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Why Redskins Tailgaters Are Still Worried

(2007 photo by Mark Finkenstaedt for TWP)

I continue to get frequent e-mails from folks on both sides of Tailgate-Gate; supporters of Change in '09!, who think their commute into the 17th spot of the 39th row of the Green Lot will now be easier, and opponents of change, who think their traditions will be spiked like so many jugs of Hawaiian Punch. I haven't been printing these thoughts, but I'll make an exception for Ted Abela, whose tailgate I've frequently attended and written about over the years. Ted and friends get to FedEx way before dawn, set up shop on a main artery, and create a fairly elaborate buffet line, complete with veggie meat products (for those so inclined) and fried dough (for the grateful world).

Ted remains concerned about what will happen to his tailgate in the new world, and I agreed to let him explain why. If you give me veggie burgers, you can do the same. You can read more at the Save Tailgating petition, at Tailgating Ideas and at Tailgate Lot. Ted writes:

I've been tailgating at Fedex Field for 10-plus years. I haven't missed a home game in 10-plus years, and I haven't missed a tailgate in 10-plus years. The Washington Redskins' new Parking/Tailgate Policy will make me end this streak.

The new policy is intended to direct individual tailgaters to the rear of the lot if they plan on tailgating and occupying more than one space. The extra space could eventually be requested back when all of the other locations are filled--fans "will be allowed to occupy two spaces until required for additional vehicles," according to the policy. Patrons that have a small tailgate and that do not require more than their individual space will be directed to the front of the lot. Patrons that are not tailgating at all will also be directed to the front of the lot.

It has long been the Redskins' policy to only allow tailgaters to occupy one parking space. The parking passes we purchase for each game clearly state at the top "THIS PARKING PASS IS VALID FOR ONE VEHICLE ONLY. NOT TAILGATE SPACE". Yes, people do not always follow the rules, but those tailgaters seem to be the minority. Why is the majority being punished for what the minority is doing? If the team could simply enforce a policy that has been around for years, then none of this would be a problem. I acknowledge that the parking situation is not ideal, but that is because the old policy has never been enforced fully.

Over the past 10 years that I've been tailgating at FedEx, I've met a lot of interesting people. Some of these people, I've only met once. Others were only around for one or two seasons, but the majority of them I've known for 10 years and counting. I can tell you what day Mike's and Pam's birthdays are, and I make sure to send them cards every year. I know that Craig's wife just had a beautiful baby boy. I know that Charlie's son is going to go to Virginia Tech in the fall. I received Chris's family vacation pictures from the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year when Art and Darrell were inducted.

I invite each of them to my offseason BBQs so we can talk about how we think the team will do this upcoming season. We give each other Christmas presents, which we exchange the game before Christmas or the game after, depending on the schedule. We've organized away game trips to Baltimore and Carolina so we can cheer on our team in enemy territory. We've planned playoff trips to Tampa Bay and Seattle so we can support the Redskins during their postseason runs. The new policy will kill what we have built as a Redskins family.

(2007 photo by Mark Finkenstaedt for TWP)

If we are told where each car should individually park, then that means if Mike gets there 45 minutes after me, he will be placed in a different location of the lot where someone with an orange flag tells him to go. It means that Julie has to carry three ten-pound bags of ice halfway across the parking lot just to meet up with her regular tailgate group because she got stuck in traffic and arrived an hour later then everyone else. It means that everyone's extended Redskins family will be broken up and divided, because a handful of people didn't follow the rules.

When the new policy goes into effect, legendary tailgates such as The Gate C Crew, The Four C's, The DTC, Area 51, Extreme Skins, Redskinsheads, FdaCowboys and many more will be disbanded and moved to various random locations throughout the lots. Why do these Redskins fans have to be splintered all across FedEx Field because a couple of bad eggs didn't follow policy and procedure in the past?

I'm lucky enough to have been able to watch a game and tailgate at RFK. It was an amazing atmosphere. You could feel the history and camaraderie as soon as you drove under that small tunnel into the lot where everyone was honking their horns and singing Hail to the Redskins. I usually go to four or five away games a year and I get to see how other team's fans support their franchises, and I'm a little jealous. I don't feel we have that at FedEx Field yet but we are close. I'm scared that if this new policy goes into effect, the atmosphere that we have been so desperately trying to recreate since RFK will be forever gone.

I'm asking that Mr. Snyder and the Redskins organization please not tear apart my Redskins family that I cried with in 2007 during the Buffalo Bills tailgate, after Sean Taylor passed away. Let us park next to our friends and family as long as we all have the appropriate color parking passes and are not taking up more than one space. Please follow through on Rule D of the old policy, which states, "The failure of any person to obey instruction, direction or request of parking lot personnel or stadium signage, or the violation of management's rules and regulations, may cause eviction from the parking lot at management's discretion, or forfeiture and cancellation of this parking pass, without compensation."

