<a href="/tag/rochelle-bilow/">By Rochelle Bilow

Those of us who are into tailgating — and we mean really into tailgating — don’t have to think about dedication. Tailgate fans live that pride every day, just like eating, breathing or taking care of your family. And as with any lasting relationship, tailgate fans often experience an “a-ha” moment when it all made sense.

The moment could have come when you were still in diapers on your father’s lap. Maybe it happened when you were 12 years old and allowed a sip of sweet lager nectar. For some, it happens later in life (and no judgment; we all develop at our own rates). Maybe you didn’t have your first real, intense feeling of dedication for the art of the tailgate until college. But no matter when it happens, a few things are for sure: it’s monumental, core-shaking and forever memorable. We spoke with some die-hards about their experiences and came up with the most frequently shared experiences. Here are the moments when many of us knew we were a tailgate fan:

Sonogram of Baby in Womb

Photo Credit: Fred

1. In the Womb

So your mother wasn’t the biggest Syracuse University fan. (And maybe fanaticism isn’t really a trait that can be passed down through DNA). But something clicked for you in your fetus stage. Maybe your father whispered stats to your mom’s belly as it grew. Maybe your tiny, developing brain picked up televised broadcasts as your folks snacked on tortilla chips and hunkered down for the playoffs. Maybe there was a game on during conception (ew; we’re sorry we brought that up). Whatever happened, your love for the game — and your team — is so strong, you’re positive it started before birth.

2. As a Toddler

Now this writer feels a particular fondness for her childhood tailgating years. I didn’t particularly care about her father’s favorite sport (football) or his team (the Buffalo Bills), but I fervently loved the makeshift nachos he’d whip up before settling down. He arranged a few healthy handfuls of tortilla chips on a baking sheet before adorning each and every tortilla with an individual slice of pepper jack cheese. The concept was brilliant: you’d never know the disappointment of grabbing a cheese-less chip. I also vaguely remembers Chevrolet “Like a Rock” commercials and feel my heart swell a little bit bigger every time I recall the tune.

Now, your story and mileage may vary, but if you solidified your love for tailgating as a tot, you get what I’m talking about. There’s something so comforting about being a small child and sharing in the community, food and excitement around a game with your family. That’s a feeling that doesn’t change.

Check out the Top 10 Tailgating Traditions.

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 21: A  three-year-old fan of the Miami Dolphins named Trey tailgates with a wooden football before play against the New England Patriots at Dolphin Stadium on October 21, 2007 in Miami, Florida. The Pats won 49 - 28.

Photo Credit: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

3. In Your Awkward Teenage Years

Friends are far more likely to be the influencers for folks who fell in love with tailgating as teenagers. What high school sophomore wants to spend Sunday afternoon with Dad when friends and warm beer can be had? (Things have changed since; you now welcome your pop’s presence, and the beer is frigid-cold).

Says one tailgate fan: “I’ve been tailgating since I was about 16 years old. I started a tailgating club called ‘Club 24’ in high school for our football team, the War Eagles. We even had a motto: ‘You always score more with club 24’ (24 was the number of our star running back). We’d meet every Friday right after school let out and grill until kickoff time.”

Sir, we salute you.

Check out 5 Reasons Why Tailgating Is a State of Mind.

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 01: Georgia Bulldogs fans cheer as the team warms up before the start of the Bulldogs SEC Championship Game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at the Georgia Dome on December 1, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

4. In College

If you didn’t feel the tailgate love until college, don’t be ashamed. Sometimes late bloomers become the most beautiful snowflakes of all (or something). As one Georgia fan describes his years at his alma mater: “I remember during the games, this 50/60-year-old man would come into our parties because he used to live in off-campus housing. And he was such an awesome guy; he cared so much, that we invited him right in. He brought a friend once, but that guy’s wife told him he couldn’t come anymore after that.”

Why do colleges and universities churn out some of the baddest, best fans there are? It’s the energy. Surrounded by hundreds — or thousands — of like-minded people and lubricated by a little alcohol, you become best friends, comrades and war buddies. There’s a sense of community unlike any other at college sporting events, and those lucky enough to experience it know what’s up.

5. You’re Still Waiting For It…

We’re not really sure how to respond to this one. All we can do is offer support, guidance and encouragement. Are you quite sure you have a heartbeat?

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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