Whoa. Barrel Man died
this weekend. Tim McKernan
received more TV time at Denver Broncos games than many Denver players. A rotund half-naked working class guy wearing an orange barrel in frigid temperatures is an enduring image for anyone who watched Broncos football in the last three decades. Even though your first thought on seeing a barrel-chested naked guy in the snow is "He's probably drunk," apparently he was completely sober for the last 25 years.
Barrel Man started his fan antics in the late 1970s, in a different era of public events. Rock bands like Led Zeppelin and Kiss played rock and roll to tens of thousands in sports stadia. Like tailgating at a football game, the atmosphere outside the concert
was almost as important to the experience as the show itself. The Grateful Dead had a legendary caravan of hippies on their trail, and political protests still had a feel of the mass street protests of the Vietnam era.
These days, there are more people, more events, and more media, but the venues are the same sizes. Since McKernan first donned the barrel, Colorado's population has increased by nearly two million (~80% growth), but the $364 million new stadium didn't add any more seats. A smaller percentage of fans can fit in the stadium, and more of the tickets are bought by corporations and rich folks who are unlikely to practice fan antics like face paint, outlandish costumes, and foregoing a shirt in freezing temperatures. Televised football is now a huge business, with enough AV technology that at home you can often get a richer experience of the game, though not of the crazy fans. Musicians still make a big percentage of their money touring, but with digital music players in everyone's pocket and prodigious mp3 collections, it's easy to spend all day focused on a band without spending eight bucks in ticket convenience fees. Concerts are still a good place to meet like-minded folks, but no better than social networking sites
. Maybe with the Internet's millions of ways to express your craziness, being crazy in highly public places has lost its charm.
At least monster truck rallies (coming Sunday Sunday Sunday!) still have cheap tickets and working class fans, though their crowds may have shrunk too: apparently they're held in basketball arenas now
. I would not
want to experience that noise and fume spew indoors.