Let us park where we want to park in the lots, and then have the parking staff funnel cars to empty locations from the front of the lot to the back two hours before kickoff. Please reconsider these changes for the good of the fan base.

By Dan Steinberg  |  June 29, 2009; 12:02 PM ET
Categories:  Redskins  
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Down with Washington football executives, and up with this guy!

Posted by: StetSportsBlog | June 29, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Amen brother. Amen.

One of the worst parts of this rule is that they will force those tailgaters who get there earliest to the back of the lot. So those who come 5 minutes before kickoff will inexplicably be rewarded by being able to leave first after the game. At the very least, give the tailgaters the front of the lots...not the back.

Posted by: Barno1 | June 29, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

The other day I went to a DC United game. I could not go until after my son's game finished. we got there as soon as we could, but unfortunatley it was about 30 minutes before the game started. We then spent 20 of those minutes riding around Lot 8 looking for any place to park. numerous spaces were available, except for the people sitting in their chairs or with their hibachi grill taking up a whole space. Others used multiple spaces to set up mini soccer fields.

I don't know if it is the same at Redskins games, but certianly tailgaters can understand the frustration people have when open parking spaces are taken up by non-vehicles. On the other hand, I understand people wanting to park next to their friends. So, why not meet somewhere before the game and come in together?

Posted by: Dougmacintyre | June 29, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Redskins in the Snyder era = Dead. Bloated. Carcass. RIP.

No more games at FedEx for me after having tickets my entire life. I will go to a road game every season. This year, probably Carolina.

Posted by: Kev29 | June 29, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Please get a life! I wish that all of my problems were this simple. If you want to be able to park together either a) take advantage of the option the Redskins are providing at the rear of the parking lot or b) have all you friends meet near FedEx and drive in together, one after another, so that you can park in contiguous spaces.

I am sure that your Redskins tailgate family will survive. You just need to be a bit creative instead of a selfish twit which seems to be a chronic issue with you people.

Posted by: skipper7 | June 29, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

So, why not meet somewhere before the game and come in together?

Posted by: Dougmacintyre | June 29, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Just like communism, this only works in theory. In reality, you meet with your people before the game and start a caravan of say, 4, cars. But somewhere along your route to the stadium, other cars have cut into your caravan and all of a sudden, John who was right behind you is now 4 cars back and, by the time you enter the parking lot, is 9 cars back. He can still see your car, barely, but when he tries explaining to the parking lot attendant that he wants to park next to his buddy who is just a few cars up ahead, she quickly shouts back: "we got a new policy sir, either park where the attendants tell you or you'll be ticketed and then towed."

Posted by: Barno1 | June 29, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand all the moaning. If big tailgates are required to park in the back of the lot, can't "Julie carrying 3 10 lbs of ice" also park at the back of the lot? Seems like its going to things easier for the tailgaters, except we now have to walk 1000 yards instead of 200.

Posted by: colerwilson | June 29, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

That's probably the most self-serving thing I've read in a long time.

I'm a long-term STH, dating back to the RFK days. The utter chaos in the parking lot has been a long time problem, since many, many, many tailgaters think nothing of taking multiple spaces for their grills, tents, chairs and buffet lines. Those of us who would just like to park an hour before the game have been at the mercy of these space hogs.

You get one spot per vehicle, period. Not one spot per person. If you can't deal with it, too bad.

Posted by: deMille_Ondefloss | June 29, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

I was confused at first, but I think this guy basically has multiple one space tailgates that occur next to each other. Thus they are allowed stll allowed to park up front, but where the attendants tell them to. If they show up separately they wont be next to each other.

I suppose he could move towards the back, take up a couple of spaces and let his friends park next to him as they arrive. He just doesnt want to move to the back of the lot in order to stay together. I dont know if that is a big deal or not.

Posted by: makplan20002 | June 29, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Barno...your point is valid if you try to meet in College Park or Wheaton, but why not find a gas station or shopping mall a mile or two away and meet there. It is easy to find lots of reasons why this won't work, but you need to be creative and think a little. How many cars are we talking about here? It it is more than 5 you really need to be in the new group tailgating areas since you are exactly the type of people who contribute to the miserable game day experience at FedEx.

Posted by: skipper7 | June 29, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

So his issue is that, before, he could park in the front, and "reserve" spots for his friends who arrived later? Thus - taking up more than 1 spot - until his friends arrive? And eventually, they have 1 car in every spot for their tailgate?

And now, the Redskins are saying "if you're going to hold spots for people who are going to be late and want to park next to you, park in the back of the lot?"

I just don't get the outrage - it reminds me of the movie TCU where some group of people have to protest every decision made. When I go to a bar, and I have 4 people coming to meet me later, I don't expect to be able to sit right upfront at the bar, and hold 4 spots while others are trying to get drinks. I get a table IN THE BACK OF THE BAR/LOT.

Maybe I'm missing something, but for the life of me I can't understand the outrage.

