Frigid temperatures aren’t enough to keep passionate fans from huddling in stadium parking lots on Sunday mornings for a tailgate. There are franks and burgers to grill, brews to enjoy, and plenty of ways to prepare for winter’s merciless wrath.
Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow can stop a postal worker, but they will drop a tailgate dead in its tracks. Cold weather, though, can be manageable. The chef has an obvious advantage while quarterbacking the grill, but what do you do if you’re a role player on the tailgate roster?
Let’s start with the obvious.
GOOD FOR PROS, GOOD FOR YOU
Take a cue from those professional athletes you’re paying a King’s ransom to watch live in action. If that NFL equipment is good enough to keep a third-string running back warm and ready to rock on special teams, it should be good enough for you in the stands.
You can find inspiration from the late Steve Jobs and adopt the mock turtleneck. The NFL Shop offers the aptly-named “Cold Weather Mock Toasty Top” for about $50 to serve as your body’s first layer of defense.
The mock top’s design is described with a “next-to-skin fit,” meaning it’s super tight and can prevent the discomfort of layers bunching together at inconvenient spots. Cotton-based thermals are known for shifting, stretching out, and not holding in place.
I know what you’re wondering and the answer is, yes, there are pants, too. Obviously, the hardest part here is pulling away from the mirror while striking a valiant superhero pose.
No matter how heroic you feel, you need to remember you’re not a pro athlete and don’t have the benefit of warm-ups and on-field activity to keep your blood pumping. A cold-weather compression get up is a start, but fleece jackets, thick hoodies, and/or heavy windbreakers – ideally with your team’s logo – should not be forgotten.
Also, if you’re the kind of guy who likes wearing jerseys, make sure you own one that’s a little too big. A lot of folks really dig the hoody-beneath-the-jersey look, especially if they feel coats are too bulky for crowded stadium seats. It’s important to not lose sight of why you’re freezing your fanny off, so keep that team spirit high up with your body temperature.
They have a variety of names, but it’s usually something obvious with “hand warmers” in the description. You see them by the checkout registers at Modell’s, often in orange packets to represent heat. There is no shame in breaking open a few HeatMax products and sliding them into your gloves, socks, and shoes.
Don’t let the dropping temperatures deter you from what you should normally do at a tailgate. Gluttony at the grill is a given during the festivities, but so is grabbing an old football to execute your best Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson impressions (just don’t get injured). Keeping active while layered up will help you fight the frost.
If you’re the kind of tailgater to party with a significant other, then you need no instruction. Snuggling under a fleece blanket is an advantage you have over the single folks in your party, so embrace it and share your warmth with someone special.
IT’S LIKE CAMPING
There’s no such thing as a brief tailgate. You’re going to be there for a while, so you might as well set up camp and make sure your party is as comfortable as possible.
Erik Manassy, a New York Jets season-ticket holder and avid tailgater since 1998, is no stranger to dressing in layers. But when the temperatures really get crazy, so does his party’s preparation.
“During the cold tailgates, we bring a tent with walls,” Manassy said. “Inside the tent, we have a space heater that uses propane and there are about four to five people hovering around it. On the really cold days, we bring the firewood and fire pit.”
Who wouldn’t want to add some roasted marshmallows to the tailgate menu?
It’s easy to convince people of your unflappable will as a super fan, but your health and well being have to be a priority. The three hours to burn before kickoff can feel inhumane in unbearable temperatures – no matter how well prepared you believe you are.
Conditions are really unforgiving if your team plays outdoors. When there isn’t a climate-controlled dome for the game, it’s your job to know how much your body can handle for the next three to six hours.
“The coldest tailgate I can remember was the Jets’ [Week 17] game against the Cincinnati Bengals to close out Giants Stadium [on Jan. 3, 2010],” Manassy recalled. “I was chilled to the bone. I hate to admit it, but I retreated to the car and stuffed those heaters in my socks, arms, you name it.”
There’s no shame in that, at all.