Bird Brown: Tailgating with friends a true recreational sport

This Sunday, like many others this time of year, I will load up my cooler and bags with all kinds of foods, snacks, and beverages, and venture over to a friend’s house to meet up with the gang.

We will tell each other every week that the official meeting time is 7:30 a.m., but in all likelihood, confirmed by some 20-plus years of Baltimore Ravens football, we will congregate sometime after 8.


We will consolidate our bountiful feasts-to-be into a larger cooler and larger bags, tie them down in the back of the truck or put them in the trunk of someone’s car, load up the grill, table, chairs — and in some cases our friend brings R2D2, his Dish Network mobile setup, so we can watch the early games or pregame coverage — and head down to Bawlmer to see our beloved Ravens.

My first recollection of tailgating was parents in the parking lot of a recreational soccer or football game sharing snacks, homemade sandwiches, and hot chocolate (or so we thought). While the kids were warming up on the field with our coaches, our parents were warming up on their own, sharing stories and enjoying each other’s company before closing things down when the game was about to begin.

The next level of tailgating for me — let’s call it Tailgating 2.0 — was introduced to me every time I would come home from Coker College for fall break or at the end of our soccer season. Every trip in the fall would require a stop in College Park to visit my high school friends and would start with a night at The Vous and the morning tailgating outside of Byrd Stadium prior to a Terrapins football game.

I don’t think we actually ever made it in to any of the games until I was out of college myself, but the tailgating experiences were something of legend, something a school with 300 total enrollments like Coker could only dream about.

Heck, we had more people at the tailgate than we had students at Coker.

The Bills Mafia understands what it’s all about and they put on a show like nobody else. I appreciate the loyalty and dedication of the Buffalo fans with their unwavering support of their football team, and their tenacious approach to tailgating, but getting squirted with ketchup and mustard by random strangers or jumping off of an RV on to a table to show my toughness just doesn’t float my boat.

Besides, Aetna has too much invested in my replacement parts to put them at risk.

But each week our group heads down to our favorite tailgating place, affectionately known as the “Grassy Knoll,” to meet up with another group of our friends, the guys who are true to the 7 a.m. start time and always have a parking spot waiting for us, to share some great times and get ready to root on the Ravens.

Our tailgating now is somewhat reserved with more emphasis on the variety and quality of the food versus the consumption of alcohol that we had in our younger days, but that’s fine with me. These are friends that go back too many years to count, guys who have been there and back a few times with each other from our early days at the Preakness in Pimlico to the Grassy Knoll in Baltimore.

The group has expanded over the years. There’s still the same core that have been together for years, but we meet new friends from the tailgaters around us, each have a few friends that venture through the “Knoll” from time to time, and the next generation of tailgaters has arrived on the scene as a few of our kids have become Ravens PSL owners themselves.

With a home team rocking a 4-5 record and on a three-game slide, it can be difficult to get up for the game, especially this weekend when the biggest question is at the quarterback position. Although we’re all still optimistic, the chances of the Ravens running the table and securing a spot in the playoffs are looking pretty slim.

But we stopped really going to the games to celebrate the Ravens many years ago.

We’ve had a great run in our two decades of football with two Super Bowl championships, but the last five years have been a tough drought.

Spanish prose writer and Jesuit Baltasar Gracian once wrote, “True friendship multiplies the good in life and divides its evils. Strive to have friends, for life without friends is like life on a desert island … to find one real friend in a lifetime is good fortune; to keep him is a blessing.”


As we were planning for this weekend and talking about the rare possibilities that await the Ravens playoff drive, one of my friends said, “It’s all about the party now.”

Actually, for us, it’s always been about the friends.