2015 was a fantastic year for tailgating. My group and I prepared themed tailgates for nearly every home match of the season, cooking up dishes that ranged from Philly cheese steaks and Poutine (for Montreal) to Salmon and home-made Texas barbecue sauce. But late in the season, two tailgates stood out as very special ones for two different reasons.
The August 29 match against Chicago Fire saw the smallest match-day crowd of the season for an Orlando City home game due to the torrential rain and multiple lightning delays that extended the match until well after midnight before it concluded. But the tailgate was one of the best. Part of it was the large tailgate crowd we had at our tent, due to our buddy Bruno and his son in law bringing their company employees out for the match. Since that was the weekend we had a tropical depression breaking up over the Bahamas (which accounted for all the soggy weather in Orlando), I brought adult beverages and mixers to do "purple hurricane" drinks, combining the classic New Orleans ingredients with grape juice or grape soda (for those wanting a fizzy cocktail). That might not sound like the most appealing drink in the world, but by the time everyone had two or three of them they became a huge hit.
The other candidate for tailgate of the year was the October 3 match against Montreal Impact. On that match day, my usual gameday companions were either traveling or tied up with other obligations, so I attended the match on my own, and took advantage of a standing invitation from some friends in the Ruckus supporters group to join them for a tailgate. I brought a bottle of Canadian whiskey to share for the occasion, and after going hoarse and getting sweaty from chanting and dancing and cavorting with some of the younger Ruckus members, I joined with some of the other more seasoned members of the group to enjoy draining a bottle of bourbon while puffing on cigars and reflecting on the inaugural season in MLS.
However, neither of those tailgates could be considered my Tailgate of the Year. That honor goes to the first international friendly that we played against Brazilian Serie A side Ponte Preta on May 2. Ever since I started watching soccer, I've been a fan of "the Beautiful Game" as it is played by the Brazilians, and I love the passion and the energy and the emotion and the exuberance that Brazil fans display every time their beloved national team is on the pitch. So getting to party with some Brazilian soccer fans has always been on my "Bucket List." And on May 2, I was able to check that item off the list. Even though I was decked out from head to toe in my Orlando City purple, my group and I were warmly welcomed and embraced by the black-and-white clad Ponte Preta fans, who shared their beer and spirits with us and invited us to join in their cheers and shared their passion for the sport with us as though we were long lost brothers. That truly was a wonderful tailgate, and I think it may be a long time before I have an opportunity to enjoy that kind of atmosphere again.
What about you? What was your favorite tailgate of the season? Let me know in the comments!