The Middle Ages: I precook three slabs of sirloin, then herd them to the Rose Bowl. Let the games begin

Sirloin tri-tip a little overcharred, with sides of grilled peppers. It’s the only song I know.
(Chris Erskine / Los Angeles Times)

Step 1: Over-marinate the meat.

Step 2: Char it till it screams.

Don’t press me for details. I know just this one recipe. It’s like a musician knowing only one song, yet playing it so beautifully and with such bell-tone purity that strangers crowd around. In my case, some beg me to stop. Others clap and dance.

From a distance, our tailgates look like a smokier version of the Battle of Jericho.


We started our tailgate season the other day — an annual rite that often goes so wrong. Bittner donated the keg. Liz brought her famous pulled pork. There were dozens of friends snatching up free food and booze … schmoozing, hugging, slapping each other on the shoulders, as if using each other as human napkins.

My buddy Miller, the P.T. Barnum of tailgating, purchased a giant tent, with our tailgating club’s logo emblazoned on the side.

Our motto: “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.”

Hence the too-large tent, the over-marinated beef, the blasting music ranging from Eminem to the Band. A successful tailgating club lives in the seams of its goofy excesses. With enough haphazard planning, you can be assured of a wonderful fiasco.


According to my calendar, September begins the Irish New Year — an autumnal festivus, an annual rebirth. I don’t like fussy food. What I like is the stuff you scoop up with your hands, using fingers for forks — wings, pulled pork sliders and crusty little pieces of exquisite cow. It’s a culinary equinox, and it happens every September.

Last weekend, I precooked three serious slabs of sirloin at home, then herded them to the Rose Bowl, as if on a cattle drive. I could’ve used a bull whip, but that would’ve violated terms of my prenup with Posh (no whips, no gin, no cowboy attire in bed).

The only hitch came early, when the automatic sprinklers bolted on during the middle of my morning pre-barbecue. The great Herschel Walker never moved as quickly as I did in that moment. I lunged for the shutoff switch, inadvertently pulling the schnitzel in my upper leg that never fully heals.

For a moment, it was like a Greek tragedy — the fire from the grill, the sprinklers arcing high over the patio, me dashing for the shutoff valve and grabbing my torn schnitzel.


You see now why I like fall so much?

My coffee bubbled with cold sprinkler water, and my beloved sports section got a complete bath. But that’s life, after all. Not everything goes as planned.

A few hours later, we had maybe 50 people at the Rose Bowl tailgate, 60 tops, some say 75. As is usually the case at social events, I was trying to put some past failure behind me, in this case my fantasy draft earlier in the week.

The cheerleaders came by, then the Bruins mascot. Don’t feed the bears.
(Chris Erskine / Los Angeles Times)

Don’t get me wrong, my friend Sully hosts a very fine fantasy draft in his beautiful backyard. Must’ve been 30 guys, in various stages of male development. We were louder than we needed to be and difficult in the way men get when 30 of them are hemmed in like that. Several of them might’ve been actual leprechauns.

The draft went on for hours, and not everyone got along, which is the sign of a true fantasy draft, then no one wanted to leave. But we did, and in the course of the evening’s events, I might’ve popped an eardrum and lost a liver.

Like I said, not everything in life goes as planned.

So at this tailgate, I had a lot of things I was trying to forget, the sooner the better.


Early on, the local team’s mascot stopped by, and the rule was we could take photos with him, but not while holding red Solo cups, which I guess reflects poorly on a mascot. After all, he’s a grown man — or a woman — in a bear suit. Show some respect. And whatever you do, don’t feed the bear.

We then played some inappropriate party games that my buddy Nathan brought with him from Australia. Seriously, I can’t understand a word the guy says, but he sure knows his party games.

I told a few newcomers that the No. 1 rule of tailgating is that you intentionally forget the corkscrew. That way, you can visit nearby tailgates, seeking a corkscrew, and eventually expand your tailgate, annexing the other parties in the process.

If you intentionally forget your corkscrew with enough nearby tailgates, you can pretty much come to dominate your side of the stadium.


As you can sense, that’s what our tailgate club is really about. Domination. Wine. And over-marinating the meat.

Like life, it can be a wonderful fiasco.

Twitter: @erskinetimes