Gridiron Gold? A review of Tailgate to Heaven

With the NFL season over until August (pre-season woop!), the Gridirion Gentlemen will strive to find ways to make the next 6 months more bearable. Now I am still pretty new to football and the NFL, but have really got into the sport and enjoy watching and reading about it immensely and understand the withdrawl pains after the Superbowl. So when we created the Gridiron Gentlemen, I was very excited if not a bit nervous that I was still very much a rookie. I still find it hard to believe sometimes how far since July 2013, the Gentlemen have come. Not more so than when British author of Tailgate to Heaven, Adam Goldstein, contacted us and asked if we would like a copy of his book to review. I said “Indeed I would and would be happy to write a review of it”. He sent through a copy (for my Kindle) for me to read and now¬† here is my review of Tailgate to Heaven: A British NFL Fan tackles America.

The ethos of the Gridiron Gentlemen was to act as a focus for the NFL fan base in the UK. We all knew of other people who liked the sport and thought it would be nice to bring them altogether. The overriding ethos of Tailgate is to help expand the understanding and expel the myths surrounding a sport we all love. A broad synopsis of the book then: Adam has been a follower of NFL and the Chicago Bears since he was 5 years old, having been hooked from watching the game on Channel 4 and specifically the wonderful Walter Payton. After growing up with a love of the sport, Adam manages to go and see the Bears@Cardinals game in 2006, where he first encounters the wonder that is the Tailgate. The experience mystifies him as being so different to soccer games here in Britain that he eventually decides to go and see all the NFL Franchise stadiums during a season and visit as many tailgates as possible. In this he succeeds, though not quite managing to see all teams play away at least once. What follows is the story of his trip across the US, into Canada (for the Toronto international series game) back to London for the Wembley game between the Raiders@Saints, then back to the US. He goes through the games though focuses on the tailgaters and the fans. Throughout he disperses facts and information about teams, the history of the sport, how it compares to the British football scene and the intricacies of american football.

As a rookie to the sport, I did really enjoy the book and found it an interesting read, especially with an opening about the history of the sport and how he covers aspects of the rules of the game as well as the intricacies of different playing styles and tactics. He does manage to take the reader along his epic, whirlwind of a trip. His enthusiasm and his passion for the sport leaps off the pages and is incredibly infectious, as is his love of the Chicago Bears (I would say he is a Bears Superfan and in a way reminded me of our own Bears fan, Gridiron Gent Dan). The anecdotes are quite amusing and the narrative is well written, flowing quite smoothly. In an attempt to break up what is quite a repetitive structure, Adam does include fascinating facts about teams and the game as well as commentaries on the importance of Tailgating and the fan base from other sources. It is a well researched book, with information mined from various well referenced sources.
The layout of the book, well the main narrative section, is set as a game of football, which I liked and generally the structure worked well.
Though I found the comparisons with soccer interesting, in some respects they were a bit of a digression, along with the use of dollars when talking about prices in the UK. There was an impression in places that the book was written with more of an American market in mind though, being British, it was written from a British perspective. The narrative also feels slightly rushed and wayward towards the end, the formulaic nature of former chapters starting to become a bit repetitive and stale, with some bits slightly glossed over, namely the Post-Season (or the end of the trip and being back home) and the very last chapter where Adam becomes a Tailgater. Because each chapter opened well I was expecting a bit more but the chapters seemed to finish too soon. From opening the book so well in the first few chapters, the last chapter did feel like an incompletion or a fumble.

I would recommend this to fans of the sport though possibly more for rookies of the game or those who only dabble with it lightly or would just like to know more about the culture surrounding the sport and the American sporting mindset. For pure addicts of the game and those who would like in depth details of the games covered, this is probably not for you.

In summary, Tailgate to Heaven is a good read, a worthy present for anyone who has an interest in football, be it NFL or Collegeate and definitely good travel reading material. It is nice to read and share someones passion for the game and I think Adam would make a fine Gridiron Gentleman.

We will aim to bring you more reviews over the coming months, a way to drip feed the addiction. So keep on visiting our website and our Facebook page for our latest updates, contact us on Facbook, on Twitter @GridironGents or send us an email to hellochaps@gridirongentlemen.com.

Toodle pip!