There’s one place in particular that Iowa City forces an immediate physical and verbal response. Heads turn and eyebrows raise. It’s the immediate thought behind the word: tailgate. It’s the holy grail of football Saturdays, and always offers a good time. Melrose Avenue; infamous for the littered lawns and vomit stains that cling to the sidewalk like a toddler to a mother’s hip.
Back in the fall of 2018, marked the last time students raised their beers for a final toast to Melrose.
On any given Saturday, herds of college kids over and under 21 march toward Melrose Avenue with a 6-pack slung over their shoulder. The street served as a haven for Hawkeye fans to get as slammed as they could before heading to Kinnick Stadium. Girls entry to tailgates was always free, and the boys could get in with an alcohol trade-off or the less desired cash transaction. The cops never walked the street as they feared a beer can to the head or a bruised ego from failed attempts at controlling the chaos.
With no way to stop the madness on Melrose other than to shut it down for good, the university thought to move the tailgates to the bars for a safer option. This gives the police a break and an easier way to hand out tickets—an attempt to turn the University back into an academic school.
No police officials offered to comment on this new “unspoken rule” set in place last fall of 2018, but the students didn’t hesitate to offer their opinions. Considering it’s football season again and there’s no other place to head other than the bars (for those who don’t want to simply just sit their ass inside watching it from their TV’s), the rage from students is heavy.
Rico Gonazalez is a fourth year student who began tailgating last year. His fraternity, Pike, doesn’t host tailgates anymore, but he has seen the lasting effect of its insanity.
“Drunk fans don’t care about their health or the mess they make,” Gonzalez said. “They don’t care about the police. They care about one thing and that is football. I don’t think anything is going to change that.” It’s all too easy to forget about basic manners when everyone around you is just as mindless. Nobody thinks to go out of their way to clean up or drink responsibly when there’s a haze of insanity looming over the entire street.
It’s entirely too easy to forget about the repercussions of partying once the game starts. When the game ends it’s even easier to turn the other way when passing by Melrose due to inebriation. Whether being drunk is the cause or not, arrogance or simply being aloof to responsibility plays a huge factor.
Now students can find the street lined with food vendors, but no sign of rowdy fraternities that once infiltrated the avenue. This year, tailgates can be seldom enjoyed only if one is willing to pay a cover for a crowded bar. They now have no options of stealing alcohol, partaking in backyard mudslides, or enjoying beer showers like Melrose once offered.
“What am I supposed to do now?” University of Iowa Senior Cameron Miller said. “Am I supposed to sit at home and twiddle my thumbs? I can’t walk all the way to Kinnick sloppy drunk anymore, nor do I have the pride to give 20 bucks to some douche sitting on the chair outside Union Bar.”
Regardless of broken pride, students line up at the bars handing away their money, not getting to experience the tradition of tailgating the way it ought to be.
The real issue that leaves the students confused in anger is why this even happened in the first place.
While making my rounds to the bars for a “tailgate” for the Iowa vs. Middle Tennessee game, I overheard a student, shirtless and slurring his words, yell at the Brother’s Bar bouncer, “Why are there no more tailgates? Why do I now have to plan my drinking so I can go to Kinnick in one piece? Why. Is Melrose. Shut. Down?!”
Last year in the fall of 2018, it was determined by Melissa Shivers, Vice President for Student Life, that tailgating was dangerous for the student body as hazing and alcohol-involved events in fraternities continued to make the news for hazing incidents from colleges around the United States including Penn State and Texas Christian University. The concerns of hazing related deaths and maintaining a reputation to keep the university as academic are main factors for this turn-around. She has now just been reassigned for the same position at Ohio State.
Rumours, true or not, began spreading like wildfire around campus more than usual. Multiple stories of fraternities forcing new bids to slug down bottles of alcohol then sending them off into the streets of Iowa City arose. “I know a lot of people who planned on going to the game but never made it because they got way too messed up,” Said Shabnam Inamdar, a fourth year business student. “I’ve seen two people leave Melrose in an ambulance since I started at Iowa.”
Littering has been another issue the university has identified as a major problem. Lawns covered in cans, paper, and leftover food have posed a major ecosystem problem, and often it is in areas where no one is legally responsible to clean it up. Most of the messes created in the street or surrounding areas are expected to be cleaned up by the homeowners of the tailgates. With most of the trash in the street, and thrown into the lawns of surrounding houses the mess became too big to control.
There’s no finger to blame on the students that have abused their privileges for far too long and there’s nothing left to do but lie in the bed that they’ve made.
Despite it all, they all walk to Kinnick, bar wristbands on their right arm, raising a toast to Melrose while passing by.