Gifts for Sports Fans: Quirky products for tailgating

No, not that kind of tailgating! We at Dear Sports Fan don’t encourage tailgating in your car unless you’re a professional race car driver. Today we’re talking about tailgating before a sporting event! Google defines tailgating as “eat[ing] an informal meal served from the back of a parked vehicle, typically in the parking lot of a sports stadium.” That’s a good definition but it doesn’t capture the sheer enthusiasm and total seriousness with which true tailgating sports fans regard the tradition of tailgating. If you’ve ever gone to a game five hours early to be wined and dined (or should that be beered and fed?) with some of the most elaborate in-car or under-tent cooking you’ve ever seen, then you know what I’m talking about.

Yesterday I got an email from Quirky advertising a few of their quirky products for tailgating and I thought I would pass them on to you. Quirky is a unique company that brings aspiring inventors and product managers into a community of people who love great stuff and then pairs them with the production wherewithal to create, market, and sell unique, orginal products. Everything they sell on their website was invented, designed, and created from within the Quirky community. If you’re interested, sign up here! Many of these inventions would make great gifts for the sports fan in your life, whether that’s your boyfriend, wife, son, or mother. Or even yourself!

The Grill Wrangler

Grill Wrangler

If you’re serious about tailgating, then you’re serious about conserving space in your car. Every extra tool you bring for cooking means one fewer beer or burger. This is a zero sum game, people! Paul A. Wachtel, the inventor of this product knows what I’m talking about. The grill wrangler is a three tools cleverly packaged together. It’s a spatula, a fork, and tongs. I know that when I cook, I love my tongs so much that I use them even when the task at hand is much more suited to another implement. I bet I’m not the only one who does this. With this tool, I could have my tongs and flip things without breaking them too.

Metal Sliders

Metal Sliders

This next invention is perfect for germ-phobic kebab lovers. It’s a set of metal skewers that have a built in metal tag that slides down the skewer, pushing the now perfectly cooked skewered food off the skewer as it goes. It’s one of those solutions to a problem that has bugged you for ages that seems so obvious once someone else (Tim Hayes, in this case) invents it and shows it to you.



Sometimes, like with the last product, inventions solve long unsolved problem. Other times, like with this sweet little gadget, they make something perfectly good, even better. Everyone knows the best part of a hot-dog is the outside, where it makes contact with the grill and picks up all those wonderful charcoally, slightly burnt flavors. The Cyclone takes a normal hot dog and transforms it into something with three or four times the surface area to get all charcoally and slightly burnt on the grill by spiral cutting it. That’s right, it’s (as its inventor, Zoli Honig writes on the website,) a “clever tool that spiral-cuts any wiener in seconds.” Used with sausages, as opposed to the pre-cooked hot dog, the spiral cut creates a more even, safer way to grill them to perfection.

Thanksgiving's Three Fs: Family, Food, and Football

As a companion to this post on why football is a special part of Thanksgiving for many sports fans, I’m going to explain some of the plot points of the three Thanksgiving day football games this year.

Game 1 — Packers at Lions, 12:30 on Fox
Game 2 — Raiders at Cowboys, 4:30 on CBS
Game 3 — Steelers at Ravens, 8:30 on NBC

I’m thankful to everyone who has read, commented, asked a question, or otherwise supported Dear Sports Fan this year.

Thanks and have a wonderful holiday,
Ezra Fischer

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. It’s got everything you could want in a holiday: family, food, and football. All three of those F-related aspects of Thanksgiving can be the cause of great joy and the cause of much F-word inducing consternation as well. Of the three, the football has perhaps the lowest stakes, but for many of us, it’s an important part of the day. Tradition, inclusion, time, and snacks are a few of the reasons why.

Thanksgiving is about tradition and so is football

Every holiday is about tradition: the way your family decorates the Christmas tree, the references to childhood that only your family would understand, your mother’s baked ziti. Thanksgiving is perhaps the most purely tradition oriented holiday because it doesn’t have any religious underpinning. The NFL has been playing football on Thanksgiving since 1920. It’s a tradition that’s remained a predictable part of Thanksgiving for many households since 1953 when it was first televised. Other sports lay claim to holidays. The NBA plays marquee games on Christmas day. New Year’s day was traditionally a day for college football until the NHL began televising their outdoor “winter classic” that day. Only the NFL doubles down on tradition by having the same two teams host games every year. The Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys always host games on Thanksgiving. A few years ago the league added a third game at night with a rotating cast but the day games remain a constant. There’s real comfort in consistency, particularly when it comes to family. From generation to generation, through births, deaths, marriages, divorces, estrangements, and reconciliation, when Thanksgiving rolls around, you can count on seeing the Lions and the Cowboys play football.

