Tailgating ‘NFL-style’ generates allegiances

| February 1, 2013 | 0 Comments
Retired Navy Chief Darryl James, a die-hard Cleveland Browns fan, lights his charcoal grill while tailgating with his friends and family at Aloha Stadium, Sunday.

Retired Navy Chief Darryl James, a die-hard Cleveland Browns fan, lights his charcoal grill while tailgating with his friends and family at Aloha Stadium, Sunday.

Story and photo by
Staff Sgt. Gaelen Lowers
8th Sustainment Command Public Affairs

HONOLULU — Sounds, shouts and songs filled the air at Aloha Stadium as service members from all branches joined the local community in welcoming the National Football League’s best players for the 2013 Pro Bowl, here, Sunday.

But for thousands, the celebration started hours earlier in the stadium parking lot.

Fans, including large numbers of service members, their friends and families, poured into the parking lot to play games, eat food and socialize with their families and fellow football fans.

“We like to tailgate every Pro Bowl,” said retired Navy Chief Darryl James, a die-hard Cleveland Browns fan. “We like to come out, have a good time, grill, eat a lot of food, socialize and just really enjoy each other and the atmosphere.”

The NFL tailgating experience was in full force.

The James family set up its tent next to some good friends who happen to be Saints fans.

“Yeah, he roots for the wrong team, but he’s my partner, so it’s OK,” James said, jokingly. “If it was a (Pittsburgh) Steelers tent, he wouldn’t be allowed next to us, or in my house!”

Some fans’ players and teams were not invited to the game, but that didn’t stop them from participating and enjoying the festivities.

“I’m a (San Diego) Chargers fan, and there’s no Chargers in the Pro Bowl this year, but whatever!” said Army Sgt. 1st Class James Naber, 45th Sustainment Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, and lifelong Chargers fan. “This is a great way for us to unwind a little.”

Naber’s family was with other families and friends from the unit. The back of his SUV was filled with blankets and wrestling kids.

“Some of them are my kids, friends’ kids, neighbors’ … everybody is welcome,” he said, bratwurst in hand. “This is my second Pro Bowl and, hopefully, not the last.”

For some, the whole purpose of their day was to be with one another, enjoy Hawaiian weather and maybe, listen to some football on the radio as they tailgated.

“We came here as an office, a bunch of guys, a fellowship … (to) enjoy this moment in Hawaii, because it’s a beautiful day and beautiful place,” said Navy Chief Frank Hearn, a Georgia native and die-hard Atlanta Falcons fan. “This is an experience of a lifetime. If you haven’t done it, then you’re slacking and behind the power curve.”

The Hearn’s group tailgating philosophy is, if you’re near them, then you’re family.

“A lot of people around us forgot their grill, or their grill kind of disintegrated because they forgot about it from last Pro Bowl, so we have made our grill the community grill,” Hearn said, pointing to his charcoal grill.

His group agreed that the real fun started before the game.

“Our tailgating is better than the Pro Bowl game will be,” he said. “The tailgating is the main event for us, and the game itself is just icing on the cake. This is an absolute knockout! I’m going to try to do this every year.”


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Category: Community

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