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For 'The Commissioner of Tailgating', home is where the motorcoach is

October 30, 2002|by KATE COLEMAN

Joe Cahn expects to put 30,000 to 35,000 miles on the luxury motorcoach he is driving to football games this season.

No, he's not a team bus driver. Cahn, 54, is the "Commissioner of Tailgating," the title he announced at a press conference at National Football League headquarters in 1997.

He called himself "King of Tailgating" in 1996, his first year on the road, a year in which he traveled to all 29 NFL stadiums. But kings can be dethroned, and commissioners are commissioners for life, so Cahn changed his title.

There are 32 NFL teams now, and he'll hit 48 games this season. He's branched out to include college football games, a few NASCAR races and Jimmy Buffett concerts. He recently attended a game at Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, N.C. On Saturday, he'll be at the Michigan State University-University of Michigan game in Ann Arbor, Mich.

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Home and the home team are wherever Cahn parks his motorcoach. He doesn't even go into the stadiums to watch the games. He's an emotional fan and can't take losing his voice screaming at four games per week.

Plus, "I'm a pig," he says. Cahn like to eat, but he doesn't cook anymore.

"I walk around and eat everybody else's food. I'm the Commissioner," he explains.

Cahn used to own a cooking school in New Orleans, and his Web site at www.tailgating.com is packed with recipes.

He calls tailgating the "last great American neighborhood."

Today, backyards are separated by privacy fences. If you speak to strangers on the street, they shy away from you. "We don't look people in the eye anymore," he explains.

But tailgating - gathering in a stadium parking lot - is safe. "It's the new community social." he says.

The stadium parking lot is "everyman's skybox," Cahn says.

Some people bring elaborate food. Others stop on the way to pick up a bucket of chicken. Tailgating is less about the food than about people - getting together with old friends and making new friends.

Cahn is gathering data about tailgating with the help of a grant from the Coca-Cola Co. He'll post the data on his Web site in a few months. He's also expecting Coca-Cola to donate $1 for each mile he travels this season to Share Our Strength, a national hunger relief organization.

Cahn is working on a book about the tailgating phenomenon. It will include recipes and stories he's gathered along the way.

If you can't get to a tailgating party where Cahn will be - his schedule is on his Web site - you might catch him on television. He says he'll be featured on CBS News Sunday Morning this week.

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