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Fans tailgate before an NFL football game between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis.

Mike Roemer, Associated Press - Ap

New websites, apps cater to football fans

  • Article by: NANCY M. BETTER
  • New York Times
  • December 12, 2013 - 5:40 AM

 

The coleslaw was the culprit. After receiving several dozen e-mails discussing who would bring slaw to a football tailgate party at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Va., Caroline Hundley was losing her patience.

“Every week, it was the same thing,” said Hundley, a Dallas resident whose son played on the school’s team. “All 87 families on the team would announce what they were bringing to the game, and hit ‘Reply all,’ so my inbox would be inundated.”

Not anymore.

Last fall, Hundley signed up the entire team for ourtailgate.com, a free tool that allows users to organize events, invite participants, assign duties and send reminders. The website was created by Harry St. John, a former college athlete who wanted to take the agony out of tailgating.

“The traditional method of planning a tailgate is highly inefficient,” said St. John, who works at a New York advertising technology firm. “People don’t know what to bring, or how much to bring. It’s not clear who’s supposed to set up or clean up. This way, everyone can see who’s coming, what’s needed and what’s already been taken care of.”

Hundley’s favorite feature is the automatic reminder, which notifies tailgaters of their responsibilities 24 hours before game time.

About 100,000 people have set up accounts on the site. That’s no surprise to Joe Cahn, who’s working with the University of South Carolina’s sports marketing department to compile tailgating statistics. According to Cahn, tailgaters spend more than $20 billion annually on items including food, beverages and gear.

“I call it the last great American neighborhood,” said Cahn, who operates a website, tailgating.com, that offers recipes and tips to sports fans. “Tailgating inspires a real sense of community.”

Specialized apps

Plenty of entrepreneurs are hoping to cash in on this community.

Americantailgater.com offers the Fan Brand Grilling Iron ($12.95), which allows fans to brand steaks with their favorite team’s logo. Insidetailgating.com showcases the Scorzie, a scorekeeping beverage holder ($15); and Brewsees, sunglasses ($29.99) with built-in bottle openers.

GPS-enabled apps geared to tailgaters have sprung up, too. On game day, fans can use Stadium Finder (free on Android) to locate the playing field, and Tailgate Scout (free on iPhone or Android) to find their friends. In case of inclement weather (or lack of tickets), fans can use Sports Bar Finder (free on iPhone or Android) to locate the nearest bar or restaurant equipped with DirecTV showing their favorite team.

A pair of apps for organizing tailgates, Tailgating (free on iPhone) and Tailgating Planner ($1 on Android), have also been started. These apps allow users to create checklists and share them via Bluetooth.

Not everyone thinks this degree of specialization is necessary. Kimberly Purcell, a professional organizer in Folsom, Calif., recommends tools such as Evernote or Google Drive to organize tailgate parties, rather than customized products.

“The vast majority of apps are used only once,” she said. “You’re better off with tools that can be in your life for multiple uses.”

Seasonal rite

Lately, tailgating has attracted academic, as well as commercial, attention.

In a research study titled “A Cultural Analysis of Tailgating,” John Sherry, a University of Notre Dame marketing professor and anthropologist, likens tailgating to traditional harvest celebrations in ancient Greece and Rome, which involved excessive feasting and drinking and required generous hospitality toward strangers as well as guests.

Sherry dubs tailgating a “vestaval,” after Vesta, goddess of the hearth. “As in ancient times, people celebrate the massive abundance of the season while they can,” he said. “The football season starts at the end of summer, goes through fall and ends on winter’s doorstep.”

Sherry applauds the new and growing use of technology in organizing cultural rituals, including tailgating.

“People want to be involved in a very participatory way, and technology makes more room for this to happen,” he said.

For their study, Sherry and his colleagues traveled around the United States, employing ethnographic research methods to analyze tailgating rituals at college stadiums.

One observation he offered: “A lot of people who tailgate don’t actually go to the game. For them, football is secondary. It’s the communal celebration that matters most.”

© 2014 Star Tribune