The saying "the game is played between the lines" is a remarkably obvious cliche when it comes to football. All of the drama, tackles, runbacks and final-second touchdowns are indeed performed between white painted lines on a field. But arguably the ultimate draw of football is not the sheer adrenaline of a rush play, but the bloating beneath your meat-stained jersey and the shouts of approval and high-fives with other adults wearing similar jerseys with likely similar meat stains.
In other words, the reason why football has become the new national pastime to many is the camaraderie with other fans, which takes place nowhere near the lines; normally on a couch, sometimes at a bar but many, many times in a $5 folding chair on a parking lot around dawn.
The tailgate party is as American as everything it encompasses: big cars, grilled meat, cheap beer, obsession with football and a lack of concern about what's healthy or normal, as long as it's fun.
It's also American to reach the boundary of what's considered reasonable in size or cost and then decide boundaries are for the losers wearing the other colors. With that in mind, here are a few ways to ensure you likely will have the most expensive, if not most ridiculous, tailgate party of the lot.
If you dream of a time when the boundaries between truck, grill, bar and entertainment center are shattered, ushering in a new golden era of tailgate for the fans, you are not alone.
There is a man who has realized that dream. He transformed a typical Chevy Silverado into the epicenter of football fanaticism and heartburn. His name is Steve Glor, and he probably annihilated his savings account for the cause of what he named The Carnivore.
"I can't begin to calculate what went into the truck," says Glor. "The hydraulics and screw-drive system that unfolded the bed into a bar was definitely the most time-consuming and costly component."
You read that right. Like a deleted scene out of "Transformers," this truck morphs into an establishment.
Glor estimates that component alone ran about $90,000 to build, including parts and labor. In addition, there are seven TV screens, a satellite dish, two receivers, custom audio, a refrigerated center console, racing wheels and 6 inches of lift. There's also a grill in the front and a large stainless steel FG-100 grill from Freedom Grill on the back. After running through the numbers for improvements and labor, Glor placed the value of the Carnivore at $250,000.
"I wanted to show the world the right way to tailgate with something that would really blow people's minds," Glor says. "My family thought I was crazy and my friends were amazed."
Glor sold the monster to Beringer Vineyards for their annual "Great Steak Challenge" for an undisclosed amount.
"They got a great deal," Glor says. So has mankind, Steve.
Turn This TV On ... and Everyone Else Around You
As many fans of any sport will agree, the only thing better than being at the game is watching it on TV.
That's assuming you're watching it at a tailgate party with friends -- and that you have something more impressive than the TV with the weird humming noise you brought from the den because you're afraid someone might spill habanero sauce on it.
Enter the portable Panasonic Viera DMP-HV200. It might seem a bit expensive at $640 for a screen of only 10 inches, but it's the first gesture-controlled TV in the world. You can flip from game to game without the hassle of having to wipe your lunch from your hands, so long as you're within 15 centimeters of the screen. It's also waterproof, which certainly applies to hot sauce. Unfortunately, it's currently only released in Japan.
In the meantime, you can settle for the BeoVision 4 3D, from Bang & Olufsen. Provided you have the necessary accommodations, you can relish in 103 inches of unrivaled 3-dimensional plasma television. You'll also need about $110,000. Watching the BeoVision 4 is practically like staring at a Lamborghini and B&O treats it as such, requiring an inspection ahead of installation to insure your, ahem, tailgate can handle the minimum 507 pounds.
"BeoVision 4 uses plasma phosphors, which guarantees the best sharpness in high-speed movement scenes such as sports," says Jette Nygaard of B&O. "The television ensures the most optimal unsurpassed viewing experience."
It also boasts anti-reflection and noise-reduction technology, but no car keys.
Most fans are content with their humble grill, likely a $20 purchase the night before. It probably gets the job done, but hot rocks in a tin can with a metal grate would also cook meat.
For those who are not most fans, and therefore likely have a trailer hitch, there is the FG-900 from Freedom Grill. It's a stainless steel kitchen on wheels, minus just about everything in the kitchen but an enormous grill.
At $10,099, the FG-900 delivers 99,000 British thermal units, or BTU, across six burners for a cooking surface of 920 square inches. Two huge storage containers with drainage ensure you can carry enough meat to cover that enormous surface. The 8�-foot-long trailer is a Department of Transportation-approved towing package, in case you had any doubt.
For those with less exorbitant grilling ambitions but also an empty trailer hitch, there's the FG-900's much smaller cousin: the FG-50. Now marketed as the Margaritaville Tailgating Grill, it retails for around $400 and fits most standard hitches. The 352 square inches of grilling space and 20,000 BTU sounds impressive, so long as you park well away from the grill on wheels that requires government approval.
Accessories? More Like Necessities
Setting up shop in a folding chair and cracking open a drink before the players wake up might seem like a bit much to some fans. Somehow, it all seems more understandable doing it under the shelter of a tent in your adjoining parking spot.
"Understandable" probably isn't one of the words your friends and fellow fans will use to describe the Ironman Rooftop Tent from Ironman 4x4, and that's why it's perfect. For $1,200, you will have all of the exaggeration and attention the name promises. As you might expect but will still be surprised to discover, the tent is designed for the top of your car. Nearly 8 feet long, the Ironman includes a ladder for easy access from the grill and common folk downstairs to your superfan suite above it all.
You will still need that adjoining parking spot, however. With a retractable awning and an "annex," which will proudly hover over your neighbor's feeble get-together, you will have more than enough space to show off to as many friends as you like while still keeping the lunch assembly line moving from the punishing early dawn sun.
Accessories? More like necessities. Priming this party will require an early start, so add on Ironman's Supernova "High Intensity Discharge" lights for $770 apiece. Another must-have is the Ironman 50-liter travel fridge large enough for a few 36-packs. It retails at $825.
Sure, you could have a tailgate party without beer. It would kind of be like Thanksgiving without turkey or going swimming with all your clothes on, though -- somewhat fun but definitely not right.
For many folks, a trip to the discount cooler at the market will provide hours of pregame cheers for about $1 per drink. Of course, this tailgate party requires a beer that goes well beyond the cheap aluminum brews -- something top-shelf to give your parking space that little extra pizzazz.
The Samuel Adams Utopias, for about $150 per bottle, is not so much a beer as a deafening statement. With several times the alcohol by volume of most beers (27 percent), it is aged up to 16 years before being bottled in what looks like an artifact Indiana Jones' life would hang in the balance for.
"(No other brewery) has been able to brew a commercially available beer as strong and complex as Utopias," says Grant Wood, a brewer at Samuel Adams. "When it comes to our truly experimental beers such as Utopias, it often starts with the idea of 'wouldn't it be cool if. ...'"
That "if" turns out to be aging in Portuguese muscatel finishing casks previously used to age sherry, brandy and cognac, with a strong, rich flavor, which reflects those influences. You should also know you'll need to pack some fine glassware alongside the frozen hot dogs on your way to the game.
"Utopias (are) meant to be savored like vintage fortified wine or fine cognac," Wood says. "It is best served as a 2-ounce pour at room temperature in a snifter glass."