5 Reasons Why Tailgating Is a State of Mind

By Rochelle Bilow

Who says tailgating is relegated to the parking lots of America? Surely not us over here at Tailgate Fan. Tailgating is all about good food, genuine atmosphere and an awesome, slightly boozy time with friends. Here, we dive into five totally legitimate reasons to tailgate in a stadium parking lot in September, in your living room in May or, you know, wherever else.

1. It’s all about good food — and good food can happen anywhere.

Given their druthers, sure, tailgate fans would prefer to party it up in the parking lot of their favorite stadium with fat, juicy burgers sizzling away over charcoal. But sometimes, that’s just not a possibility. Nathan, a University of Georgia fan explains: “Ideally, you have a grill. But if that can’t happen, just get it catered. We’re not having people serve us or anything; it’s just a buttload of good food.”

Kelly, a Syracuse University fan, explains that hot dogs and hamburgers are a must, but that soups and chili in the colder weather are also acceptable options. Jonathan, a chef and Seattle Seahawks and Washington State Cougars fan, has a stringent requirement: it’s gotta be grilled, meaty and fatty. He’s partial to brats with grilled onions, spicy mustard and a seven-layer dip outfitted with Doritos Scoops.

Sure, these are all specific requests, but they can definitely be accommodated no matter where you find yourself on game day. Just to be safe, we at Tailgate fan recommend traveling with that extra bag of Doritios… just in case.

Get some great recipes for your next tailgate.

2. Alcohol makes it okay

Couldn’t make it to the game? Tailgating in an unknown city — or country? It’s cool, so long as you have alcohol. Nathan, the Georgia fan, recalls a game day while living in Germany. “I woke up, cracked a beer at 8:30, and everyone wanted to know what I was doing. Apparently there’s not tailgating in Germany, and I thought ‘Well, that sucks.’ But I made it work. It was tradition.” (Perhaps the proliferation of German sausages helped). He also admits to a certain sense of nostalgia when visiting his alma mater and seeing “coolers and coolers and coolers” of beer being unpacked.

Ray, a Buffalo Bills fan, makes sure he has all his bases covered with “booze from all three major food groups.” Jonathan, the chef, isn’t as picky, requiring “alcohol of some type,” and Nathan even admits to passing around a bottle of Jim Beam with “random 60-year-old guys.”

Check out the Top 10 Tailgating Beers.

Georgia Bulldogs tailgating

Photo Credit: Nathan Stuck

3. If there’s good energy, the location doesn’t matter

This one’s important. Ray takes an extremist view, claiming that “You can tailgate anywhere the need arises! You [don’t] even need a sporting event to do so!”

Jonathan’s more of a purist, though he does admit that he doesn’t always make it to the game on account of the high price of NFL tickets. But in fact, he thinks the atmosphere at a tailgate is the what makes it all worthwhile: “[The energy is the best part] even when it’s with competing fans around.  You learn to love the people you will hate in just a few hours.”

Nathan’s experience reiterates this mentality. When he lived in Vegas, he and his friends purchased tons of tickets for Arizona State games on account of their more affordable prices. “By the end of the season, Arizona hated us, but we Georgia fans traveled well.” They even somehow stumbled upon a homemade double-decker party bus outside a bar and made fast friends with the owners.

Preview the Best College Football Tailgates of the upcoming season.

Georgia Bulldogs tailgating

Photo Credit: Nathan Stuck

4. Tradition isn’t space-specific

Anyone who really loves tailgating really loves tradition. And tradition is more about the ritual than it is a specific place. Nathan explains that, as a student at the University of Georgia, he and his friends would dress up for games. “Dress shirt and tie. You don’t have to wear a tuxedo, but make an effort not to look like a complete slob.” When asked about jerseys, he hesitates. “Even now, it just doesn’t feel right not to look nice.” (When prompted further, he went so far to admit that the Southern tailgating tradition of women dressing up was so appealing that he ultimately chose to attend the University of Georgia. “They just looked so nice,” he recalls with a sigh).

Check out the Top 10 Tailgating Traditions.

5. The most necessary tailgating equipment is portable

Flip cup? Beer pong? Touch football? All totally necessary tailgating games, and all 100 percent portable. Unlike some sports culture with cult-like fanaticism (we’re looking at you, bowling), the must-haves can be packed up and transported wherever your dedication may take you.

Nathan concedes that a playlist tops his list for “gotta-have-its”, but with iPods, tiny speakers that pack a powerful punch and even the odd jukebox, there’s never a worry that you’ll be without your anthem (for the record, for him, it’s “You Never Even Called Me by My Name” by David Allen Coe).

Can’t actually make it to the game? No big. Bars have plenty of TVs, and the dudes the next tent over probably have one, too. Toss ‘em a couple of bucks for a beer and pull up a chair. You’re in.

Get the gear you need for your next tailgate.

… When it all boils down to brass tacks, tailgating isn’t about the food, the ambiance or even that first icy cold beer. As Kelly puts it: “The best part is spending time with family and friends, getting pumped up and talking about the game.”

Get your gear for football season.

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

Rochelle Bilow is a food and wine writer who cooks with lard. To read more of her meandering thoughts on eating and drinking, visit her website at rochellebilow.com or follow her on Twitter @RochelleBilow.


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