One day closer to Opening Day of Milwaukee Brewers baseball, and one more reason to love it.
Today’s reason: Tailgating.
Tailgating is a staple in many parts of the country, and throughout many sports. In Milwaukee, and for the fans of the Milwaukee Brewers – it’s an institution.
Baseball fans have been tailgating games in Milwaukee nearly as long as the game has been woven into the fabric of city. It’s an art form, really. As I’m writing this now, there are thousands of baseball ans across the state cleaning off their grills and getting plans ready for a spring that has not even wholly arrived yet.
We here at Reviewing the Brew love and understand the tradition of tailgating and what it means to the experience of going to a ballgame. It’s quite a bit more than just huddling together with your buddies around a grill and getting wasted before a ballgame.
Ok, so that’s probably most of it, at least on a superficial level.
But deeper still in this time-honored tradition lies one of the greatest parts of baseball – the sense of community and togetherness that it brings with you. For instance, have you ever remembered a time in your history of tailgating that someone didn’t come over with the intention of borrowing something? Odds are that you can’t, and odds are even better that you let that person have some of whatever they looking for.
Why does this happen here, but not as frequently anywhere else? For one thing, in the course of a game, you are more a community in that moment then you likely are at any other given point. Sure, they may not all be Brewers fans – but they’re here because they love the game, and they want to spend the day having a good time. And so are you. For a few hours that afternoon everyone you meet has a shared goal, a common idea about what they are and how they view the world.
So yes, bratwurst is amazing and good, cold beer is among the chief pleasures in life. There’s no reason even arguing against that fact (or the fact that is far more economical to indulge before a game than to be at the mercy of the vendors), but like so many things we deal with, what the experience means is far more valuable than what it appears to be.
Tailgating is one of the last bastions of pure democracy left in our society. Call it hyperbole if you want, but truth bears it out. In the parking lot of Miller Park before a game, a small society develops. Every few cars stands a settlement, independent in nature but thoroughly cooperative with its peers. Ketchup, mustard, plates, napkins, and lighter fluid move freely in a simple exchange of goods. Two small parties become one larger one. People connect and reconnect through the common interest of Brewers baseball, food and drink, and the prospect of having at least one afternoon that is free from worry or anger or hassle.
And it generally keeps to these unwritten tenets – which a few exceptions, of course, but no one is perfect after all. At the end of the day, to tailgate is to recognize that you are part of that community, to give yourself up to the idea that you are engaging in an experience. It’s preparation for the game, yes, but it is also an adjustment of attitude. Slowing yourself down while simultaneously gearing up for a day’s worth of baseball. You are leaving whatever it is you do on a day-to-day basis, and becoming a card-carrying fan of the game.
The actual game is, of course, the reason we all enter into the parking lot and fire up the grills in the first place. But a baseball game – regardless of place, time, and the players involved – are largely the same. It’s not the game itself but the experience of being of there that we remember. Tailgating facilitates those memories, it cements them through personal connection. That’s why we love tailgating.
That, and the fact that very few days began poorly by grilling food and drinking beer.