So I posted up a press release that was sent to me and various other folks by the AAGO, the entity that is in charge of the golf course and the parking therein. In it, the Powers That Be make some mumbles about listening to the protest and complaints from people who've been tailgating at the same spot since time began…
"We appreciate the time and effort that a number of people have taken to ask for reconsideration due to their desire to remain in private parking areas where they can be with the longtime friends and colleagues," said Larry Eiler, chairman of AAGO parking.
…and then immediately dispel any lingering hopes you might have that they actually gave a crap:
"We are disappointed at the decision of patrons to disagree with the new regulations, which were made for safety concerns."
Mmmm that's tasty public relations.
Before all this came down, I attempted to commit an act of journalism by reaching out to Eiler. We eventually settled on some emailed questions, the gist of which boiled down to "people have complained and we will make an announcement." The tone of the conversation was similar to the above:
It interests me that everyone just ignores the serious safety issue posed by people who place tents, cookers, tables, chairs, games in the manner shown in the photos attached from last year's M State game.
The following photos from second fairway 08 MSU game. They thus occupy ingress and egress routes for emergency vehicles and create an unsafe environment.
This is the "serious safety issue":
I guess if someone had a major medical issue it would be difficult for them to get out, and according to a commenter on the press release there have been some recent incidents:
Apparently, within the past couple years, there has been at least one heart attack and one broken leg on the course during football saturday tailgates. I guess some dude was tossing a football around and ran off the top side of a steep fairway bunker and fractured his leg. The emergency services took a long time to make it back to the scene due to the parking situation. If it had been a broken neck, the guy likely would have died.
Not sure about details on the heart attack, except the guy was closer to the front and managed to walk to the clubhouse.
The police, insurance company, worried board members, all felt that it was necessary to prevent any potential future disasters by ensuring that there are clear paths for emergency vehicles to enter.
So the canopy thing, whatever. Be stricter about clearing some aisleways, sure. It's a litigious country. I wish we lived in a place where you just sort of accepted "hey if I keel over on this golf course during a tailgate there's a slightly reduced chance I make it." We don't. I think the safety thing is a pretty silly mandate but silly mandates are par for the course (HA! I kill me!) when suin' looms.
However, I fail to see what this has to do with not reserving spots. Everyone ignores the serious safety issue posed by people who place tents and whatnot everywhere because they don't care about the rule change associated with it. No one has complained about the canopy thing. They do not care. They care an awful lot about having their tailgate disrupted.
A lot of people cared enough about it to raise a stink; if you just got over yourself and sat down with them there was an opportunity to work something out. One idea off the cuff: sell season passes in certain areas that can be revoked if the parking there ends up unsafe. Sell specific—specifically orderly—spots. Everyone wins.
Instead no one wins. There was an opportunity to make a little more money and keep the people who really care about this happy, and it was condescendingly rejected. The main reason appears to be that the tailgaters got too outraged and accused the AAGO of being money-grubbing so-and-sos. In response the AAGO said "well, I never" and lifted their noses skyward, refusing to… gah… parley with those ruffians.
The AAGO leadership failed spectacularly here. Kevin Werner on AnnArbor.com:
"It's a shame - a real shame that the traditions of hundreds and relationships of many and a special aspect of this community is giving way to stubbornness."
Postscript. The most unbelievable part of all this is that all of the emails from Eiler come from "Larry Eiler PR." The guy runs a public relations firm. PROTIP: you should not hire it any circumstances whatsoever.