When his son Cole committed to play football at the U.S. Military Academy, David Christiansen knew he would be joining a close-knit family of players.Cole, a starting linebacker and a team captain, is in his final year at West Point. What David wasn't expecting to find during his son's three-plus years on the team was a family-like atmosphere among the other parents of Black Knight players.The team calls itself "The Brotherhood" and in the years since their sons joined the team, the Class of 2020 dads have deemed themselves "The Fatherhood." The bond has been formed in the parking lots behind Michie Stadium where they set up a tailgate for every home.Before the game, they'll have about 100 people hanging out getting ready for kickoff, David Christiansen said, but after the game that number will balloon to upwards of 300 people as the players and additional families make the way over for dinner and to socialize."It's a very cool environment and group of people and I love these people," David Christiansen said. "I look forward to seeing them and I hate when it's over. I hate when it's the offseason. The most fun time I have all day is when they're up here eating and then I'm cooking for them and listening to them talk about the football game and everything that happened. It's just really cool."Three years in, they have the home game routine down to a science. Monday through Thursday are spent prepping. Food and drinks have to be bought and Christiansen's Tulane game menu alone required 25 pounds of chicken and 12 pounds of pork. They also have to pack the chairs, tents, tv, grill and full bar with stools that are setup during the tailgate.
On Friday they hit the road, Saturdays they party and then Sundays they head home and prepare to start all over."You only have really four days at home, because we travel every week. We go to every game," David Christiansen said. "Even away, we set stuff up there whether we rent out bars. We rent out spaces. We do the same. Whoever's closest grabs it."While David Christiansen and "The Fatherhood" tailgate every week, Nick Triscari makes the trip to West Point for one game a year to cook for his friends. The owner of The Wooden Spoon in New Rochelle, New York brings his mobile catering unit to the parking lot to cook for his friends and anyone else in the parking lot who might be hungry.The menu each year is based on the opponent for that week's game. Last year, he did a pig roast and Spam sandwiches for the Hawaii game and this year, southern fried alligator and jambalaya were on the menu with Tulane in town."You feel like you're taking a piece of the opponent with you when you're eating their mascot," Triscari said.Whether it is every week or once a year, Army tailgates are a time for old friends and new to come together and root on the Black Knights. Steve Chaloult and his Class of 1992 classmates have been making the Saturday pilgrimage and setting up a pre/postgame tailgate for more than 15 years now.As their families and incomes have grown over the years, so has the tailgate. Depending on the game, the crowd will range from 50 to 300 people, Chaloult said, bringing together friends and family from all over the region.With six home games a year, the prep work for the tailgates starts in the preseason. Beer for the season is bought by the pallet and participants pay into the pot to cover food and other expenses for the weekly gathering.The tailgate gathering now includes a pizza oven, catering with their signature breakfast burritos and plenty of time to catch up with friends before the first kick."It's just what West Point's all about," Chaloult said. "It's such a pure place here to be able to let your kids run around and not to worry about people. It's just where you can go and recharge your batteries. We look forward to the six home games a year so we can get up here and get reconnected with our friends and families."