Ah, the 2013 Pro Bowl. Much like your latest paternity test, it’s an honor to be named, but heavens to Betsy, is it ever a pain in the neck to go! Still, there’s something nice about taking a moment to reflect on the past season and say “these players were the highlights of the year, who, by the way, also weren’t good enough to make the Super Bowl.”

We here at Tailgate Fan figured we’d do the same thing: take a moment to reflect on the season and pick out our favorite highlights throughout the year. The goal here is to distill an entire season’s worth of tailgating research in order to find the 10 perfect elements for a tailgate. Of course, we’ll be revisiting these topics with fresh eyes, over-stuffed livers and a number of pesky misdemeanors that our annoying lawyer wants us to answer for.

Without further ado, here are our 10 favorite moments of the year. Use these as you will to plan for 2013.

10. The “Must-Attend” Tailgate of the Year: The World’s Largest Cocktail Party

Featured in Top 10 Tailgating Traditions

One thing I should mention — especially since I’ve been liberal with praise this past season — is I am no fan of the SEC. Still, you’ve gotta hand it to Florida and Georgia. Most of the famous college rivalries are named after the football game itself (“The Iron Bowl,” for instance). The “World’s Largest Cocktail Party” is the only game we’ve heard of where the title takes its cues from the pre-game drinking. Of course, school officials have been trying to downplay the name for years. But, come on, the more you suppress something like this, the crazier it’s bound to be.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

9. The Best Tailgating Food: Barbeque

Featured in Top 10 Regional Tailgating Foods

Yep. Barbeque. Because it’s so good, that it earned our #1 AND #2 spot in the list above (for Texas and Kansas City style, respectively). Because it’s a meal that you’re going to get messy eating, and you don’t care, even if you’re wearing an all-white suit and you’re scheduled to meet the Pope that day. Because eating it is the closest thing you can have to a food coma without contracting type-2 diabetes (but this’ll help you get there!). Because if you’re eating it at a tailgate, you’re probably in Kansas City, Houston, Dallas or Austin, which are all pretty good football towns. And because it’s a pretty uniquely American dish.

8. The Best Tailgating Nickname: Douche

Featured in: Top 10 Tailgating Nicknames

Our original nickname article came out weeks ago, and we still can’t stop chuckling at a Houston Texans fan named “Douche.” The further down the rabbit hole you go, the funnier it gets. How did he get the name? Does everyone call him “Douche,” even his family? His boss? Why in God’s name would you publicize that your nickname is “Douche” on a website?? IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE! I’m sure Occam’s razor suggests that, one day, he was being a total douche bag, and his friends called him on it, and he got ornery about it, which means it absolutely stuck. But I’d rather not know the original story. It’s too good as is. So here’s to you, Robbie Dobyanski, you big Douche.

7. Best Thing in the Universe: Tron Nation

Featured in Top 10 Tailgating Costumes

There are times we feel like we’ve been referencing, promoting and talking up Tron Nation all season. That’s because we love them. We love every little thing about them. They’re tall, Tron-based robots that wander around Virginia Tech tailgates… and that’s it! AND IT’S INCREDIBLE! You’re telling me that if you’re 10 Schlitzes into the day and neck deep into a walking taco, and suddenly these things march into view that it’s going to make the party worse? Not a chance.

6. Best Tailgating Liquor: Apple Pie Moonshine

Featured in Top 10 Tailgating Cocktails

Now, you might take umbrage with the fact that opening a jar of moonshine and pouring it into a glass isn’t exactly a “cocktail.” But if you’re wasting your days splitting hairs on minute details like that, then we apologize for the complete and total lack of joy in your life. Meanwhile, the rest of us are going to go get drunk off of the smell of Grandma’s house at Thanksgiving.

Photo Credit: Anchor Brewing

Photo Credit: Anchor Brewing

5. Best Tailgating Beer (For Next Week) A 3-Way Tie

Featured in Top 10 Tailgating Beers

So, based on our recommended tailgating beers, we’ve actually got a few that you should sample next week.

For the Ravens fans, make sure to drink up plenty of the Tailgate Fan-recommended Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA.

