Battle of the Bay begins with tailgating
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It's hours before the start of the San Francisco 49ers-Oakland Raiders preseason game and the smell of barbeque already fills the air in the Oakland Coliseum parking lot.

Hundreds of fans have been there since the gates opened; they raise their silver and black flags above their cars and bring their accessories to show their team pride.

Welcome to the world of tailgating, a place where most loyal fans show their love amongst each other.

"It's a good atmosphere," said Chris Ehritt, a 28-year-old contractor who attended the tailgating party. "Everyone is having fun."

This is only preseason, and already fans have occupied the parking lot as if the game was a big deal.

It is arguably one of the biggest traditions for sports fans. Friends and families arrive to their beloved team's stadium hours before the game starts just to camp out with other people that are equally enthused about the team.

"It's more of a way for you to bond with your friends and celebrate as a group," said Aimee Dutra, an SF State senior who tailgated at the game and supported "The Raider Nation."

Many fans started tailgating since they were kids when their parents would bring them into the stadium parking lots and show them how to show team pride.

Even people who have never tailgated are familiar with it due to commercials. Sports channels like ESPN often host college football pre-game shows in stadium parking lots and interview fans about their tailgating habits.

But the tradition of coming to a game early and tailgating is quite unique; for the fans, it's going that extra mile to show just how much you love your team.

During football games in late November or December, you can see fans on television sitting in the parking lot to show that it doesn't matter if it's raining or snowing. Luckily for the fans in the Bay Area, the weather never gets that cold.

Planning and creativity plays a big part in having a successful tailgating experience.

"There are season tailgaters and there are rookie tailgaters," said tailgater Amanda Herzog. "It's like football with a game plan. You have your food prepared the night before. You're at the gate an hour before they open. You get in when the door is open and you have five hours of tailgating time. That is what a real tailgater is."

Dutra, 27, said that she believes tailgating is a camaraderie.

"Eventually by the end of the season, it gets to the point where you have people you meet up with specifically and everyone parks together -- everything just grows and grows," said Dutra, who majors in psychology and minors in criminal justice,

Tailgaters just don't show up -- they come prepared.

People bring chairs, sofas, tables and canopies to decorate their spot.

Tailgaters not only show their team pride, but they also show their culinary skills as well, bringing heavy-duty grills to cook on the spot.

Miguel Pagarigan, a Raider fan who dressed up in a full skull costume that he called "The Punisher," said that the food ranged from Hawaiian, Mexican, Filipino and Caucasian.

"We got some of the best soul food in this parking lot. There is even this guy who brought home smoked bacon," he said.

Tailgating mostly ties to the world of football, but some people in the Bay Area, like Dutra, tailgate at baseball games as well.

"There are only 16 games in a season, and eight at home" said Robert Bash, a Raiders season ticket holder since 1982. "You have to get your tailgate in."

For season ticket holders, tailgating becomes a deeper bond.

Bash enjoys coming to the games and tailgates because of the die hard fans he meets.

"This place becomes a gathering point with friends," he said.

Bash also said that he has tailgated throughout California, but there is nothing like tailgating at a Raiders game.

"Whether we were arguing on the freeway yesterday, when you come into this parking lot, we're all the same family," he said. "You come here to get to know your neighbors."

Although tailgating can be a bonding experience among friends, there are some cities that prohibit it, such as Los Angeles.

In fact, Dodger Stadium forbids drinking alcohol as well as any form of tailgating According to the Los Angeles Times, 132 arrests were made during the Dodgers' opening day, with many people accused of drinking in public.

"If tomorrow, the NFL said, 'No more tailgating,' it would probably start riots," Herzog said.

For a game that has no relevance to the regular season, fans like Bash still tailgate on.

"Come back here on week two -- when it's our opening day right here in the stadium -- and you'll feel a whole different vibe," said Bash.



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