As the summer turns to fall, and we countdown to FSU's season, the planning period begins for an equally important event: the tailgate. As someone who has spent years in various tailgates for both college and the NFL, I have been able to amass a set of commandments designed for ultimate tailgate success.
Please keep in mind, not everyone will be able to follow these commandments, for one reason or another, and in today’s financial situations, it’s understandable. However, if you follow as many as possible, your tailgate will quickly gain fame as one of the top tailgates in your section.
Commandment 1: Thou Shalt Have A Big Enough Vehicle
Granted, SUVs are gas guzzlers and expensive. Therefore, if this commandment cannot be met, but multiple people can use small cars to meet the same objective, then you are in the clear. The main purpose of this commandment is so your tailgate can have all of the necessary items, without risk of forgetting anything. A truly successful tailgate has items such as tables, chairs, television, tents for shade, coolers, the food and drinks, and of course, the grill. Having all these items, and more as you see fit, guarantees a proper tailgate setup and is a crucial element in a successful tailgate.
Again, if you can do this with multiple smaller cars, then you still meet the essential needs of the commandment. Working together with friends is important, which leads to the next commandment.
Commandment 2: Thou Shalt Share The Grilling Duties
Some people can’t bring a grill, and choose to bring in trays of food from their local grocery store. That is an acceptable replacement for this commandment. However, nothing says tailgate like a fired up grill with some burgers and dogs. I’ve seen tailgates go further, with chicken, steak, kabobs, the list is endless! A truly successful tailgate has great food, and nothing says great food like some BBQ. However, the responsibilities of cooking are an important, time honored task, that should not be taken lightly. But don’t let one person be stuck working the grill for two or three hours. Share the responsibility among your best grillers (they’ll know who they are). This gives everyone who wants to cook a chance, and lets everyone have ample time to mingle without being behind a grill.
Commandment 3: Thou Shalt Bring Enough Food and Drink
Nothing ruins a good tailgate like running out of food or drink. With stadium concessions already at premium prices, tailgaters need to get their fill before entering the stadium. Following that, with most, if not all stadiums nowhere close to purchasing extra food or drink (some college stadiums will have gas stations nearby). When you run out, you're out of luck. Always make sure you know ahead of time the number of people in your tailgate, and purchase above and beyond what you need, just as a precaution. Besides, if there is extra, you can always post-tailgate while waiting for traffic to dissipate after the game. It’s win-win!
Commandment 4: Thou Shalt Properly Prepare For All Situations
It’s a tailgaters dream that every football game is 75 degrees and sunny with a cool breeze, but face it, that’s an imperfect reality. The beginning of the season can have extremely hot and humid temperatures, while showers and rain storms are always a reality. In the north, as the fall turns to winter, cooler temperatures can quickly chill out a tailgate. Therefore, do your research. A day or two before the game, research the weather. If it’s going to be hot, pack hats, sunglasses, and plenty of tents for shade. If it will be raining, have the tents to keep you dry. As it gets cooler, have blankets and jackets available, and maybe a space heater if possible. A great tailgater is like a boy scout, always prepared.
Commandment 5: Thou Shalt Get There Early
Setting up a tailgate takes time, as does shutting it down, and no one wants a good time to end early. Therefore, getting to your tailgate two to three hours prior to the game gives you enough time to set up (15-20 minutes), enjoy yourselves (hour and a half to two hours), and clean up (15-20 minutes) before making your way to the stadium. Of course, this is adjustable based on how far a trek you must make prior to the game starting. That’s why this commandment goes hand in hand with:
Commandment 6: Thou Shalt Be Willing To Pay For Parking
For season ticket holders and college football boosters, this part is null for you, because where you park is based on where your seats are, what level you are, etc. Basically, that part of the equation is on you. For the rest of society, who maybe attend one or two games, you need to make the most of it. By following the fifth commandment, you’re already at the game early enough that you should be able to find a decent parking spot. However, with a better spot comes a better price. I’ve seen parking prices from $5 to $20, and as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. If this is your one game of the year, go the extra mile, fork over the dough, and watch your tailgate be a success.
Commandment 7: Thou Shalt Keep The Kids Entertained
What kid doesn’t enjoy spending quality time with their family, rooting for the same team as mom and dad? A family day at the stadium can be a great time, but a kid can’t spend the entire two-three hour period eating and sitting around. This is where entertainment plays a crucial piece. A TV is nice, but you’ll have the game on (more on that one later), so what other options are there? Some stadiums offer outside entertainment for kids (be advised, this may cost money, and will most likely force you to leave the tailgate, if you came with other friends and their families). Another option is to bring entertainment with you. A football can be a great form of entertainment. Depending on where you’re located, a small game among the kids can keep them busy for an hour on their own. It really depends on the kids and their age, but don’t forget about them.
Commandment 8: Thou Shalt Have A TV With The Game On
A TV is a crucial piece to the tailgating puzzle. Obviously, if one can’t afford or doesn’t have room to bring a TV, then a radio will suffice. The truly successful tailgates have some form of a television with a game showing. The more extreme ones have multiple televisions with satellite dishes everywhere. Whatever your pleasure (and financial level is), having a TV lets the hardcore fans keep in touch with other interesting games.
Commandment 9: Thou Shalt Not Be Obnoxious
This commandment, and the next one, is important in multiple areas. For this one, obnoxious holds different contexts. When finding a parking spot, park in your area, don’t take up multiple spots and ruin the experience for someone else. If fans from the opposing team walk by, good-natured ribbing can be appropriate at some points, but don’t fire a profanity-laced tirade at them. They have every right to root for their team too. Being a respectful person overall can make the tailgating experience that much more enjoyable for all parties involved.
Commandment 10: Thou Shalt Party Responsibly
Arguably the most important commandment, this one needs to be followed above all. Drink plenty of water so you’re not dehydrated or too inebriated from alcohol. Have a designated driver decided on beforehand, and bring plenty of soda and water for them and others (going back to food and drink). Clean up after yourselves. Most importantly though, have a good time. Tailgating is an enjoyable experience for all, and no one wants to be the idiot that ruined the fun for everyone else.
With football season upon us, take these commandments and go forth, and find success in your tailgating experiences throughout the season.