TAILGATING @UTSA Football: It All Starts Saturday Morning Downtown

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From a Rice University (Houston) tailgate with Anthony Ramirez and the Texas Fat Boys tailgate crew. Courtesy photo.

From a Rice University (Houston) tailgate with Anthony Ramirez and the Texas Fat Boys tailgate crew. Courtesy photo.

matthew vincentThe Webster’s definition of tailgating is simple enough: “Eating an informal meal out of the back of a parked vehicle.”

Ask any of the thousands of hardcore tailgaters outside of the Alamodome before, during, and after any UTSA Roadrunner home game what tailgating means to them, and you’ll probably get a little closer to the real essence of tailgating.  Tailgating in the ‘Dome parking lots has become an event anticipated as the game itself.

It all starts this Saturday when UTSA, fresh off a season-opening road win at New Mexico, welcomes Oklahoma State to the Alamodome for the Roadrunners first game against a Big Twelve opponent and a top-ranked team. It all starts with the tailgating.

Tailgating comes in all shapes and sizes.  Walk the two huge parking lots set aside for tailgating at the Alamodome, and you’ll run into every type of tailgater.  From the Greek organizations with DJ’s and margarita machines, to the three guys sitting in their truck bed with a cooler of beer and breakfast tacos.  Most will have a BBQ pit burning, a canopy to fight the sun, and play washer board to pass the time. Some will have kegs, some will have bottles.  All will be having a good time.

Matthew Vincent and KENS5 Sports Director Joe Reinagel look for "the craziest, proudest and most creative Roadrunner fans" during the "H-E-B Tailgater of the Game Contest." Courtesy photo (via Instagram).

Matthew Vincent and KENS5 Sports Director Joe Reinagel look for “the craziest, proudest and most creative Roadrunner fans” during the “H-E-B Tailgater of the Game Contest.” Courtesy photo (via Instagram).

Attorney Jeff Middleton is a UTSA alumnus.  He‘s been tailgating with his fraternity brothers from day one. When asked why UTSA tailgating has been such a success, so quickly, he gets right to the answer.

“It’s an opportunity for a little Fiesta every game day,” Middleton said.

President Ricardo Romo stands in as a cymbalist with UTSA's Spirit of San Antonio Marching Band. Photo by Robert Rivard.

President Ricardo Romo stands in as a cymbalist with UTSA’s Spirit of San Antonio Marching Band during a tailgate party for A UTSA Roadrunner game near the Alamodome. Photo by Robert Rivard.

Fiesta?  That is something San Antonio can definitely do.  From First Friday Southtown celebrations, to Cornyvale in Helotes – at the core of most San Antonio parties and fiestas is just a big ol’ tailgate.  Food cooked over open flames, beer served cold, and mingling from group to group.  We’ve been doing it as a city for more than 100 years.

“We don’t need much of an excuse to throw a party,” Middleton continues. “So I think that gives us a good head start.  I think that’s evident just walking around all the tailgate parties.  There are clearly a lot of people there that aren’t students or alumni, but they come to have a good time and watch some football. Most of our group is over the age of 40, so we’ve been waiting for UTSA football for a long time.  A couple of our group are long-time boosters of UTSA athletics, so it’s nice to see their efforts come to fruition.”

Tailgating is most definitely not a UTSA invention.  You’ll find tailgates at nearly every College or NFL football game.  It’s a deeply American tradition – according to The American Tailgate Association, it goes back all the way to the civil war:

One of the first tailgating events was first documented during the Civil War, although participants, in all likelihood, were not sharing recipes or playing a friendly game of horseshoes. The event took place in 1861 at the Battle of Bull Run. At the battle’s start, civilians from the Union side arrived with baskets of food and shouting, “Go Big Blue!” their efforts were a form of support and were to help encourage their side to win the commencing battle.

UTSA hasn’t been doing it quite that long, but as someone who’s tailgated UT, Aggie, Texas Tech, and NFL games I’m comfortable saying we’re doing it just as well as anyone in this State.

From a Rice University (Houston) tailgate with Anthony Ramirez and the Texas Fat Boys tailgate crew. Courtesy photo.

From a Rice University (Houston) tailgate with Anthony Ramirez and the Texas Fat Boys tailgate crew. Courtesy photo.

Whether it’s our talent at throwing fiestas, the long gestating need for big time football in San Antonio, or just the fact San Antonio loves a good time, UTSA tailgates, unlike the Football team, are still undefeated.

So back to the basic question: What is a tailgate, and why they are so successful at UTSA games.? I’ll let UTSA alum John Peed describe it to you – he’s an avid tailgater, local accountant and, on Game Day,  often found in the Alamodome’s Lot B with friends and family, cheering and grilling for the Roadrunners:

People in Texas and especially in San Antonio are not afraid to be friendly. When we’re having a good time we want others to have a good time too. This characteristic of ours has been especially prevalent during the tailgating before the UTSA Roadrunner football games.

John Peed and his UTSA tailgating crew can be found in Lot B every UTSA home game.

John Peed and his UTSA tailgating crew can be found in Lot B every UTSA home game.

In the early morning hours, when it’s still dark, the early “birds” start pulling into the lots. You feel the excitement radiating from them as they set up their tailgate sites. Most of the folks say good morning to their neighbors and offer assistance if needed.

Soon the smokers and grilles get fired up and the smell of charcoal and mesquite fills the air. It’s not much longer and the mouthwatering aroma of barbecue burgers, sausages and other foods are mixed in.

A chorus of music starts to weave through the crowds. Instead of a cacophony of noise it turns itself into a comfortable and pleasing background ambiance.

As the crowds in the lots start to grow, the visual senses are stimulated by the bright oranges and the comfortable blues of the UTSA colors. You can’t help but smile at every person you pass wearing UTSA gear because you know at this very moment you have something special in common.

Now if you’re sufficiently excited about joining in on the tailgate fun, there are a few things to be aware of.  Alamodome parking lots are for season ticket holders only.  Parking in the public pay lots surrounding the dome would be your best bet.  Plan on spending between $10 and $20.  There are usually tailgates set up in these lots – some pretty elaborate – but to get a real sense of the UTSA tailgate scene head over to Lot C or Lot B of the Alamodome.

Wear your orange and blue, and be friendly.  Wander the lots, show your UTSA spirit, and say hello.  Chances are you’ll be offered a cold beverage, or a hot taco.  If not, find me!  I’ll be with my TailgateSA.com crew in Lot C flying my white Come and Take It flag under my blue UTSA flag.  We’ll have Freetail Brewing Company Beer, breakfast items pre game, and BBQ post game.

Matthew Vincent is the founder of TailgateSA.com, an online source dedicated to bringing San Antonio together at a tailgate near you.  Follow on twitter @TailgateSA.

 

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