support for a certain team evolve into more personal encounters.
What starts off as conversations about one another’s favorite players and games of the past eventually morph into questions about how each other came to support the team. Before you know it, complete strangers suddenly seem like long-lost friends reminiscing about their upbringing as they recount the first time they fell in love with the sport. It’s a beautiful scenario we don’t see enough in modern America.
What sets tailgates apart from other social events is that they combine the best elements of sports fanaticism with the unpredictable nature of what the day’s game will bring. Jocks and bookworms alike, donning school colors, come together as one to express their unwavering devotion to a team that could bring great excitement or sorrow. There’s nothing else like it in the world.
Barring Georgia and TCU fans from tailgating does nothing but take away a crucial aspect of the college football experience, one that’s united Americans from all walks of life for decades. It’s a decision that — like many others in our modern culture — defies all sense of logic and needs to be changed pronto.