Tailgate 32: Pittsburgh

Written by Dan Gigler on .

Criss-crossing America's interstates on a trip that lies somewhere between an Anthony Bourdain culinary travelogue and an episode of The League, the 32-city, 32-NFL game tailgate tour of brothers John and Mike Trupiano rambles on.

Moving from stadium parking lot to stadium parking lot in a 2007 Holiday Rambler RV, this pair of Motor City-born, M.I.T. and Johns Hopkins educated entrepreneurs endeavor to take in a game in every NFL city this season, on a mostly self-financed journey.

The back of the bus.
The brothers have done pretty well for themselves at young ages -- 28 and 34 respectively -- having launched a number of start-up software companies independently of one another. This year they decided they wanted to take a break and "work" together.

Mike Trupiano explains: "We thought maybe we could build some sort of new finance company. Maybe we could open a series of taco trucks somewhere – we threw any idea up against the wall to see if it would stick. And one of the ideas which had no business model whatsoever was, hey – maybe we could go to a lot of football games."

Thus the idea of a breakneck 32-stop, 17 week tour was born. Sunday Night Football, Monday Night Football, Thursday Night football - they hit them all.

Along the way, the brothers and their three-man crew have filmed a series of entertaining and well shot webisodes, documenting their trip, and the history, scenery, culture, food and football in the the cities they've visited.

They've got three more stops left this season -- Chicago, Tampa and New Orleans the next three Sundays -- to make their goal.

"There’s still no profit," he laughed, though that might come yet. They're shopping their footage around for a possible cable show.

John and Mike Trupiano.
They stopped into Pittsburgh -- after driving from Seattle, with only a stop in Cincinnati for their other brother's wedding -- for the Monday night game against Kansas City, the 21st stop of their tour. The video of their adventures in the City of Champions was put out Monday evening (above).

I asked them a few questions about their journey to that point ...

BNG: So point blank -- where are the best tailgating scenes you've seen thus far?

MT: In terms of fan base tailgating – Oakland was amazing. It was fantastic. Houston was really, really good. That organization is very much behind promoting the tailgating culture there. Cleveland was a ton of fun. That’s a team with no track record for success. Man – those fans – one of the quotes we got when we were there was “We may not win the game, but we never lose at tailgating.” And I gotta tell ya, that’s pretty darn accurate.

BNG: You're here in Pittsburgh on a miserably cold, rainy Monday night. That has to be hurting the turnout.

MT: One of the things I learned very early on in this tour is that weekday games – Monday, Thursday nights – even though they’re in prime time and heavily promoted by the league for TV, they are not the best fan experience for actually coming to the game. The Sunday games are where it’s at.

On board with John Trupiano.
That said, we’ve got poor weather on a Monday night here and there were some incredibly fun tailgates we went out and interviewed earlier. Heck we’re standing with a whole bunch of people packed in under tents right now in the rain – where else would they want to be? They don’t want to be at home. And we’ve seen that in varying degrees around the country. But for a Monday night in crappy weather this has got to be one of the best scenes we’ve seen all year.

BNG: Where are some of the most elaborate tailgate spreads you’ve seen?

MT: A few stand out. Atlanta – some of the best food I’ve had. There wasn’t any boutique-y food either, just traditional barbecue and ribs and whatnot. Man that stuff was good. In Green Bay we saw the Thursday night game between the Packers and the Bears. There was a girl walking around with a pull-behind cooler on wheels, and she had shot a bear not too long ago, cut it up, marinated it and we were eating bear meat outside of Lambeau field. That’s notable. In Oakland there's a guy who throws a large tailgate and does a big seafood spread, so we got up with him at 5 a.m. on Friday morning to go one of the fish markets with him and pick big raw oysters that we cooked up a couple days later. That was fantastic.

BNG: Whose had the best get ups?

MT: Taking it more broadly – the crowd with the best vehicles, Cleveland killed it. So many done up vehicles, I think hands down more than anywhere else. If you were doing costumes, it would be hard to pick one, but I have to go back to Oakland. Those guys do so many characters well. In fact we did interviews with people about how their characters come about. The evolution of characters. Guys have been doing them for 25 years – I started out, I tried face paint, tried the gorilla suit, I decided to move on to something that’s more Star Wars themed – literally they do evolve their characters until they figure out who they want to be.

BNG: What did you see of Pittsburgh?

MT: We’re sort of at the mercy of our schedule. Sometimes we get to spend a day in a city, sometimes a week. I’ve been to Pittsburgh several times before so I had a little bit of a feel for it.

We got into town last night, today we went down to the Heinz History Center which was cool because they have that [Gridiron Glory] Pro Football Hall of Fame exhibit. We went to the Strip District and sort of walked through the crowds and saw lots of Steelers stuff. We went to the Church Brew Works, had a little bit of lunch there and talked to the owner, not so much about the brewery which is cool, but [the building] – Pittsburgh’s kind of neat in that it has a lot of adaptive reuse of buildings – the brewery is one example, we also went over to the Mattress Factory and did that and took some shots around there; we went to the Grand Concourse, the old train station and sort of told the story that [Pittsburghers are] interested in the history of the city and they don’t want to trash it, they want to reuse it. I think that's really cool. Not every city can say that.

We were here during the preseason and went to training camp at Saint Vincent so we did some filming out there, and we got some shots of the Inclines, Mount Washington, everything from the nationally known stuff to the locally known stuff, so that everyone who watches these episodes gets a kick out of it – I don’t want to bore the person who knows everything about Pittsburgh and I don’t want to bore the person who knows nothing about Pittsburgh.

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