Tailgating Without all the Cheese

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Tim Shanley (with box) and DaBus (Peter Holderness photo)

There is no defense for Sunday’s NFL North tasty “showdown” at Soldier Field.

The equally crummy Bears and Packers defenses make it unlikely for either team to advance far in the post season.

None of these shredded truths dampers the spirit of Hall of Fame Tailgater Tim Shanley. The Bridgeport native will be tailgating with his shuffling crew from his orange and blue 1974 International Harvester “Da Bus” bus before the Dec. 29 game in the McCormick Place South parking lot. At the beginning of the season Shanley and his tailgating partner Bob Bromberek cooked up a “Tailgating for Hunger” charity initiative.

“There’s nothing like the passion of this rivalry,” Shanley said hours before the Dec. 9 Bears victory over Dallas and where the tailgaters donated 500 pounds of beef to the Pacific Garden Mission, 1458 S. Canal. “I’ve been to Lambeau (the Green Bay home) 13 times. I went nine years in a row. We walk in that stadium we get abuse and we take it. The rivalry stems within die hard fans like myself. It is deep and it is real. It is Forrest Gregg and Mike Ditka really deep and it stays there. Of course the NFL wants to lighten the load and we’re not supposed to be that way anymore. But we’re a throwback. Boston-New York baseball, I’ve been there at witnessed it. There’s a lot of passion there, too. But outside of that it’s Bears-Packers hands down.”

I looked around the industrial parking lot just east of the Metra train tracks.

“Off the cuff, I’d say I’ve tailgated at 12 NFL cities,” Shanley said.

He rates Soldier Field at the top of the list.

Seriously?

The Park District charged me and my photographer $35 each just to gain access to the funky parking lot normally used to park monster trucks for McCormick Place conventions. We weren’t even staying for the game.

I’ve tailgated at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City and Lambeau Field. Lambeau is much nicer than the McCormick Place South parking lot, cheaper to park and a closer walk to the stadium. To get to Soldier Field, fans in the McCormick Place South lot have to walk to a shuttle bus, take the shuttle bus to a turn around, then walk underneath Lake Shore Drive to the stadium.

The author and Ditka fan Frank Babayan who flew in from Pasadena, Ca. for the game.

“Well, we have a blue collar lot,” Shanley said. “This is stellar. The winter gray sky. That iron walkway. We’re old school. A lot of the lots across the league are restricted–not that we don’t have our rules and regulations here. There’s trucks between us. This is like the mid-70s or early-80s when this (tailgating) started taking off.”

In Gary, Indiana maybe.

“Lambeau is cute,” he continued. “Even if it’s 75 degrees they have their snow boots on and their camoflauge. They have their little cheesehead hats. It’s Mom and Pop. I love Mom and Pop, I’m a family man. But its cute. It really is.” Shanley sounded like he was running for 11th Ward alderman.

I did some research and many tailgating websites ranked Green Bay No. 1. or 2. Here’s a September, 2013 “Top Ten Best NFL Tailgating Cities in America.” Chicago failed to make the list:

1. Green Bay, 2. Houston, 3, Buffalo, 4. Kansas City, 5. Baltimore, 6. Philadelphia, 7. New England, 8. Cleveland, 9. Denver, 10. Pittsburgh.

Shanley put together an “Average Joe” tailgating checklist for those working out of a car trunk or van: First-aid kit, bleach wipe, paper towels to keep hands clean. “Rubber gloves,” he said. “Never touch raw meat. Keeping everything clean is at the forefront.In the summer, 30 bags of ice, 20 cases of beer, pop and water, 10 bags of charcoal and ample charcoal lighter. We never used propane so I don’t know what to say about that.

“Load it up heavy. Always bring extra clothes and rain gear. We’re on the lake. Anything can happen.” “For us, on a normal day–when we’re not doing ‘Tailgating for Hunger’–a normal tailgate will consist of 40 pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs, 40 pounds of chicken wings. I’ll have about 30 pounds of pork loin, 30 pounds of beef roast. The pork loin and beef roast will be grilled, sliced and dipped into au jus sauce, kind of like a Chicago beef sandwich. I go average about 150 pounds of protein. We add a little vegetables, green beans and salad. Nothing is ever deep fried. It’s all grilled. We mix it up, maybe with some chili in the winter.

Shanley lives in Austin, Tx. and stores his winter gear on Da Bus. “Ski pants on a night like tonight,” he said as the temperature hovered around 10 degrees. “Hat. Hood. Extra gloves. When you’re working the grill its different. You have the heat on you and we don’t need a lot of clothes. We don’t feel it until we settle down, that’s when I’ll change on the bus.”

Game on.

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