first_img Published on September 30, 2019 at 8:58 pm Contact Tim: Facebook Twitter Google+ It was September 2013, Syracuse was in Evanston, Illinois to take on Northwestern and Mike Sheehan needed a place to tailgate.As he’d been doing since 1999, Sheehan went to his “Tailgate Book” — a running log he keeps of opposing fans he encounters at tailgates — and skimmed the pages for signs of Wildcat fans. There, he found a pasted Chicago Police badge, accompanied by the email of a police officer whom he’d hosted in Syracuse the previous season.“I didn’t know if he’d remember us,” Sheehan said, “and he goes, ‘I absolutely remember you guys. You guys show up. I’m gonna host you guys for a tailgate.’”At Syracuse, Sheehan doesn’t need to consult his book to find a tailgate. For the past 20 years, he’s spent game days with the same group of people. One is Brian Chapman, who’s most famous for his Syracuse-themed 1990 Chevy Suburban — painted orange and customized to include horns and a four-inch PVC pipe that shoots bottle rockets out of the grill. While the vehicle is a conversation starter, Sheehan and other tailgaters in his group keep coming back for the sense of community their particular pregame has built and continues to grow.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textJay Peake has tailgated with the group for six years. Corey Henry | Photo Editor Now, the guys welcome visitors to each of their tailgates. Their new contacts return the favor the next time Syracuse plays at that school. Often times, as was the case at Northwestern, the group brings nothing but a backpack because they know their hosts will reciprocate free food and drinks.“West Virginia, NC State, Clemson, Boston College,” Chris Jorolemon said, “We’ve been to every Big East school when they were in the Big East and since they’ve been in the ACC we’ve been to almost every ACC school.”Syracuse University does not have official tailgate spots, while other universities have designated lots and more organized systems. This year, Syracuse displaced Sheehan’s tailgate from outside Varsity Pizza to Walnut Park because of construction to the new National Veterans Resource Center. Chapman parks his car — which now has an added wood platform to the roof so people can dance and take pictures — outside the Delta Delta Delta Sorority.Sheehan, originally a Notre Dame fan, married an SU alum and moved to Weedsport. In 1999, he was asked to go to a game with his brother-in-law, Doug, who had season tickets. By the end of the season, Sheehan had gone to every game for free — at which point Doug told him he’d need to buy his own ticket for the 2000 season.The tailgate has moved to Walnut Park because of construction in their usual tailgate spot. Corey Henry | Photo EditorChapman also happened to be from Weedsport, New York, and had been going to games with brother-in-law Jorolemon. The four of them, along with Chapman’s father, began to travel together and tailgate together the following season.The group set up right on the corner of South Crouse Avenue and Marshall Street, across from Varsity. Since that area got plenty of foot traffic, Sheehan began filling up his book with contacts.“It was one way to keep track of memories,” Sheehan said.Their grill menu ranges from burgers and hot dogs to less traditional meats, including smoked turkey. Before one game, Chapman made a weave out of raw bacon, then filled it with sausage, smothered the meat-pie in barbecue sauce and grilled it.“Everyone brings a dish,” third-year tailgater Gabby Barrigar said, “We do an egg bake for breakfast; for lunch we cook on the grill.”On Saturday, the theme was Oktoberfest. There were bratwursts, potato latkes and even moose goulash, courtesy of Jorolemon’s hunting trip to Newfoundland last week. Oktoberfest beer replaced the traditional beer of choice: Schaefer. Coined “Coach beer” by Jorolemon, it became a staple in their tailgate spread — to pair with Chapman’s ornament — when Scott Shafer took over as head coach in 2013.The tailgate has moved to Walnut Park because of campus construction. Corey Henry | Photo EditorAs with the food, the car’s four flags match the occasion as well. Over the years, the group has noticed an increase in fans from Canada during October, so they make sure to fly the maple leaf during that month to make them feel welcome, Sheehan said.Interacting with unfamiliar fans on game days has helped the group bond through the years. Sheehan has been to three funerals for people he knew purely from tailgates. When Chapman’s mother was battling — and ultimately died from – cancer, both SU and opposing fans who knew the family expressed their support and condolences.One time, a Syracuse city pastor approached them at their usual spot on Marshall Street. Sheehan thought the interaction would be odd, but the pastor wanted to commend them. He thanked the group for “building a sense of community.”“That’s what I don’t think people realize,” Sheehan said. “It’s not just about the party.” Commentslast_img