JetsInsider’s Inside the Tailgate Experience

“We’re not here for the game. The game is nothing. The game is crap. The game makes me sick. The reason we Americans put up with sports is for this: Behold, the tailgate party. The pinnacle of human achievement. Since the dawn of parking lots, man has sought to fill his gut with food and alcohol in anticipation of watching others exercise.” – Homer J. Simpson, “The Simpsons

The great philosopher Homer Simpson nearly hit the nail on the head with that famous monologue to his children. Of course, we don’t think the game is nothing. We love the game. But the tailgate, now, that just might be the pinnacle of human achievement.

Over the course of the season, the JetsInsider.com will be bringing you an inside look in the world of the New York Jets tailgating crews. We start with the L7 Tailgate, an overnight cult-status sensation of a group of enthused Jets fans who bond over football, beer pong, crepes and something called the Rex Ryan dog for every Jets home game. The only entry fee is coming with arms full and a promise of a good time.

Joseph Grinwis(@L7Panda), Mike Milillio and Mike Catalano began the group with humble hopes in August 2010.  Taking advantage of the social media phenomanom Twitter, the crew reached out to #Jets fans from all over country to be a part of this Gang Green party. {For pictures of all the L7 Tailgate, click here. Photos courtesy of @TheSheikh).

“We went on [Twitter] to find people who were without a tailgate, whether it because of PSL situations or if they wanted to branch out from their normal routine,” Grinwis said. “Maybe they have six people at their tailgate, so we’re like  ‘Well, we’re going to have a bunch of people here, so why not have a bunch of Jets fans together’ and have a good time.”

And that’s what happened. At last season’s home opener against the New England Patriots they had 35 people. By this season’s home opener against the Dallas Cowboys they had roughly 120 people. And they come from all over. Brian and Suzette Tomaska come from Seymour, Connecticut. Erik Manassy (@e_man), who is the creator of JetsRant.com, comes from Pennsylvania. And Lori Branigan comes to every home game all the way from Washington D.C.

Jets fan found a place to eat, drink, laugh and talk football at the L7 Tailgate. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Through word of mouth and the influence of Twitter, L7 Tailgate quickly gained a reputation for good times, good food and good people.

“It all came about through Twitter,” Tomaska (@btomaska), one of the co-creators, said. “These people were friendly with each other [on Twitter] and decided we finally wanted to meet and the Jets game was a great platform. There’s only a handful of season ticket holders. The rest only come to about one or two games. It’s all word of mouth. There was a guy here earlier who was walking around picking out all the people he followed. It’s almost like a celebrity status.”

Speaking of celebrities, they have been visited from Jets owner Woody Johnson and executive vice president of business operations Matt Higgins, who had to see the action first hand. WFAN’s Joe Beningo and Evan Roberts came through for the October 11th Monday night game against the Minnesota Vikings. For the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Damien Keller (@Damien05Keller), Dustin’s brother, showed up for the festivities as well.

“L7 Tailgate gets down like nobody else. When we were walking here, we saw people and they were mingling, having a good time. But L7 is a straight party. It’s really something else. They’re a lot different than other places. They know how to have a good time and that’s what we’re all here for,” Keller said.

And I haven’t even mentioned the food. From the Rex Ryan Dog to the Panda Patties to the breakfast buffet spread for the 1 p.m. games L7’s chef, Suzette (@CrepeSuz0106), leaves no stone unturned. Not a chef by trade, Suzette has adopted the title for her creative take on what it means to tailgate. From filet mignon sandwiches with arugula and truffle butter to Swedish meatballs to her infamous crepe station, she brings a woman’s touch to the art of the tailgate.

“If it’s warmer, you want easier food. So I do a lot of things with toothpicks. You don’t want to be juggling your drink and food at the same time,” she, always keeping in mind the social aspect of things, said. “And when it gets colder I’ll do chilis, soups, spiked hot chocolate. You name it. I take it pretty seriously.”

And of course you have your traditional hot dogs, hamburgers and sausages straight from Brooklyn (where else?). According to Grinwis, who challenges anyone to find a better sausage around, Brian Imbemba (@NYJSec133) has “unmatched” sausage and peppers. Let’s go have a God-damn snack!

For Jets fans, this all sounds like great fun. But are opposing fans welcomes at L7? What if a Patriots fan doing his best Tom Brady impression wants to show up for the festivities?

“We’re going to poke some fun. We’re going to bust your chops a bit,” Imbemba, whose personality is the only thing bigger than him, said when posed the question. “But you’re more than welcome to come. Have some food. Have some drinks. Have a good time. That’s what we’re here for.”

In fact, they have a regular who is a diehard Cowboy fan, Hector Rosado (@M2daOOSE). And Grinwis says they’ve accepted him as their “adopted child” in their Jets family.

More than a tailgate, L7 is a militia of men and women who love the Jets. They come out with an army of supporters and take over not just a few parking spots, but the entire L7 section. A warm welcoming inside is covered with a tough exterior — a sea of Gang Green faithful can look intimidating to the average outsider. But this group is anything but.

The L7 Tailgate crew will be throwing down at 3:30 p.m. on October 17th for the Monday night match-up against the Miami Dolphins. But they will be looking for extra troops when the Jets L7 militia travels up to New England in three weeks.

“If we’re going up to Boston, we’re going at least fifty deep,” Imbemba said.

One Response to “JetsInsider’s Inside the Tailgate Experience”

  1. Flight Connections 09-23-11 | Sports Feedr Says:

    [...] Jets Insider writes about tailgating at the stadium. [...]