For the 49er faithful, get your hands on a tall, frosty Anchor Steam.

And if you’re just there to get plowed and enjoy the game in New Orleans, might as well track down some Abita Restoration Pale Ale.

Now, the truth is, every beer is the perfect beer for tailgating (except for Michelob Ultra Pomegranate). But as long as you’ve got Tailgate Fan-approved selections that’ll match up nicely with the day — why not?

4. Best Tailgating Vehicle: The Red Pinto

Featured in Top 10 Vehicles of Tailgating

Pinto Ron is, without a doubt, one of the most interesting characters in the tailgating game today. We don’t think we can say it much better than we did the last time we covered him, so let’s go to the tape:

Ken “Pinto Ron” Johnson (not a wrestler) has been cooking food off of saw blades, filing cabinets, army helmets and more for years now. Plus, he serves cherry liquor out of a bowling ball.

It sounds like the kind of hobo-cuisine you’d find cooked by a magical vagrant in a Dr. Seuss book, but not. It’s just Ken Johnson, cooking everything on his world famous Pinto, actively being the most entertaining part of a Buffalo Bills game year in, year out.

Photo Credit: Suzanne Perry

Photo Credit: Suzanne Perry

3. Our Favorite Legend of Tailgating: Dominic Giammarinaro

Featured in Top 10 Legends of Tailgating

There were lots of extraordinary tailgating heroes that we showcased this year, but our personal favorite was Dominic Giammarinaro and the folks at San Diego Tailgater. This is for a few reasons: 1) Their “Iron Tailgater” battles 2) Their annual “Taco Guy Day” where a taco guy from Tijuana comes up and makes fresh tacos, and 3) Not only did they reach out to us, but they’ve dangled the proverbial “taco carrot” in front of our eyes. So, Dominic? Hats off to you!

2. Best Tailgating Location: The Grove at Ole Miss

Featured in The Top 10 Best Tailgating Schools

Between pro stadiums and colleges, we covered a lot of cool tailgating locales this past season. But none can compare to the legendary Grove. It’s 10 acres of tailgating bliss, which makes room for everyone from seasoned grillers to fancy-pants wine drinkers to “still feeling it from the night before” couch-surfers. The Grove is truly tailgating Valhalla.

Ole Miss (Photo Credit: Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Ole Miss (Photo Credit: Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

1. Best Tailgating Song: The Entirety of Andrew WK’s I Get Wet

Featured in Top 10 Best Tailgating Songs

Quite simply the best party album about partying that ever party party party partied. If you want to supercharge your tailgate from the get go, just throw on this puppy and make sure all flammable and glass objects are as far away from you as possible. My favorite part of the album? They have songs for every part of your tailgate: just beginning (“It’s Time to Party”), maintaining the buzz (“Party Hard”) and ending (“Party Til You Puke”).

And finally, as an extra-special bonus…

1A. The Best Lesson We Learned All Year: Introduce Yourself to Your Neighbors

Featured in Top 10 Tips for First-Time Tailgaters

For this lesson, we reach all the way back to the first article of the season. Back then, we were just whetting our proverbial tailgating whistle. But what we didn’t realize was just how strong the tailgating community is. Heck, you could be a Patriots fan visiting the Jets and the Giants and still be welcomed with open arms. Fact is, the tailgaters that do it best recognize that there’s nothing competitive about a good tailgate party. Instead, things are just better when you open your arms to your neighbors, share a cold one and thank heavens that, for at least one day, there’s nothing to worry about but the sun on your shoulders, the dry rub on the meat and whether or not there’s enough ice in the cooler.

So: if you want to have a killer tailgate, invite Pinto Ron, Douche, the San Diego Tailgaters, a taco cart guy from Tijuana and Tron Nation to The Grove to eat barbeque, listen to Andrew WK, and be nice to other people, among other things. And I’ll be there.

That’s all for now, folks. Join us next week as we give you the skinny on tailgating for The Big Game.

Check out more Tailgating Top 10s.

Stop in at the Man Cave Daily, where the women are hot and the beer is cold.

Brian Cullen got a little misty-eyed walking you all through the 2012-2013 season. Follow him on Twitter @bucketcullen.

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