It's well known that the Houston Texans have one of the greatest tailgating traditions in the country, a fact made more impressive by the team's relative youth. On Thursdays during football season, we're spotlighting groups that make Texans tailgating the pride of Houston.
It should come as no surprise that there's a lot of overlap between foodies and football tailgaters in Houston: We're a town that loves sports and loves eating for sport -- and tailgating provides an excellent opportunity to enjoy both at once.
That's where Mike and Terri Kane come in. The husband-and-wife team are foodies who've been Texans season ticket holders since day one of the franchise and tailgate with other hardcore foodies such as Chris Shepherd of Underbelly, his wife -- a wine distributor -- and the local Houston distributor for Austin's (512) Brewing Company. Needless to say, the tailgate's food and booze each week are rather epic -- and it all started with a little "Smokey Joe" charcoal grill and an aluminum collapsible flagpole.
This week, Mike gives us the low-down on ten years' worth of tailgating, eating the other team's mojo, dolphin balls and partying at a snowy Lambeau Field.
On the unofficial tailgate name:
We never named our own little tailgate, but since we merged our little setup with a bigger group that started up two years ago, we party under the flag of "Team Duck Fallas." Being originally (and still) a Redskins fan, this suits me just fine. There are roughly 30 people milling about the four or so spaces we fill up in the Blue Lot most games now.
On the essentials of tailgating -- fire and flagpoles:
So we've been showing up early with some sort of cooking setup, food and drinks since 2002. At first we used a little "Smokey Joe" charcoal grill -- yes, you can make a damn fine filet mignon in a parking lot -- but soon graduated to the Coleman Road Trip grill, a wonderful device that uses those mini disposable propane cans. We'd invite anybody we knew was coming to each game, and gladly shared food with interested passersby. We always were findable in the lot by our University of Maryland flag, which we fly below the Texans flag on another essential piece of tailgate gear, the aluminum collapsible flagpole.
On dolphin balls:
One of our signatures is trying to find something to eat that relates to the visiting team. We call it "eating their mojo." Last week was "Dolphin Balls" -- miniature mahi mahi cakes.
On the love of the game, which comes first and foremost:
The tailgate party is great and all, but I wouldn't be out there if it wasn't for the game. I've seen recently in a couple publications the notion of watching the game on TV as being the better experience, but for me, being in the stadium, cheering my team till I'm hoarse -- it doesn't get any better than that. I've always loved the pageantry of the NFL, and to be able to be there live is just awesome.
On how the Texans make it easy for fans to fire up their grills during home games:
The Texans organization made a great choice to promote tailgating, and provide an infrastructure that makes it easy and fun. Tailgating is really an activity born of necessity, wherein you show up to the event venue way early in order to avoid traffic and then need something to do while waiting for the game to start. The Texans provide ample (well, way better than any other stadium I've been to) restroom facilities, trash containers and even Dumpsters for hot charcoal.
On getting up at the crack of dawn on Sunday mornings:
I get up earlier for tailgate than I do for work. I hate when I have to tell my boss that. We've usually done some food prep and loaded the grill, tent and tables in the car the night before, so Sunday morning is just a mad rush to get drinks and food in the cooler and get on the road. We aim to arrive at 8:30 a.m. in order to be allowed to park where we want. (Parking rules say that after 9 a.m., you have to go where the attendants tell you.) Then we know the drill: Terri gets the flag up and I unload the car. We usually cook something bite-sized up as the rest of the crew shows up. Chris puts out the stupendous meats he's cooked up a little later, and everybody dives in. Then by 11:30 a.m., it's time to waddle on into the stadium. Urp.
On tailgating in inclement weather:
Of course we tailgate in the rain!
On tailgating in even more inclement weather:
It's always good to find friends on the road. We went to the Texans game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay a couple years ago and ran into those Raging Bull guys, who had driven their trailers north for the game. Awesome folks, they fed us well in single-digit temps.
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On being good sports:
We welcome fans of the opposing team, as long as they behave.