State and others say tailgating and drunken fans out of control

Has tailgating gotten out of control? Are some beer-swilling football fans so obnoxious that they are ruining the game for others around them. Apparently some think so, including the state of Florida.

Florida is among those who is partnering with a new effort called TURF – Tailgaters Urging Responsibility and Fun – which says that tailgating – read imbibing in serious amounts of alcohol – “is threatened by the unsportsmanlike conduct of a few who are ruining the game for everyone else.”

TURF, which has the backing of the Wine and Spirit Wholesalers of America and a leading Florida distributor, the Charmer Sunbelt Group, has hired former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann to help a campaign of “drinking responsibly.” Brown-Forman Corporation, the maker of Jack Daniel’s and Southern Comfort, put up $100,000 to help with the effort.

“Too many times I have seen unruly and disruptive fans ruin the game day experience for others,” said Theismann when the program was launched a month ago. “I encourage all tailgaters to drink responsibly, have fun and enjoy the game.”

The campaign plans to air public service announcements and do other outreach efforts using Theismann (who has made no secret over the years of stating what’s on his mind) in states such as Florida. The group’s website has such suggestions as “notifying security of rude and unsportsmanlike fans” and “keep families in mind when using language.”

So why Florida? Has it gotten really bad here? University of South Florida fans, for example, have been so ill-behaved that quarterback Matt Grothe at one game had to ask them to stop yelling obscenties at Kansas cheerleaders.

Brian Fischer, a spokesman for Charmer-Sunbelt, says that the choice of Florida was not some testament to the abrasiveness of Florida football fans. It was because this is one of the states that the companies promoting the effort do business in. But Fischer does maintain there is a problem, noting that he won’t even take his family to Washington Redskins games anymore because of ill-behaved fans.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation is cracking down on tailgating as well. The department this past weekend swept through four different college football games in the state – including LSU at Florida in Gainesville and the University of Miami-Central Florida game – and handed out 70 citations for underage drinking.

“I believe that a strong presence at college football games is a great way to help protect Florida’s underage youth from alcohol consumption,” said Secretary Charles Drago in a statement. “By enforcing our state’s laws on underage drinking, we hold individuals accountable for their behavior.”

Ok, football fans. Consider yourself warned.

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