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Tailgaters of the Week: Ohio State Edition!

A visit to the Blue Lot brings a great group to share with readers

Another beautiful day for a tailgate this past Saturday as we welcomed the Buckeyes into the historic confines of Rutgers University. As always, tailgaters are invariably welcoming to the Scarlet Knights’ opponents. Offering to share food and drink with the visitors is very common, and it is a spirit of conviviality and camaraderie. We’ll share some examples of this later in the article, but first to our winners for this week.

We visited the Dark Blue lot this week, and had to note the group that comes with DJ Spanky and family. This is a group that not only has their own t-shirts (with new ones every other year or so),

Examples of a couple year’s worth of tailgating t-shirts by Spanky and one of his sons.

but they also have their own tailgating flags. Now, many people have distinctive flags that they fly at tailgates so friends can find them, but few have designed and fly their own distinctive crests! Here are the flags for this crew:

This is a fairly large group, one big enough to make it tough to get them all in one shot, as you can see from the picture below! The picture at the beginning of the article is much earlier in the day, before many had arrived at the tailgate.

DJ Spanky and his crew began their tailgating almost 30 years ago, after graduating in the mid-1980s. Thanks to the vagaries of priority points (ask any tailgater, they will have a story about points for you), Spanky’s crew has been between the Yellow, Blue, and Purple lots through the years. This is a group of Rutgers band alumni, and those who are friends with band alums. Others also show up to visit, such as’s Sam Hellman, who happened to be there while I was interviewing different members of the group.

Band Alum Bill, Spanky’s older son Tyler, DJ Spanky, and visitor Sam Hellman.

The band alumni group is very active, and are self-described as the most active band alumni group in the country. I’m willing to take their word for it!

The group has three grills going during the day, with not only a very extensive bar, but even a battery-operator kegerator (a refrigerated tap for one-gallon containers). Here’s just a couple of pictures of the set-up for those of you looking for tailgating ideas. As you can see, they even have a candelabra!

Spanky is particularly proud of his brats, which he marinates in a honey-brown beer, with vidalia onions, butter, and garlic for a couple of hours before grilling them. He serves enough at each game for 20-25 people.

The group wanted to note their scotch selection at each game, with several bottles of 10-20 year old single-malt available for the over-21 crowd. Above all, however, this is about family. Spanky’s older son Tyler is a survivor, literally. In 2012, he was diagnosed with cancer, and through his own determination as well as the good people at Sloan-Kettering in NYC, has beaten cancer. In the midst of this, while the family was in the process of moving back to New Jersey from Virginia, many, many Rutgers people came through to offer their best wishes. These including former AD Tim Pernetti and former Head Coach Kyle Flood. Other from RU helped Spanky find a new job in NJ, which happened just as Hurricane Sandy devastated the region. Tyler’s visit to spring practice in 2013 was featured in the Fifteen Days of Spring video that year. He continues to be cancer-free.

DJ Spanky flanked by his sons Corey (l) and Tyler (r)

A great story, a great group of people, and avid and decades-long Rutgers supporters. They are a great Tailgater of the Week group!


There are some fun things in the “extra” category this week. As you can imagine, there were a lot of Ohio State fans tailgating this week, and many continue to be impressed by Rutgers’ version of game preparation by the fans. Right near me I met a couple of local guys who were also Ohio State fans. John Hommas and Jeffrey Kyryczenko, both from Middlesex, NJ are also Buckeye fans, and were happily surprised to see themselves welcomed and not vilified upon their arrival. They were set up by noon for the 7:30 PM game, and were fun to have participating in the day.

John H. and Jeffrey K enjoying the Rutgers scene.

I love some of the “interesting” folks you meet each week at tailgates. As this is a family column, this young gentleman will remain nameless. Despite that, a great beard, don’t you think?

Many tailgaters are (justifiably) proud of their craft beers that they bring, but none are prouder than Tom Zuber, owner of Demented Brewing Company, a Middlesex, NJ microbrewery. Tom was a home brewer for nine years, and decided to start brewing at home at that time full-time. Getting tired of his “real” job as a software engineer in the finance industry, he decided to make his hobby his occupation. His company now produces around 1200 barrels a year. One of their varities is “Scarlet Knight, the American Red Ale.” They produce what they call “insanely flavorful ales,” but with one called Scarlet Knight, how could it not be insanely flavorful?

Tom Zuber, Demented Brewing
Demented Brewing’s flag flying high along with Rutgers

Finally, one of the best things you see at tailgates are the individual touches that people do that make their space unique. Every time I go I see something that makes me stop and gawk at their space. This week, I saw a great table that was hand-painted with all of the Big Ten team logos on it. I’m sharing the half that could be seen, as the other half was loaded with food!

Rutgers is on a bye this week and visiting Illinois next week so no tailgates (what will I do for two weeks?) coming up until October 21 when we host Purdue on Homecoming. Until then, keep the drinks cold and the food hot!