The 6 A.M. Tailgaters
The six young men arrived outside Redskins Park around 5:30 a.m. The gates to Redskins Park wouldn't open for another hour, so they staked out their spot in the median on Loudoun County Parkway and started preparing breakfast. And what, you're wondering, is the best 6 a.m. breakfast to eat in the middle of a steamy stretch of suburban asphalt? Hamburgers, hot dogs and cheddar brats, of course.
"Cereal is for sissies," proclaimed 19-year old Greg Namrow, to wide approval.
"I feel pretty awful right now," his friend, Alex Kolt, pointed out.
This was the fifth year the Northern Virginians decided to celebrate training camp's arrival with a pre-practice tailgate. This was the first year, however, that the Redskins decided to begin their preseason workouts at 8:30 in the morning. Which meant the wake-up call was before 5, the departure time was at 5:15, and the $150 worth of groceries began going into sleepless and heat-addled stomachs around 6. The six tailgaters on that still-darkened road had combined to log three hours and 10 minutes of sleep on Saturday night.
"That's probably not healthy," said Kolt, who prepares an annual PowerPoint presentation outlining their training camp tailgating plans.
"We're running off Gatorade and water," Mitch Namrow said.
The only music played was the 2007 collection of Redskins beats created by WPGC's Chris Paul. The only topic of conversation was Redskins football. Robbie Shiver won the consumption prize, with three hot dogs and three hamburgers already in his gut by the time he entered the grounds and queued up for the right to stand in the sun for two more hours. I asked how he felt.
"I mean, ok right now," he said. "Usually it catches up to me a little later."
In years past, the men have gone to the grocery store for supplies just before the first practice, wearing their jerseys, putting their hands together in the parking lot, shouting out "Redskins." This year, they were forced to do their shopping the night before. Everything was different. They knew it was because of Jim Zorn's arrival.
"They need to cool it with this in the future, it's not going to fly, it's not ok," Kolt said of the time change, but he later reconsidered. "We're not thrilled with it, but it's a good experience," he said.
"Brings out the true fans," Andrew Pacala said.
"You do what you've got to do," Shiver said.
"We might camp out next year," Kolt added.
"We're definitely camping next year," Pacala agreed.
"We need to buy Redskins tents, though," Mitch Namrow concluded.
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