A Beginner’s Guide to Tailgating

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“A tailgate party is a social event held on and around the open tailgate of a vehicle. Tailgating, which originated in the United States, often involves consuming alcoholic beverages and grilling food. Tailgate parties usually occur in the parking lots at stadiums and arenas, before and occasionally after games and concerts. People attending such a party are said to be tailgating.” Wikipedia Tailgate Party

It was with trepidation that I agreed to attend the pre-homecoming game tailgate with one of my roomies and her friends. I knew there would be food and alcohol. I had been warned to not to wear any good shoes. Other than that, the sole source of my knowledge on tailgating came from this scene in the movie The Silver Linings Playbook. As someone who prefers to drink in local pubs, smart restaurants, or small wine bars, I knew that this would be an out-of-my-comfort-zone activity. Especially considering that I was taking a ride with others and therefore had no control over when I could leave.

When I first agreed to go, I thought that tailgating was a minor addition to the main event of the day – an afternoon football match. Little did I realise that the tailgate party was actually the main event. The match started at midday, and I was told to be ready by 8:30. AM. In the morning. So we would have plenty of time to tailgate. At this revelation, I nearly backed out of the outing. But the ‘big game’ was on the list of things I must do while in America, so I sucked it up and tagged along.

Things I learned / observed:

  • Tailgating is for everyone: undergraduates, graduates, alumni, families with babies / children / teenagers, older people, even supporters of the opposition.
  • Each parking lot had a different category of tailgaters divided according to age (students or alumni) and vehicle (cars, RVs*, buses and U-Haul trucks). As you walked from one to parking lot another, the number of people, the types of cars, the music blaring, the games being played and the set up was distinctly different.
  • The more elaborate set ups included couches, had separate tables for food and beer pong, and ladders to climb and sit on top of their buses or truck.
  • The undergraduate students travel from the campus to the field in a convoy of a dozen yellow school buses. They then trek across the fields to join in the tailgates hosted by the fraternity and sorority houses.
  • Many people just come to the field to tailgate, and then go home without bothering to enter the stadium. A bit like going to the Melbourne Cup and never laying eyes on a horse.

Tailgate packing list

  • Picnic table, fold out chairs, cooler, banners and flags (Go school!).
  • A cooler and ice for drinks
  • Red plastic cups (naturally)
  • Chips and salsa, pulled pork, coleslaw, burgers, cheese, and meat for grilling
  • Soda, beer, beer and more beer.
  • Game ticket (only if you want to leave the carpark)

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Alumni playing ‘Cornhole’

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Students playing ‘stump’

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Graduate students playing ‘beer pong

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Tossing the football around.

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Fraternity and Sorority students playing something with a carton of eggs and a whole lot of beer.

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Every single section of grass surrounding the stadium was filled with tailgaters.

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Going beyond simply wearing a school t-shirt or cap…

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