Big Blue Tailgating & The Big Blue Box
By Mark Dau
When your team is the defending Super Bowl champions and are streaking through the season on their way to another Bowl, getting up for the tailgate is a relatively easy thing. Some folks might be tempted to mail it in, but not these New York Giants fans. The crew that makes up the Big Blue Tailgaters work hard to keep it fresh and make it fun!
A group of friends who went to high school together 10 years ago, these guys have been Giants fans since birth, as was their parents and grandparents before them. Graduating college and coming back to root for their home team, these fans don’t skimp at the tailgate table.
Tailgating at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands, (which is in East Rutherford, N.J.), the Big Blue Tailgaters started off grilling at just a few games. Over the past several years their commitment has increased as this season they will be tailgating at all eight regular season games. “We’ll also be tailgating at any home playoff games,” says John “Bakbone” Bakalarczyk, who leads this hardy group of tailgaters. “If they make the Super Bowl we will be attending Super Gate II as well!”
The Big Blue Tailgaters leave six hours before game time to travel the 45 minutes to the Meadowlands. “In the past we would arrive at 8:00 a.m. for both one o’clock and four o’clock games and by noon for any 8:15 night games,” says John. “But because of the construction of the new Giants-Jets stadium, we are only allowed into the parking lot five hours prior to kick-off.”
Breakfast Squares & Other Great Eats
Arriving early, the Big Blue Tailgaters start off the festivities with Blue Hen Breakfast Squares, which is an egg-hash-brown-bacon-type casserole that is the perfect cold weather starter. The breakfast squares are John’s girlfriend Amy’s concoction from her days tailgating at the University of Delaware.
(Check out the recipe in this month’s Featured Recipes section.) In addition, the Big Blue Tailgaters grill up burgers, dogs, Italian sausage, ribs and steak sandwiches, as well as a few specialty dishes such as Shaggy D’s Buffalo Chicken Dip, Wings and Grilled Corn on the Cob.
Big Blue Box
Now one could go out and purchase an outdoor tailgating system to bring along to the game. But it’s an all together different kind of intimacy when your tailgating crew builds it themselves. “The question was how to provide the same level of entertainment at the tailgates with less hassle in set up and clean up,” says John. “What started out as two TVs, a folding table, and a pair of DirecTV receivers turned into what we now call ‘The Big Blue Box.’”
Built of pressure treated plywood on a stud frame, the Big Blue Box sits on a cargo carrier trailer hitch and is painted in the officially licensed NFL team color provided at Home Depot. It is divided into two sections: The upper section houses two 19" LCD monitors, two high definition DirecTV receivers and a Cambridge five-speaker surround sound system. The monitors are attached to a middle wall that conceals all the wires behind it. The lower section is used to store the portable satellite dish, grilling tools and propane tank. The box has four castor wheels mounted to the bottom for easy portability when it is not attached to the vehicle. On the back are two coaxial connectors to attach to the Winegard Portable Satellite Dish. All this is powered by a Coleman Powermate Pulse 1800 portable generator. “It is a beautiful thing and really makes a great centerpiece to our tailgate,” says John.
When hitched, the Big Blue box travels to Giants games on the back of John’s 2000 Jeep Cherokee. “There are plans in the future to convert an old school bus to a “Big Blue Bus,” says John. “But this plan is still a few years away and is pending what type of parking will be available at the new Giants-Jets Stadium.” In addition to the Big Blue Box, the tailgating team erects two 10x10 Giants Quick-Up tents with side walls and fires up a Coleman Road Trip Grill to cook up their grillables. In addition, they crank up a Coleman Powermate 1800-watt generator to provide power.
In years gone by, some on the tailgate team did not attend the game, just the tailgate. But that’s no longer the case. “Out of the 15 – 20 people that tailgate with our group maybe four have season tickets,” says John. “The rest of the group acquires tickets either through Ebay, Craigslist, scalpers or if anyone else in our group has extra. Last year I was able to get two tickets and this year scooped up six more.”
In the Beginning, There Was Nick
John and the gang actually inherited the tailgating tradition from his friend Danny’s father Nick. “Nick has been attending Giants games for over 20 years,” says John. “They invited me to my first NFL game and tailgate in 2002. The tailgate was comprised of family and some of Nick’s co-workers and their families. That day I saw how organized and prepared Nick was. I couldn’t believe what great food there was and what a great time I was having before the game even started. The Giants needed a win to get into the playoffs and they pulled out a stunner in overtime with a field goal and I have been hooked ever since.”
“Over the next two seasons I started to go to more and more games, seeing different tailgates and admiring how Nick made every tailgate a great time,” says John. “Before the 2006 season Nick retired from his job and was spending more and more time at his home in South Carolina. Without hesitation I took over the duty of organizing and coordinating every tailgate.”
“Every off-season I think about how to improve our tailgate,” says John. “In the summer of 2007, I came up with the idea for the Big Blue Box, and last summer I created the website to document all of our tailgating experiences. Nick still makes it up to a game or two every year and is very impressed with how we have continued to tailgate. Since most of the crew are huge movie buffs it is only fitting that some of us refer to Nick as the ‘Godfather’ of our tailgating crew.”
Friends and Family
Like most tailgaters, hanging with friends and family is what keeps the Big Blue Tailgaters coming back each week. For John, it’s also seeing the different and creative tailgates around the lot. “The camaraderie among tailgaters is very special,” says John. “You might not know the people next to you but that doesn’t stop them from offering extra food or lending a lighter or condiments if you run out.” John also never tires of showing off the Big Blue Box! (As well he should!)
"When tailgating, we're all on the same team!"