The season is already over for my beloved University of Hawaii Warriors. The fan in me knows it. The alumnus in me knows it. Even the irrational, blind-belief, “I Love Hawaii Football” Kool-Aid drinker in me knows it. Such is life for the fan of a middling team with less than middling talent and a stubborn and still middling coach. And nowhere does this knowledge hit harder than at our traditional pregame tailgate, where the preseason atmosphere of hope and football prosperity gave way to pessimism and rampant despondency.
If you’ve been a football fan long enough, then you’re inevitably familiar with the feeling that your team, well, kind of sucks. Fortunately, there are several tailgating techniques to deal with a losing season. And Tailgate Fan has them for you now.
Don’t go to the game. This is the lowest/easiest/most cowardly solution. But, for the fairest of fair-weather fans across the country, this option is most often selected. Let it be known that universal tailgating law decrees that choosing this route brands you as a non-fan for the rest of eternity (no matter how loud you complain when your team returns to prominence.)
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Stay outside the stadium and tailgate throughout the game. This is a potentially awesome solution if you’re lucky enough to tailgate at a stadium that permits it. You can enjoy all the fun and camaraderie of the tailgate… without the $8 beer and $15 burgers and the distasteful display of football on the field.
Drink until you forget how terrible your team actually is. Otherwise known as the college student and alcoholic solution.
Ban any mention of the current team, allowing only discussion about the “good old days.” On its face, this has some incredibly stirring possibilities. You can conjure a nostalgia that is both rejuvenating and therapeutic, while remaining in denial of your team’s dire predicament. I highly recommend caution when exercising this option, as the worst thing you can ever give a delusional fan is hope. I know this from experience. Invoking too much nostalgia can take you way past temporary distraction and back to “hey maybe we aren’t as bad as I think we are…” (The lesson: You are always, ALWAYS as bad as you think you are, good old days be damned.)
Dress not to impress. This was perfected in the NFL, most notably by die-hard fans of the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns who routinely attended games with paper bags on their heads. Here in Hawaii we express our shame with the much more creative and less obvious “green spandex guy” suit, shunning paper bags in favor of a suffocatingly soft spandex mask.
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Score one for the players. Turn the game into a game with random in-game player scoring. Everyone writes the names of all the offensive skill position starters (RB, QB, WR) from both teams on small pieces of paper. Then, each person takes turns drawing names from a hat until each has an equal number of players. Assign points like normal fantasy football and… viola! You have an entertaining way to root for individuals (since your team as a whole is a loser.)
Heckle the opposing team. This is definitely best played sober, as alcohol (not shockingly) relaxes the filter on what comes out of people’s mouths. To play, get seats along the opposing team’s sideline and verbally heckle them throughout the game. Points are then collected based on certain achievements (e.g. willing the crowd around you to chant a single player’s name or getting a player to turn around and acknowledge your presence).
At the end of the day, everyone experiences losing differently. But as a fan, no amount of masochistically self-inflicted losing will ever be so great that you forget how it feels to win. Or how it feels to storm the field. Or how it feels to crack the top 10 of the national polls or power rankings. This is the blessing and the curse of the football fan. Through everything, you know with 100% certainty that the losing will eventually stop. And the wait will have been absolutely worth it. It’s just a matter of distracting yourself long enough.