Pizza and hamburgers might not be New Haven’s only inventions.
In a recent article for the Yale Alumni Magazine, Chief Research Archivist Judith Schiff traced the history of the tailgate all the way back to its birth in 1906. That fall, the first recorded instance of a tailgate appeared on Yale’s own fields at the 1906 Harvard-Yale game. In time, the tailgate cemented its place as a staple of college football.
For one day each November, this legacy lives on. One hundred and five years later, we search for our knitted Yale sweaters and pray that our beloved pinnies won’t invite frostbite. But aside from that fateful Saturday morning, have Yale’s tailgates lived up to their birthright?
For many, tailgating during the regular season is just another chance to socialize. Its major difference is timing; tailgates provide a change of pace from the evening’s casual pregame or frat party. But for Max Rolison ’15, timing has deterred him from attending tailgates because they interfere with his weekend work routine. Rolison said he usually studies on Saturday mornings, and so does not have time to attend football games.
Indeed, while many students attend the Saturday morning festivities, fewer stay on for the game. Zoe Jacoby ’14 said that by the time the football game is about to start, she’s tired from the tailgate and ready to go back to campus.
Jeremiah Kreisberg ’14 has also noticed the disparity between numbers of tailgate attendees and fans in the football stands. Because he has friends on the football team, Kreisberg usually goes to the game, though many do not follow suit. Two of five students interviewed said they don’t see the value of going to the tailgate if they don’t plan to watch the game after.
“There are definitely more hardcore tailgate fans than fans of the game,” Kreisberg said.
Stop by the fields on any non-Harvard-Yale game day, and you won’t find a sea of Yale blue and white. Rather, you might stumble upon lumberjacks, ballerinas, not to mention anything and everything neon. Crazy costumes are a fun tailgate tradition at Yale, students said, but perhaps one that distracts from the day’s athletic event.
The costumes raise a larger question about tailgate culture: do students really go for the experience, or is it more for the scene? And in that respect, are tailgates really different from any other social event?
Jacoby said some students may view the tailgate as a chance to scope out Yale’s social scene.
“People might not want to admit that, but I think it’s really true,” said Jacoby. “At best, it’s just a place to hang out with your friends, but a lot of people go to see and be seen.”
Florian Koenigsberger ’14, who often photographs students at the tailgates, said he enjoys seeing the creativity that costumes bring to the field. “It’s a spectacle that students love to get ridiculous for and I think it speaks to the nature of the fun people like to have here,” said Koenigsberger. “As a photographer, it’s amazing to me in its decadence — people go all out and I dig it.”
But this Saturday, students will be more serious: they will discard outlandish outfits for more conventional Yale gear. Even for students who don’t attend tailgates during the regular season, the Harvard-Yale game, more than any other, harkens back to the traditions of tailgating’s early days.
“Everyone goes,” said Sophia Yoo ’13. “That’s the biggest difference.”
Rolison added that since the game occurs at the beginning of Thanksgiving break, when students are mostly done with midterms and papers, more people are willing — and able — to see what the hype is about. It’s like a mandatory event, he added.
And tailgates on Yale’s home turf are often worth the anticipation. Historically, Yale’s tailgates for the Harvard-Yale game are universally acknowledged as better than those hosted by the Cantabs. Yoo said she did not attend the Game last year because she had heard that Harvard’s tailgates could not top the Yale football experience.
With this reputation in mind, recent administrative changes to tailgate rules have met with student backlash. Upon their arrival at the fields, students must now show valid identification and will then receive wristbands to distinguish those who are underage from those over 21. On Tuesday, the News reported the lifting of a ban on residential college tailgates’ ability to serve alcohol to those of age.
In spite of this back-and-forth, all students interviewed said that they look forward to Saturday morning with as much anticipation as ever.