By Lila Asnani / Special to VOAO
Ask any AO member what one of their favorite or memorable events for game day is and I am sure the AO tailgate will be frequently mentioned. Did you ever wonder though how this event happens? Meet Brian Hexsel, who is the primary driving force and planner extraordinaire for your AO tailgates around the country and globe!
What is your academic and professional background?
I graduated from The Culinary Institute of America — Hotel/Restaurant Management
Regional Director for a Restaurant Company
Describe your interest in soccer.
I’ve always loved the sport, played it growing up and was always on TV at home.
What is your role in AO?
My hands are pretty much in everything! There are 4 people on the Board and I am one of them. I do everything related to an event; planning of the game, the night before, day of, tailgate, in-stadium experience and also a lot of chapter relations. I call chapters to let them know that we’re there if they need anything and lately I have taken an active role in fostering our corporate partnerships with companies like Avis which offers our members discounts. I also plan most of the travel for AO hotel blocks and travel packages
How did the idea of tailgates come about?
We always wanted a meeting spot for our members to come together to see their friends and family. It’s also a great time to meet new people and other fans and this really relates to the family aspect; as they have in other nations. “Comida” when you eat something someone’s cooking and it naturally starts a dialogue. Our first tailgate was 11 years ago at Met Life in Chicago for the USA vs Brazil game and we have put on tailgates all across the country since then.
How have tailgates evolved?
The tailgates have changed with time and region. Some chapters do basic stuff and others prefer to try different stuff. The Modesto chapter makes tacos and the whole chapter is involved in the process from chopping onions to cooking the meat which is so cool to see. In Chicago it’s all about the hot dogs and how we can make the hot dog experience come to the tailgate. In Philly, there’s a lot of beer influences and that’s how we came up with beer brats! It depends on where we are, what we feel like doing and what we can do with the time and sometimes it is restricted with the stadium regarding what you can and can’t do.
How much coordination takes place with local chapters?
As soon as a game gets announced, I reach out to the chapters and the planning starts. We have weekly calls discussing all aspects of the game and events.
For a typical tailgate-how many people and hours are involved?
I always work with the local chapters. The game, the time allowed to tailgate and the day of the week that the game falls on will determine how many people show up to tailgate.C
How many tailgates does AO do a year?
AO is at every game home or away! Only thing that prevents us from Tailgating is when the stadium has a no tailgate policy.
How many do you travel to?
I’m pretty lucky with my full-time job, as long as I put in my hours and usually much more, I can travel to the games that I want to attend.
What do you want people to know about you and this process?
How much fun we all have! We want people to come to our tailgates. We want our members to know we are there for them. It’s about the whole experience so please let us know if there’s something wrong so that we can fix it or try to fix it. We can’t fix everything within US Soccer but we can always be the voice for the fan.
How do you balance work, life and AO?
Thankfully I have a very flexible work schedule. I work about 50-60 hours a week at my full time job and then I come home and do AO stuff. I like to spend the rest of my time with my dog, hosting dinner parties and catching up with family and friends. I also love flying, so anything to do with airplanes keep me happy.
Well most people know my choice of drink is a Tito’s Soda, no garnish. But my favorite cocktail is Extra Dirty Martini with 3 Blue Cheese Olives!
About the Author
You may have seen me at the games as Wonder Woman/Wonder Fan with my husband; Eagleman but in my professional life, I used to be a food blogger and a writer for a culinary industry website. I’d like to thank Brian and the AO crew for giving me the opportunity to collaborate with them on this article. I’d especially like to thank them for all their hard work and dedication to making the game day experience so special for all of us AO members.