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ISSUE 117 VOL 3 PUBLISHED 10/3/2003

Commissioner rekindles the magic of pregame festivities

By Ken Foote
Sports Editor

Friday, October 3, 2003

The term "weekday" usually sends chills down your spine. It signifies the five-day gauntlet that mean either a 9-5 job or a series of early mornings and late nights cramming for a class to the vast majority of adults in this county.

However, Joe Cahn, a genuine American entrepreneur, spends his weekdays earning money for Share Our Strength, a prominent anti-hunger organization. It is not his charity work that makes Cahn an unusual case, though. It is how he helps fight hunger.

Armed with a brand new 40-foot luxury motor home on loan from Monaco Coach Company, fittingly called the "JoeMobile," Cahn, the world’s only professional tailgater, has a sponsorship deal with Coca-Cola in which the soft drink giant donates one dollar to Share Our Strength for ever mile the JoeMobile logs on the 2003 tailgating tour.

He will travel all over the country to NFL and college football games, well, not actually the games, but instead he oversees and actively participates in the pre-game festivities that include cooking, bonding and, most importantly, eating. Over the upcoming fall and winter, Cahn will roll up about 30,000 miles.

He sold his home and New Orleans-based cooking school in 1996 and bought a motor home in order to "live the dream of every sports fan in America."

On his way to every NFL stadium that year, Cahn had only his cat Sophie, his cooking supplies and a passion for the "party in the parking lot."

That proved to be all he needed as he became the nation’s foremost expert on the subject of tailgating. Contrary to popular belief, it is not simply a shallow event characterized by drunken revelry.

"It is certainly an excuse to party but it’s much deeper than that," Cahn said. "People think tailgating is all about drinking and painting your body in subzero weather, but it’s about family, community and having a good time."

Cahn stresses that tailgating is a true American pastime. "I equate it to a neighborhood where there are no fences between yards and everybody gets along," Cahn said. "It is an ideal place for parents and children alike to meet in a neutral setting and have a great time."

In a society increasingly dependent on high-speed information and mind-boggling technology, there is something to be said for the simple civility of the parking lot.

"There are no computers and no TV’s, only people," Cahn said. "What I enjoy most about traveling around the country is just talking and listening to people."

Tailgating can be seen as the last true connection to "old town USA," a utopia of sorts. A world where strangers get along and people spend their time talking to fellow human beings rather than staring at a television or screaming into a microphone.

Referring to the peace and tranquility of the parking lot party, Cahn is quick to joke that his special seasoning, which has been hailed as the "unofficial seasoning of the parking lot," came in second in the Nobel Peace Prize voting. "That stuff has promoted peace and humility all over the country," said Cahn. "Unfortunately you never hear about the person who comes in second."

Now entering his eighth year as the Commissioner of Tailgating, Cahn has served over 100 pots of his legendary jambalaya and eaten a variety of food.

"I have eaten lobster in New England, grits in Atlanta and smoked salmon in Washington, to name a few," Cahn said. "It has been an amazing run."

When asked if he ever goes inside the stadium Cahn provided a comical, albeit effective, response.

"For security reasons no two commissioners can be in a stadium at one time," Cahn said. "[NFL commissioner Paul] Tagliabue never goes outside and I never go in. I think it is a pretty good system."

At first, it appears Cahn did not even know there was a game after the parking lot festivities. "I just thought everyone got up to go to the bathroom," Cahn quipped.

So, what’s next for the man who eats, sleeps and breaths tailgating?

"I will write a book on the subject," Cahn said. "I am letting it develop at its own pace though, like a good recipe, you can’t rush it."

Cahn also aspires to host his own cooking show. "I have been close a couple of times" Cahn said. "I have turned down a few offers, I am waiting for the right situation to present itself."

However, an even more pressing question remains. What does the Commish do when there is nowhere left to tailgate?

"I go through withdrawal and count the days till I can hit the road again," Cahn said.

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