Michigan, Where Even Tailgating Is A “Nuisance”

One of our favorite aspects of going to college, especially at a Big Ten school, was tailgating. No surprise, really; it combined three of our favorite things about life: drinking, football, and debauchery. Bomb a test? No worries, just make it to Saturday morning, and six beers later you’re not thinking about any exams, just that co-ed with the lewd t-shirt in front of you (NOTE: your tailgating experiences may vary).

Michigan tailgating BOX House
(My God, the horror of it all. Don’t you see what you’re doing to society, children?! You’re ripping it apart!)

But even in the Big Ten, there are worrywarts and spoilsports, agents of tailgate ruination whose agenda matters more to them than does your ability to have a good time. To that end, the most overly self-conscious school in the BXI whose name doesn’t rhyme with “Borthwestern” is trying to fundamentally alter tailgating, both in terms of behavior and consumption. It’s for your own good, you know.

First up: the enjoyment of alcohol. Even in a country whose founding fathers lauded beer as proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy, the local police can be dictatorial paternalistic enough to put the clamps down on things like, um, partying. From the DETROIT DAILY NEWS:

The 900 block of South State Street is known for its raucous tailgates on football Saturdays. But if the Ann Arbor City Attorney’s Office has anything to say about it, then maize and blue clad fans, spilling into the sidewalks at the corner of Sate Street and Hoover Street from the BOX House and other properties, could be a thing of the past.

On Tuesday, Senior Assistant City Attorney Kristen Larcom sent a letter to Michelle Grobler of Arch Realty Company, asking the residents of 917, 927 and 933 S. State St. to “cease and desist from engaging in illegal and dangerous conduct.”

“Rooftop activities and crowds spilling onto the public sidewalk are among the behaviors that create significant public safety hazards,” the letter states. “A failure to voluntarily discontinue such dangerous behaviors will require the city to take more forceful action.”

That forceful action would be lawsuits, if it wasn’t already clear. And while there is, obviously, some measure of danger to being drunk on the roof of a house that’s not built to accomodate drunk people on its roof (so few are these days, really), it’s that other part that we’re a little confused about: “crowds spilling out onto the public sidewalk.”

Now, the use of the word “spilling” ought to indicate enough of a bias toward sensationalism; it sounds as if the crowd is trying to stay on the lot, but it’s so overcrowded that people are falling into helpless passers-by (old women? maybe!) on the sidewalk. In reality, here’s an accurate representation of what tailgaters + sidewalks entails:

Iowa tailgating
(From the photographer’s FLICKER.COM page)

Yes, beyond just sidewalk use, they’re even in the street of the cul-de-sac. Over 50 people died that day, because alcohol and anything do not, can not, and must not mix.

So let’s say you’re in one of the University-owned lots, where the drinking’s tolerated as long as you pay to get in. Michigan would like to take the opportunity to badger you into militant environmentalism. Waste? At a tailgate? It vill not be tolerated!


[A]t a pre-game tailgate hosted by the UM Alumni Association, a team of Student Sustainability Initiative (SSI) volunteers came up at least three coffee creamer containers shy of their goal: a “zero waste” tailgate.

Those three coffee creamer containers came from Edward J. Vander Velde – from the 50th reunion class of 1959 – who kidded the volunteers who were staffing one of the waste stations inside Oosterbaan Fieldhouse, saying, “We’re still short of perfect!”

Really, it was little more than another opportunity to lecture people on garbage-sorting, which is exactly what 3/4-drunk 19-year-olds want to be spending their Saturday mornings worried about. But while their goals are admirable, there’s a glaring underlying hypocrisy to it all. To wit:

Phillip and Alex, who staffed a waste station on the opposite side of Oosterbaan Fieldhouse from Elizabeth and Julia, are two guys with no particular background as artists, but who are undaunted by their adopted project of creating art out of some of the plastic cups they were accumulating.

The art project was more or less an “audible called at the line of scrimmage” when some orange juice cups they thought would be accepted nicely into the plastics recycling bin failed on grounds of their shape.

So, in case we’re unclear about this, let’s go over it one more time: a “sustainability initiative” goes about reducing trash… by having people use it for art projects? How exactly does that fall under the definition of “sustainable”?

Do we really think that families are going to cut down on their waste every week by telling their kids, “well, we ate 8 cups of yogurt, so you’d better do some art with them now!”? Are they going to tell them that every single week? And where’s all this crappy trash-art going to go after it’s made? You can give your trash-art the 120 cubic feet an art display would require… or you can do everybody a favor, toss it into the garbage where it can be processed and crushed into about .005 cubic feet. Which seems like a more efficient use of one of our most finite personal resources: living space?