Jennifer Pitt

Tailgate32: Family, Food, and Football

by Jennifer Pitt

No matter what your poison is, if you are a sports fan you can bet on riding the highs and hanging on through the lows.

As for not feeling the pain or sharing the joy alone, no one does it better than football tailgaters.

According to the American Tailgaters Association (I know!!!), the first ever ‘tailgate’ party was during the Civil War, and had nothing at all to do with sports. The party has less to do with sports and more to do with food, drink, and camaraderie; the kinship of being on the same side – winning or not – is what makes a tailgate party.

John and Mike Trupiano know that better than most. Brothers and die-hard football fans, the two hit up 32 tailgate parties across America, and with a small crew filmed their experiences. The awesome result is Tailgate32: An Epic Web Series, highlighting the best parts of each stop.  For both John and Mike, the trip was not so much about football as it was about adventure. “Just think about it,” said John. “32 games in 17 weeks, and criss-crossing the country in an RV to do it all.  At our core, Mike and I love a good story, and something like this really makes people say wow.”


One thing is clear and absolute across the country: tailgating is not about football. Sure, everyone there is wearing some kind of colour, whether it’s the home team or not, and of course they are all gathered with a shared SOMETHING for football. But the party itself is not about football. It’s about coming together as a family to celebrate, commiserate, eat, drink, and make friends. While all of the cities they visited had a definite impact, Buffalo holds a special place in their hearts. “That city lives and dies with its football team and it’s so apparent from the moment you get anywhere near Ralph Wilson Stadium.  The characters were lively, their traditions are very rich, and the fan base was one of the most welcoming we saw all year round.  Mike and I both hold Buffalo in very high regard, but we are also quite fond of the scenes in Houston, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Oakland.”

Tailgate32 is a wonderful testament to the feeling of family and a shared love; John and Mike and their crew captured those feelings beautifully. Mike and John were welcomed at each tailgate with open arms, even accruing a few fans along the way: in one episode, they are asked to sign Tailgate32 t-shirts for fellow tailgaters. In Episode 7: Carolina, they were invited to leave the too-cozy comfort of their 42-foot RV (that also housed their film crew, 5 of them in total – tight quarters!) and stay with a couple they met during their preseason run to Charlotte. They had the pleasure of meeting more than a few amazing fans, some perhaps more diehard than they are, like the Commissioner of Tailgating, Joe Cahn, who happened to show up at a few of the tailgates they attended.

Joe Cahn

I asked John if he thought the football tailgate was the most prevalent form of fan appreciation, he had this to say: “While tailgating isn’t necessarily a universal way to celebrate your fandom, I do think that you’ll find the same passion and fire in Brazilian soccer fans or South African rugby fans.  So to me, it’s more of a result of football just being the most popular sport in America.  Fifty years ago every kid was a baseball fan.  But these days, we’re all football fans, and we’re born and raised with it by parents who loved the game before us.”

From getting to the lots before the crack of dawn, learning the logistics of the hierarchy of parking spaces, and dealing with a broken down RV, the crew slogged through it all to make this amazing web series come to life. The brother and their crew quickly developed a good chemistry, and while each one of them “had our ‘days’, if you will” they managed to make it all work. “Collectively we were able to identify when someone either needed a hug or just needed to be left alone.  From the standpoint of keeping the show interesting, we got creative (sometimes flat-out loony) with the types of ‘color segments’ that we integrated into each episode.  For instance, we had Pro Bowler Lorenzo Alexander put us through a Pilates workout in DC, and we took a day-trip to the RV Hall of Fame on our way to Indianapolis.  So we definitely found ways to mix things up and keep everyone engaged and interested.”

It’s been a busy year for the Trupiano brothers. To follow-up Tailgate32’s success, they have conquered the NASCAR tailgate as well in their 6-episode series Revved Up. They are travelling again during the 2013 season, but this time around it is more of a sales and public relations tour. “We are on the road and will hit 18 different stadiums, but we’re not getting to all 32 and we’re not actually filming.  We’ve screened at film festivals in Vermont and Atlanta” (where they took home Best Nonfiction Series honors, I may add – jp) “and have several more lined up over the next couple of months.” Among them, the Unofficial Google+ Film Festival, and the  International Academy of Web Television Awards, where they are nominated for Best Writing (Nonfiction), and where Tailgate32 and Revved Up will compete against each other for Best Documentary Series. “On the sales side, we’re seeking a major brand to partner with for a 2014 college version of the show called Tailgate U.  Being on the road not only gives us a chance to see more football games, but it also allows us to socialize the project and to set us up for next year.”

I am a football fan already, but if I wasn’t I definitely would be now. The universal fan feeling can be difficult to explain in words, and Tailgate32 puts it on display perfectly. I can’t wait to see what comes from the Trupianos next.

Watch all of the episodes of both Tailgate32 and Revved Up here, and don’t forget to head over to their Facebook page and follow John and Tailgate32 on Twitter for more pictures and tales from the road.

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