As anybody whose watched “Chappelle’s Show” can attest, keeping it real can, in fact, go wrong. And there’s nothing quite more real than a honest-to-goodness tailgate. Good friends gathered around a meat-cooking apparatus with libations in-hand, fully committed to devoting the next eight-to-10 hours to their football team of choice, mother nature or alcohol poisoning be damned.
However, similar to the case of Mr. Chapelle, there are times when the tailgate Gods laugh in the face of this decidedly real activity, resulting in unfortunate situations, which can quickly turn a joyous bunch of tailgaters into an angry mob of ‘tailhaters’.
The aforementioned mother nature can play a significant role in a tailgate’s demise. For example, east coast tailgaters have become accustomed to (and occasionally welcome) cold, windy and generally uncomfortable temperatures during their experience as the season reaches the winter months. This is more of a rite of passage than anything else. “We’re mildly uncomfortable and/or can’t feel our fingers – all for the sake of our beloved (insert east coast team name here),” hardcore tailgater number one attests. Hardcore tailgaters numbers two through six also nod (and shiver) in agreement. However, in the rocks-paper-scissors game of life, rain beats fire pretty much ever time. And without fire, there’s no grilling, and thus, no meat to be consumed. Heavy snow, tropical storms, natural disasters or any other precipitous liquid that falls from the sky would also have the same effect.
If two’s company and three’s a crowd, what do you call a hoard of angry, shirtless, face-painted fans who bypassed the legal alcohol limit before 10 a.m.? Aside from a great people-watching opportunity, it’s also a tailgate killer. Unruly fans – for example, everybody in this Oakland Raiders pregame compilation where the parking lot generally resembles an oversized back alley in the part of town you don’t walk through at night – can quickly kill the buzz of an otherwise enjoyable experience. There’s no secret here, just avoid, avoid, avoid (especially the guy at the 6:22 mark).
Beer generally comes with the territory at your standard-issue tailgate. The tasteless yet effective triumvirate of the leading light beers are all acceptable and affordable choices here (and a six-pack of O’Doul’s for any “non-conformists”), but a variety of factors must fall into place to ensure a healthy, long-lasting buzz. Who’s responsible for the beer? Is it BYOB or will one person be buying for the group? How reliable is this person? Is he known to purchase copious amounts of Smirnoff Ice on a whim? These questions merely scratch the surface of the booze coordination puzzle. Coolers must be brought, enough beer must be purchased to satisfy the projected amount of hours spent in the parking lot and if someone forgets the ice, well, then everybody loses.
Assuming your tailgate hasn’t already been ruined by an overly boisterous fan with a case of Mike’s Hard Iced Tea who performs shockingly effective rain dances, there is the issue of music. No, a soundtrack isn’t required nor is it even necessary for an enjoyable tailgate. But then again, when was the last time Jock Jams didn’t make everything 110 percent better? Using Tailgate Fan’s Top Tailgate Songs as a benchmark, songs should be upbeat, probably sung by males, and evoke images of victory whenever possible. Tracks like “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Black Betty” are aces in the hole, while feel-good beats such as Hootie and the Blowfish’s “Only Want to be With You” or Third Eye Blind’s “Never Let You Go” are sing-a-long gold for a buzzed-to-quite-buzzed crowd. The job of creating a tailgate playlist should be left up to a professional – someone who’s musical taste the group trusts and who has proven his (or her) worth with lauded mixes in the past. Left in the wrong hands, you could end up with something too heavy (think: Insane Clown Posse) or too light (think: “Leaving on a Jet Plane”), which may provoke all of your friends to leave your tailgate for one that’s less lame.
Matt Gelfand works in Boston’s Financial District as a business news writer, and is also a columnist at BaseballHQ.com. You can follow him on Twitter @BaseballHQ_Gelf