Retired Eli Manning to Host Virtual Tailgate Before Giants Game: 'Catching up for Lost Time'

Football season usually means tailgating season, but not this year. The coronavirus pandemic has kept fans away from stadiums in most cities.

Enter Eli Manning, the two-time Super Bowl MVP in his first year of retirement. This Sunday, for one hour starting at 12 p.m. EST, the former New York Giants star will host a virtual “homegate” before the Giants play the the Chicago Bears at 1 p.m.

Manning, who is partnering with Frank’s RedHot for the event, said he will tweet out a Zoom link to the homegate Sunday morning. The first 1,000 fans to click will join Manning, former teammate Shaun O’Hara and others for a pregame bash featuring traditional games like cornhole.

Manning, 39, is new to tailgating, having been busy during his 16-year NFL career and four years playing college football at Ole Miss.

“I never got to do those things so I’m catching up for lost time,” he tells PEOPLE.

What he lacks in experience he makes up for in love for the food. He counts “wings with Frank’s RedHot sauce” as one of his favorites. The New Orleans native adds that he wants to add “a little Cajun flair” to his homegate with dishes like shrimp and oyster po' boys, jambalaya and crawfish étouffée.

It’s customary to wear football jerseys to tailgates, but Manning is in a tough spot: The only jerseys he owns are his former ones, and he jokes it would be “weird” to wear a jersey of one of his former Giants teammates playing this Sunday. He says he plans to buy a throwback Giants jersey, mentioning former Giants greats Y.A. Title and Mark Bavaro as possibilities.

In retirement, Manning says he is taking this year to assess his options. The father-of-four says he’s hesitant to get into football broadcasting full-time because it would require him to spend days away from his family.

“The thing that scares me about broadcasting is the travel,” he says, noting that broadcasting a Sunday game would require him to be away from Thursday to Sunday.

But he says: “I might see if there are Sunday afternoon opportunities to join in on some things, to see if it sparks some interest to stay involved in the game.”

In May, during an online Q&A with military service members organized by the USO, Manning said he had been busy during the pandemic helping his children with distance learning.

“People always asked me, ‘How’re you gonna stay busy?’ Well, it has not been a problem,” he said.

“I know how to do fractions; I don’t know how to teach fractions,” he added. “Teaching and knowing are two different things.”

Back then, he said he hadn’t picked up a regulation-sized NFL football since last season — but said he’d been throwing a smaller one to his kids in the backyard.

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