When you crack open a cold one or spoon up some chili among the crowds outside a sports venue, flags flying and fight songs or racing engines audible in the distance, does it ever cross your mind that you're boosting the economy, as well?
Tailgating, the classic blend of automobile, socializing and fandom, has been around for more than a century. Some historians speculate that the tradition may have started even earlier, when wagons predated motor cars with boots, trunks, lift gates, hatchbacks and other handy outlets for car-side refreshments.
University of Notre Dame marketing professor and cultural anthropologist John Sherry says the pre-game parties bolster a school's brand and contribute to a sense of community among fans. In a recently released study, he observed that people are creating "mini-households" in the hours they spend tailgating, bringing their housewares, furniture and even photos of deceased loved ones to adorn their encampment. The fall ritual, Sherry said, is something like the harvest festivals of older cultures.
"With tailgating, fans are not only establishing family rituals that can pass through many generations, they are also becoming active participants in the game-day experience," he wrote.