Blake Dowling: Tailgating done right

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The plus side of college football weekends in Florida and around the nation are obvious.

Watching ESPN College GameDay the morning before the Alabama-Florida game from an Airbnb in Gainesville, our tailgate was featured briefly on a segment about Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down” played after every third quarter.

Wow. Pretty special.

I’ve been tailgating with the same guys and gals for 15 years. Four fraternity brothers I met 30 years ago have season tickets together, and the group has grown to include more of the frat guys, families, kids, etc., as we have gotten older.

Where did it all begin? Tailgating?

It’s said that in 1919, outside of the Green Bay Packers stadium, fans would arrive and park their trucks and sit on the tailgates, and so one of the most American of American traditions was born. It’s also said that 30% of tailgaters never even set foot in the stadiums.

Tailgates can range from a six-pack and a sandwich to the guy next to ours, Stumpy Harris, who had the coolest portable restaurant with an antique orange and blue car out front, plus golf carts, roped off areas, big time. Rest in peace, sir.

The plus side of college football weekends in Florida and around the nation is obvious.

Thrilling games, old friends and new, spectacular weather, roaring crowds, traditions (like Tom Petty), and these days technology adds another layer of fun to the mix.

I’d say half the tailgates I see have television setups ranging from basic to home-theater-like.

Dish Network has a very reasonable and cheap setup if you need a complete TV experience if you have not made the plunge.

Need power? Forget the noisy generators of the past; this bad boy has an LCD screen to monitor it and an app. Plus, it’s super quiet.

If you need tunes, charge up your Bluetooth speaker and check out the how-to-pack-a-cooler guide for max readiness.

The downside for football in the state of Florida for sports weekends (besides traffic) is hotels.

I stayed at Hotel Ello in Gainesville for a baseball game this year. It was approx. $150 a night, excellent value for this impressive new hotel. Rates for the Florida-Florida State game weekend is $679 a night.

An AC Marriot Hotel in Tallahassee for the coming football weekend is also in the $700 a night range.

Sure, I get supply and demand, premium rates, and surge pricing.

Places are packed, so making sure 20% gratuities are included and doubling rates may be acceptable. But some hotels triple rates … or more?

A hotel in Oxford, Mississippi, went for $1,000 a night two years ago. Sure, it was a super trendy hotel called the Graduate, but a grand?

In my opinion, hotels have gone past surge pricing, supply and demand — they are gouging people. To avoid being gouged, I find a reasonable Airbnb and move on.

Funny how when no one came to games last year, their pricing stayed reasonable; they were begging people to stay.

Anyway, they are back at it, and people rarely speak up about this. I’m tired of it.

Sure, don’t go, stay home. It’s not like price gouging gas during a hurricane, you might be thinking.

Still, it’s not right.

Some of us live and breathe college football, so staying home the whole season is not an option. But I sure stayed home last weekend for Florida versus Tennessee because I didn’t see an easy choice for lodging.

Rain or shine, the tailgate must continue.

Or maybe I stayed home the weekend before because the Alabama versus Florida game was so exhausting? The jury is still out on that — but bring the rates down.

College football is a living, breathing part of our state.

Some of us are having a lousy season — worst since 1976, I think that’s the total in Tallahassee — but like all things, it will get better.

These programs are like life, up and down. (Unless you are in Tuscaloosa this decade. Jeeez.)

Tailgating is awesome; technology makes it better. If only I had a camper and didn’t have to worry about these ridiculous hotel prices. (SHAZAM. I just solved my problem.)

Christmas is coming early to the Dowling house; won’t Jeanne be excited when I click on Auto Trader and bring an RV up the driveway.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this column when the new rolling condo arrives.

Go Gators!


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies, author of the book “Professionally Distanced” and host of the Biz & Tech podcast. He writes for several organizations and has tailgated with these same people for 15 years.

Blake Dowling

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. His technology columns are published by several organizations. Contact him at [email protected] or at


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