In his new book, “Tales from the Tailgate: From the Fan Who’s Seen ‘Em All,” Stephen J. Koreivo firmly establishes that he is not an ordinary college football fan. He is an extraordinary one. He is immersed in the sport completely. He has followed his favorite team, Notre Dame, since childhood. Later, he began to also follow Penn State. Inspired by ABC Sports announcer Chris Schenkle’s signature opening line for game day – “College Football…what better way to spend an autumn afternoon?” – Koreivo watched every fall Saturday afternoon. It wasn’t long before he wanted to spend Saturday afternoons at a stadium, not in front of his TV. Even after marrying, he successfully juggled his passion for college football with the life he had begun with a wife and children on, into the new decade.
In 2000 he wondered just how many Division 1 teams he had seen. He concluded that he had already seen more than half, which resulted in a life-changing decision: he set a goal of seeing in person, every one of the 120 BCS teams play at least once. He achieved his goal in 2007. His new book celebrates his formidable feat.
This book is simply designed and easy to read. Each of the games Koreivo attended on the road to his goal is described in a one to three-page essay in the order in which he saw them. Each essay is seasoned with snippets of team history and trivia. Pre and post-game anecdotes of most of his road trips also add some of the flavor of the local fans, team traditions and a sense of the unique personality of each school’s stadium.
The book is a treasure trove of history of the sport. The team, program, and conference trivia will interest any true college fan. Most of the games the author attended were ordinary games. Since Koreivo’s event had both time and budget constraints – motels are costly; staying with friends who followed the home team saved money and came with free local flavoring added – the quality of the games were generally secondary to the goal of reaching the magic 120 number.
Koreivo has a lot to say of interest about the sights, sounds and emotions of being at a game. But as Mark Twain used to counsel aspiring writers, “Don’t say the old lady screamed - bring her on and let her scream.” Koreivo is a good nuts and bolts writer, and his style works well with the historical and trivial content of the book; but, painting word pictures of the feelings and emotions that a fan experiences at a game requires a different skill set. His writing never made me feel connected to what he was describing; I never felt like I was there in the seats with him. Too bad, I thought more than a couple of times, because I think I would have enjoyed his company at the Louisville – Army (44) game a lot.
Fierce college football fans whose interest goes beyond their favorite team and the conference in which they play will surely like “Tales from the Tailgate: From the Fan Whose Seen ‘Em All.” And, if you’re a Notre Dame fan, I suspect the author would like to swap stories with you.
Tales from the Tailgate: From the Fan Who’s Seen ‘Em All
Stephen J. Koreivo
Reviewed by Joseph Yurt for Reader Views (10/11)