There's something inherently individualist about tailgating before a football game. You pack up all necessary provisions for a few hours in a parking lot, which usually includes beer, more beer, a grill, five times more meat than the average human eats, another case of beer, all the necessary fixins... wait, do you think there's enough beer? Add in some forms of entertainment, whether it's an elaborate contraption for watching live TV in the middle of a parking lot or a game involving tossing things that doubles as the dullest demonstration of competition imaginable (unless you are consuming the aforementioned beer), and you're in good shape. The goal of it all is to have fun and mentally prepare yourself for a post-apocalyptic life as a backwoods survivalist.
It's a great libertarian fantasy, but NFL tailgaters are subject to rules and restrictions, too. See, for example, the Chargers fan who got a $280 ticket for throwing a football during a tailgate. (It was later dismissed because the regulation wasn't posted anywhere in the parking facility.) As a longtime tailgater, this got me thinking, what else can't we do?
After looking through all 31 stadiums and accompanying city regulations, I've compiled some of the lesser-known tailgating rules across the NFL (outside of the basic NFL Code of Conduct which prevents fans who regularly shout drunken vulgarities from being drunk or shouting vulgarities).
Every quoted rule or regulation that follows is copied from actual NFL tailgating policy, as unbelievable as it may be.
San Diego is not the only stadium that prevents the throwing of objects. Oakland spends 78 words (nine of which are "or") telling you not to throw things:
No person shall maliciously and/or in a manner that disturbs public order or causes a threat to public safety throw, discharge, launch or spill any solid object including footballs, baseballs, Frisbees and other such devices or liquid substances, or otherwise cause such objects or substances to be maliciously and/or in a manner that disturbs the public order or causes a threat to public safety thrown, discharged, launched, spilled or to become airborne within the parking facility.
Indianapolis simply declares, "There will be no throwing of footballs, baseballs, etc." while the Titans website says there ought to be no "throwing or kicking of balls or other objects." Seattle also outlaws "throwing, catch, and sports activities." I wonder how far they would be willing to stretch "sports activities." Does watching a football game on TV constitute a sports activity? What about running? Jogging? Power-walking? Cheerleading? Gymnastics? Chess? Can you play chess in the CenturyLink Field parking lot?
Some people profess the desire to separate sports from politics. It seems certain teams agree with this sentiment with strict anti-politics tailgating rules. The Titans don't want to see any "picketing or electioneering" or "distributing handbills or pamphlets" in their tailgates, while the Buccaneers prohibit "political campaigning, picketing or distributing handbills/pamphlets." LP Field was roughly 50 percent publicly funded, while Raymond James Stadium was 100 percent funded by the taxpayers. (I thought we had a law that some people vociferously defend regarding free speech on public property, but I'm not a lawyer or anything.) I guess Bud Adams wasn't a huge fan of freedom of expression, unless he was the one doing the expressing.
Passing Gas and Wild Animals
I'm not sure who copied whom, but San Diego and Oakland have virtually identical tailgating regulations handed down by their county with only the facility names altered. Plagiarism I say! Anyways, these regulations are by far the most draconian in the NFL. Aside from the "don't throw anything" rule, tailgaters cannot:
Explode, set off, discharge, or otherwise release or cause to be released, any smoke bomb, fireworks, stink bomb, or other substance which is physically harmful or otherwise irritating, offensive, repugnant or disgusting to the eyes or sense of smell.
I'm on board with the first half, as anyone who has ever been to a soccer match where a smoke bomb is detonated knows its a fairly unpleasant odor, not to mention prevents you from seeing the game until the noxious cloud dissipates.
Speaking of noxious clouds, the second half of that rule gets into tricky territory. For example, after ingesting lots of beer, spiced meats or other forms of grilled food, many creatures might find the biological urge to release a particularly irritating, repugnant or disgusting odor from their bodies. Basically, its illegal to burp or fart at Chargers and Raiders tailgates. Violators will be subject to $100 fine for the first offense, $250 for the second offense and $500 for the third offense.
Also against the Chargers and Raiders tailgating rules:
Lead, conduct, or otherwise bring or allow to remain in the...parking facility any animal, bird, fish, or reptile except trained guide, signal or service animal that is in actual use.
Sorry, folks, you're going to have to leave those birds, fish and reptiles at home. Except for your trained seeing-eye komodo dragon. That's fine. Unless you're not using your seeing-eye komodo dragon as a guide because -- don't be ridiculous -- it will have to stay home. No word on whether your seeing-eye komodo dragon is allowed to fart at the tailgate.
Motorized Cooler Balloon Displays
Houston specifically reminds you that "no golf carts, Segways, motorized coolers, skateboards, bicycles, or large balloons will be allowed for use by fans in the parking lots." There's so much here, so in no particular order:
1.Who in the hell would bring a golf cart -- or worse, a Segway! -- to a tailgate? How long would a person survive on a Segway at a tailgate before being pelted with a whiskey bottle? (Houston is one of the many tailgates where throwing things is permitted.)
2. Motorized coolers exist? Motorized coolers exist. With a top speed of 13 mph and a range of 15 miles, you can have a beer delivered to you on a motorized cooler within an hour on a single battery! (Its a good thing this technology exists, otherwise we would have no other way to get cold beverages.) They're meant to have riders as well, with the newest model providing "more power for bigger people." This says all you need to know about who would drop $900 for a motorized cooler. (Or you could shell out $1,400 for a "professional drivers only" model -- do you have to get a motorized cooler operator license? I'm going to ask this the next time I go to the DMV, just to be physically removed from the premises.) Just in case you ever start to feel good about the general direction of society, just remember motorized coolers exist.
3. Why is there a specific directive against large balloons? Bob McNair must have really hated the "Hi! I'm Big Butt Bob" balloon disgruntled fans released during the dark, early days of the franchise.
Excessive Standing and DJs
Cincinnati combines their parking lot and stadium fan code into a single fan code, which means, at least in theory, their ban against "excessive standing" applies to the parking lot as well. The ridiculousness of an "excessive standing" ban at a sporting event aside, what is "excessive" standing? What if you didn't bring enough chairs? Do you have to sit on the ground? So many questions, so few answers.
Miami, ever the bastion of sensible, tame music, has the strictest wording against what kind of music you can play. "No DJ's may be used," cautions the code. "Please keep music volume low and do not play music with inappropriate language." Yeah, ya damn kids. And get off my lawn!
I've been to enough tailgates to know that it's impossible to play music loud enough for your group to hear but not loud enough for the adjacent cars to suffer through. Sure, they don't want the entire lot to hear, but what does a low volume entail? Likewise, I'm sure the no-inappropriate-language clause is dutifully observed by all involved.
The tailgating rules serve as evidence that the Eagles and Vikings fans are the most inappropriate in the NFL. I'm not quite sure what's been going on outside Lincoln Financial Field, but apparently Eagles officials have felt the need to include a ban against "displays of affection not appropriate in a public setting." Middle-school-dance rules are in effect, people.
While we're at it, it's noteworthy that Minnesota feels the need to be the only NFL city to expressly state "public urination is illegal and not permitted on parking lot grounds." Are Vikings fans known for peeing all over the place? Is urinating on motorized coolers a traditional Norwegian form of expressing excitement?
Now that we are informed tailgaters, we can party responsibly. Just keep your gassy komodo dragon off the motorized cooler.