Shake Your Tailgate

Mike Hogan, wearing his barbecue apron and a glass of wine in hand, tells me that Stanford football fans don’t actually like good wine. That’s why he brought merlot and chardonnay to his tailgate.

“One of my favorite things is cooking in the parking lot in fall afternoons,” he says. “It’s wonderful. Everyone comes in and has a smile on their face.”

He’s grilling some carne asada for tacos and some teriyaki chicken today and — regardless of whether you support Stanford or Oregon — he’s offering anyone a meal, especially if students walk by him who have been drinking way too much before the game kicks off.

Back in July, UO announced new rules for home games.  The Eugene City Council approved earlier tailgating, which can start up two hours earlier. The UO went on to eliminate re-entry, require clear bags to enter and expanded alcohol vendors.

University police applauded the decision. UO Police Department Chief Matt Carmichael said in a statement that too many fans would leave at halftime and pound down booze during the 15-minute break. That could mean more unruly behavior and medical issues.

If students and drunken fans want to keep the booze flowing, they’ll have to pay for Autzen’s $9 drinks.

Hogan says he likes the new rules because so far he hasn’t been stuck in a long line to get to his spot in the parking lot.

Removing the right for re-entry is a problem for Sally Plowman.

Migraines are a medical issue for her, and being out in the sun for a whole game (a typical football game can reach nearly four hours) can be taxing for Plowman. She says now she can’t go back to her car parked outside Autzen at halftime to get some sort of relief during the 15-minute break.

The Sept. 22 game against Stanford was the first real test of how prepared Autzen Stadium is for the new tailgating rules. With nearly a full stadium, I decided to pull a rookie move and take a bathroom break during halftime — partly because I was stuck in the middle of the 72nd row, and I didn’t want to wade through fans during the game.

It felt like every one of the 58,000 people in the crowd and I were in line together. The massive line drew countless jokes — with the low-effort jokes revolving around “I thought this was the women’s line.”

More serious observers, though, viewed the lines for beer and bathrooms as the result of the UO’s revised stadium rules.

The new tailgating policy doesn’t seem to rein in general lousy Duck fan behavior. As Stanford football players left the field after they lucked out with an overtime win on Sept. 22, The Athletic captured video of Duck fans throwing water bottles at the players.

The expanded tailgating hours will end next year unless the Eugene City Council approves a permanent change. The City Council will require the UO to submit information about tailgating traffic and alcohol-related arrests during the 2018 season compared to previous years, a coordinated plan with nearby neighborhoods regarding emergency vehicle access, a policy that addresses re-entry and problematic drinking, and a plan to enforce underage drinking laws.

With the first important home game behind us, my guess is the new policy hasn’t gotten rid of all the unruly behavior.

May God help us when the University of Washington Huskies are in town.