Football on Thanksgiving makes me feel like I belong

I’m proud to be different. I used to revel in switching between Hot 97’s hip-hop and NPR when I commuted to work by car. I love that in past years my family has cooked quesadillas, Chinese food, and corned beef and cabbage[1] for Thanksgiving dinner. I wouldn’t change any of it for the world[2] but I am also drawn to feeling like I belong. On a holiday that is about the shared history of all Americans, (whether your family immigrated by land strait thousands of years ago or by air a few days ago,) I want to feel like I am unified in some way with the rest of the country. Unity through football is a funny concept and has a few meanings. There’s the literal unity — I’m guessing more people in the United States will be watching the football games than any other single shared experience excepting, perhaps, the Macy’s Day Parade and arguing with your family. There’s also an amorphous unity — football fans come in all shapes, genders, socio-economic statuses, sizes, language preferences, sexual preferences, colors, and intensities. Watching football on Thanksgiving, as odd as it may seem, makes me feel like I belong in this country, and I like it.

Sports are a marker of time

One thing that people who aren’t sports fans often marvel at is the way that some sports fans can remember the most minute details of sporting events that happened years ago. I am not one of those fans but I use sports as a marker of time in my life. Sometimes it’s a remarkable game that, like a popular song, gets lodged in my head and becomes evocative of that time in my life. I’ll always remember watching game six of the Lakers v. Kings NBA playoff series on a television resting on the floor of my first apartment in 2002 or stumbling out of a bar (from bewildered excitement, not drink) mid-afternoon after the United States’ miraculous injury-time goal against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup. Sometimes the games aren’t memorable but they help me remember important times in my life, like the death of my Uncle Pete (it was first game of the Stanley Cup playoffs, not that I watched it, but I remember that the Penguins beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-0).

Football on Thanksgiving marks time in a different way by staying the same while other things change. Football wasn’t a big part of my experience of Thanksgiving but I remember being a kid and rooting for famous and somewhat mythical Lions running back Barry Sanders to score every time he touched the ball. Later on, I remember ducking into a girlfriend’s living room to enjoy the oasis of watching football with her grandfather. And I have fond memories of being at my own grandparents house for our big annual get-together on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and hoping there was an hockey game between the Islanders and the Rangers so I could enjoy the way my cousin Jared rooted for his beloved Rangers in what was definitely an Islanders household.


I know, I know, there’s turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and pie. But don’t you want some potato chips and pretzels? I do! If any of this has opened you up to enjoying some of the Thanksgiving football this year, tune in tomorrow for plot summaries of the games.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1.  (CB&C as we call it)
  2. Okay, maybe some of the conversations my brother and father have about music theory or advanced mathematics do get a little dry for me, but…

How the NFL can Ruin Your Life

Fan is short for “fanatic” and the fanaticism of NFL fans is never too far from the surface. Two articles recently struck me as being representative, in different ways, of just how important sports can be to a fan’s life. Read on to hear about how sports can make you fat and broke or svelte and rich!

One of my favorite quotes about sports, attributed to the late Sam Kellerman, talks about why fans treat sport like a matter of life or death: “Sports is man’s joke on God, Max. You see, God says to man, ‘I’ve created a universe where it seems like everything matters, where you’ll have to grapple with life and death and in the end you’ll die anyway, and it won’t really matter.’ So man says to God, ‘Oh, yeah? Within your universe we’re going to create a sub-universe called sports, one that absolutely doesn’t matter, and we’ll follow everything that happens in it as if it were life and death.” An article[1] from the New York Times by Jan Hoffman, suggest[2] that Kellerman might have been right in a very concrete way:

Researchers found that football fans’ saturated-fat consumption increased by as much as 28 percent following defeats and decreased by 16 percent following victories. The association was particularly pronounced in the eight cities regarded as having the most devoted fans, with Pittsburgh often ranked No. 1. Narrower, nail-biting defeats led to greater consumption of calorie and fat-saturated foods than lopsided ones.

In my life, I observe that it is more the act of watching football that leads to the consumption of nachos, hot-dogs, mozzarella sticks, and other delicious and waist-band stretching foods.

If putting your life on the line is not enough for some fans, there’s now a brand new way for them to put their money on the line. Gambling has long been a central focus for many who follow sports. If you don’t believe me, go watch the 1932 Marx Brothers’ movie Horsefeathers and it’s incredibly contemporary story about the fixing of a college football game. Fantasy sports has brought gambling on sports out of the alley and onto main street, in part because it distances the raw gambling from the outcome of the game. Now startup company Fantex has come up with a new way to gamble (or invest as they would have us think about it) on sports — by investing money in a player. Billy Gallagher reports on this story for TechCrunch:

Fantex strikes deals with professional athletes who give up a certain percentage of their income (presumably over an allotted period of time, like the length of their active career) in exchange for the proceeds of [an] IPO. People can then buy shares of that player’s brand, like a stock… presumably, if San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis has a monster year and looks like he’s going to get a bigger endorsement deal or a larger contract in a few years, his stock would rise and a fan could sell their Davis stock and cash out with a real, monetary profit.