Posted by: colerwilson | June 29, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Not sure I understand the logic of this post. My understanding of the new policy is that one-space tailgates can still happen anywhere you want, and that the spillover tailgates have to move to the back. How would this be "[punishing the majority] for what the minority is doing?" Isn't that more like punishing the minority for what the minority is doing?

I mean, he calls those that violate the one-space rules "bad eggs" that "didn't follow policy and procedure in the past." But aren't those "bad eggs" the only ones that will either have to (1) move, or (2) change the configuration of their tailgate to not take up multiple spots?

Honestly, I was against the policy when it was announced, but this post has made me reconsider that position...

Posted by: WashyPo | June 29, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

colerwilson...great analogy about the bar. Same holds true for a busy restaurant...they seat you when your entire party arrives. I dare barno to try this BS at nightclub sometime and see how long he gets away with it. Of course, he is probably one of those tough guys who gives you a nasty stare if you even think about trying to use one of his "reserved" parking spots.

Posted by: skipper7 | June 29, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

barno: The groups you mention (e.g., DTC) are the worst of the worst and I would love to see the Redskins grow a pair and ban them permanently. If people think that it is just a bunch of fans having a good time check out the DTC website

The bios for each of the "captains" should make any mother proud.

Posted by: skipper7 | June 29, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Skipper7 - Thanks. I'm not trying to generalize anyone, and I'm all for "Redskin Fail" stories - and if I thought this was a fail, I'd love to rip them. Unfortunately, everything thing I see making this a Redskins Fail story just doesn't make sense to me, especially when presented this way. If they aren't going to be friends anymore b/c they have to park at the back of the lot - well they probably aren't very good friends to begin with. If they aren't going to be Redskins fans b/c they have to walk an extra couple hundred yards, well again - probably weren't Redskins fans to begin with - just drunks.

And most of all, for me, this cheapens the Sean Taylor petition for the Ring of Honor I signed a few years ago. Its like, Redskins fans care enough to petition 2 things. 1: Honoring a young man who was
murdered just as he was figuring out priorities (his daughter) in life, who was unfairly portrayed by the national and local media after his death and 2: I can't drink beers close enough to the entrace.

Posted by: colerwilson | June 29, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

I haven't seen where it actually says the attendants will direct vehicles to specific spaces, just to the front of the lot or the back. People are interpreting it that way, but it doesn't actually say it.
And what is the big deal about parking in the back of the lot? If you know many or most of the people you tailgate with, then choosing and communicating a new location at the back of the lot shouldn't be a big deal. Many of the large groups like Extremeskins & DTC tailgate there already because it allows more space by using the grassy area.
Just like just about everything else that goes on with this team, my fellow Redskins fans are being negative and blowing this way out of proportion.

Posted by: snb81 | June 29, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

I blame all those people who spit on Andy Polley's car.

Posted by: rdpinva | June 29, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Skipper: I'm surprised that the Mayor hasn't chimed in and slammed you within an inch of your life. I am impressed that the Mayor responds to every attack on him, no matter how obscure the site or how mundane the topic.

All in all, I agree with your premise. the spaces at FedEx were built with getting in as many cars in as small a space as possible. Tailgating was not in mind when they painted the lines on the place. If they widened the lines, and made it so cars could go back to back and set up tailgates that way, things would be AWESOME. Alas, you have a bunch of people fearing change and an organization ill equipped to handle ANY change. The end result? A storm full of you know what.

Posted by: Randy_Hawkins | June 29, 2009 7:14 PM | Report abuse

This guy sounds like a loser, get a life pal. I was actually against the new policy but now that I read this article, i am all for it. Bigger things in the world than crying about being about to tailgate at the front of the stadium. LOSER.

Posted by: richard40 | June 30, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

This guy must be a virgin.

Posted by: dongambin | June 30, 2009 10:22 AM | Report abuse

"I'm surprised that the Mayor hasn't chimed in and slammed you within an inch of your life"

Sorry I am late Randy. I never knew you cared so much!

The DTC tailgate has been in the "back" for 9 years.

Infact, you cant get any further away on the lot than us.

We have no worries.

We will howver support anyones right to tailgate.

Posted by: The_Mayor | June 30, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

I have been tailgating at Fed Ex for the last 7 years and haven't missed a single game during that span. I used to Park in Red Lot 4 with huge inflatable redskins until the Red Lot was disolved. Me and my friends have never taken up an inch of another spot. We strategically set up on an island and welcome all comers both Skins and opponents fans.

These new rules are a disaster, not because they don't read well on paper but because rules already existed which could have solved the problem. Breaking up long standing tailgates under the guise of building a family atmosphere is almost like suggesting Danny Boy is a stand off owner...ridiculous.

To anyone who chimed in whining about not being able to park when you get there an hour before the game I say too bad. If you're arriving an hour before kickoff you're also the person selling your season tickets on E-Bay and Stub Hub to cowgirls fans. If that is the case get yourself a platinum parking pass and go where tailgating is prohibited and you'll have no worries. You have your section; now let us have ours.

Posted by: Danno1313 | June 30, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

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