Gallagher argues that this is probably not going to be a great deal for the players (surely they can find something better to do with their money) but he is more optimistic about profit for the new class of fan/investors. I can’t wait until they create a market for people who blog about sports — I might be a penny-stock but who knows…

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Thanks to Patty Gibney for sending me this article!
  2. If you believe in the dangers of obesity

How Not to Behave at a Super Bowl Party: From One Non-Fan to Another

If you are anything like me, the only thing worse than the football season is the one night a year when everyone gets together to celebrate the football season: Super Bowl Sunday.  And while I try to avoid it every year, I somehow always manage to get sucked into attending a party.  Attending a party in which you have zero interest in the main event can be rather tricky. To help you on your path to being the perfect Super Bowl party guest, I have compiled a list of behaviors to avoid at your party this year.


DON’T stand around repeatedly announcing to any and everyone how much you hate football. There are so many great reasons to hate football. It is needlessly violent and leads to serious life injuries for the players. They only play for about seven seconds before stopping for five minutes. One minute of football time is the equivalent of fifteen minutes of real life time. I could go on, but I won’t. As you can see, it gets pretty annoying pretty quickly.

DON’T stand (or sit) in the room with the TV and talk loudly through the whole entire game. Believe it or not, some people actually want to watch the football game. More than that, some people actually want to hear the inane announcers talk about the football game. If you are not one of them, there are so many better places for you to be than in the room with the TV. There is a perfectly good table full of food and booze somewhere else where you will find like-minded people which whom you can pass the evening discussing hockey.

DON’T ask 1,000 annoying questions to the person in the room who is the most interested in watching the game. Maybe you’ve decided that this year you are going to try to pay attention to the game, only to realize that you have absolutely no idea what is going on. It is ok to ask questions now and then, and there will definitely be people excited to familiarize you with their favorite sport. Just be conscientious about how many questions you ask and who you ask them to. There are people who are going to want to watch the game more than they want to educate you on what is going on.

DON’T loudly root for the team that no one else is rooting for, while maintaining that football is dumb. People take football very seriously. Drunk people take football even more seriously. Try not to piss off a bunch of drunk football fans, unless your date for the party happens to be large enough to defend your honor. If this is the case, by all means, instigate. Fights are the best part of sports.

DON’T end the evening with a loud exasperated sigh of “Thank Goodness Football is over!” When the game ends, try to keep your glee to a minimum, especially if the home team (i.e. the team that everyone at the party is rooting for) just lost. No one will appreciate your joy in the midst of their mourning.

DON’T show up empty handed. For all of my bad behavior at Super Bowl parties, even I know better than to show up at someone’s house empty handed. Super Bowl parties are as much about the food and beverages as anything else. If they weren’t, why would any of us non-fans even bother to show up? If you are going to be a football-naysayer, then make up for it by bringing a really amazing dish or a whole lot of beer. People will forgive just about anything given the right culinary incentive. But show up with nothing, consume all of the food and drinks, and complain through the whole game, and I promise you won’t be invited next year.

So now you know all the ways not to behave at a Super Bowl party. If you are interested in knowing how you should behave instead, well, you’ll have to ask someone else. I fully intend to break all of my own rules and maybe even discover some new ones come Sunday night.

So who’s having the party??
Lisa Filipek

Where Does Strawberries and Cream at Wimbledon Come From?

Dear Sports Fan,

How did the tradition of eating strawberries and cream at Wimbledon originate?



Dear Tina,

According to the BBC Surrey the first time strawberries were paired with cream was in the 1500s at the table of Cardinal Wolsey. Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world, but it’s not that old. There has been a tennis tournament since 1877 when “The All England Croquet Club” changed its name to “The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club.” In the late 1800s, according to the New York Times, strawberries signified the beginning of summer. Soon after 1877 (and perhaps in part because of the pairing of tennis with strawberries,) tennis began to be associated with the start of summer as well. It’s unclear when cream was added to the mix. Jeanne Rose, writing for Yahoo claims that cream was “added into the food tradition in 1970.” Digging through the archives of The Daily Telegraph contradicts this opinion, as Martin Smith points out on He claims that “in 1881, just four years after the inaugural Lawn Tennis Championship, the Telegraph correspondent noted that as the Challenge final was about to begin, ‘the refreshment pavilion emptied directly…for strawberries and cream and even ices, notwithstanding that the heat of the sun was almost intolerable, had no charms for the enthusiastic multitude once the rivals were ordered to be ready’.”

Fuzzy derivation aside, one thing is clear: a lot of strawberries and cream are consumed during Wimbledon. The estimates vary but they seem centered around 60,000 pounds of strawberries and 1,800 gallons of cream (from eatocracy.) This year, in what is either a brilliant marketing ploy or a horrible degradation of tradition or both, Tesco has introduced a “calorific treat of clotted cream, jam, and strawberries” so that people throughout Great Britain can enjoy the traditional Wimbledon snack. We don’t have Tesco in the U.S., but making a little snack of strawberries and cream to eat in front of the television sounds like a great way to enjoy tennis to me!

Thanks for the question,