There are three things that will always make me happy: inhaling barbecued food, drinking large quantities of beer and watching football. Each of these activities by themselves will put a smile on most any guy's face.
Put the three together? Well then, you have yourself a tailgate. And tailgating, my friends, is one of God's finest creations.
So here are 10 ways for you to become a top-notch tailgater, a king among mere mortals.
No-brainer, right? But too many people go into these weekends hoping to save a few bucks and decide to shave that out of the beer funds. This is by far the last thing that should be touched. I'd rather re-mortgage.
Nobody has ever left a tailgate saying, "Damn, they just had way too much beer, the nerve." If it's freezing cold, the beer is clutch. If it's a nice spring day, nothing like some cold beer. This is the one day every couple of weeks you can totally let loose and be awesome, so don't short change yourself on the adult sodas.
2. Large quantities of really good food.
Again, simple concept. But this is a vital aspect of a tailgate's success. You need steak, burgers, dogs, random types of tips, nacho with crazy dip, maybe some chicken parm and some pasta. Stay away from vegetables, sushi, or pretty much anything that you'd eat if you were on a diet. That's what weekdays are for.
It's sure nice to have variety of foods represented. If your friend has a girlfriend who can make a gourmet lasagna, she's invited. And make sure, without fail, there is one person dedicated to manning the grill who is extremely talented at this culinary art. Too many tailgates are ruined by chefs who go rogue while amateurs are left to butcher the meals.
3. Make friends with someone who has an awesome tent set up with a huge pickup truck.
Everyone needs this guy. Such ample space for everything you need, a portable party. A shelter always makes it feel a little more like home and can be a god send when mother nature decides to crash the party.
You don't need a flat screen or anything overly fancy. A 1995 17-inch Panasonic, but if it gets the games that are playing while your tailgating, it might as well be an IMAX. You don't realize how good it is to have a television at a tailgate until you bring one, and you won't want to do another tailgate without sweet basic cable.
5. Make sure everyone brings something to the tailgate—for it's a luxury, not a right.
Some preferred gifts: Designated Driving/Chef, marinated steak tips, 30 pack of anything better than Keystone, a stripper (warm weather games only for insurance reasons).
The point is, if everyone collaborates, you can have the best of every world. Don't be like the guy who, for the Yankee swap last Christmas, thought a fair gift would be a re-gifted board game. Bring something that makes your friends say, "Good call," and your job is done.
6. Drinking Games.
NFL tailgates are a competitive atmosphere already, why not throw in some beer pong, flip cup or a game called corn-holing? No, it's not a porn move, it's the game where you toss a bean bag at the hole of a wooden box. This website does a better job of not sounding risque: http://www.collegebeergames.com/cornhole-game.php. Fantastic game.
No matter what the age, competitive drinking should be something every person looks forward to. I've judged many of my college friendships based on how good they were at drinking games. Before I started dating my current girlfriend, we won a mixed doubles beer pong tournament together, and I can assure you it was a major factor.
7. The group is only as good as its weakest link.
Make sure everyone at the tailgate is someone you'd back up in a fight or at the very least, would engage in conversation. To be safe, keep the group to being fans of your team.
You never know what kind of emotional state you'll be in after 12 hours of partying followed by an epic loss of the team you worship. After the 2003 Red Sox loss in the Aaron Boone game, one wrong comment by a New York fan could have landed me the starring role on the next season of Law and Order.
8. Two very large friends.
If you abide by rules one through seven, rule eight becomes very important. A great tailgate garners a lot of attention, both good and bad. Rival tailgates will want to stir the pot on occasion and talk smack.
If you have behemoths holding down the fort, a vicious cock fight is less likely to occur and you and your friends won't have to keep your heads on a swivel. Also, I've been friends with some offensive linemen in my day, and it truly is a sight to watch anyone throw back dozens of beers.
Eat a lot, but don't eat so much that you wind up subletting one of the port-a-potties. Get drunk, but don't get so drunk that you fall asleep onto the 10 year old at his first NFL game.
Don't make any of your friends have to stop watching the game to babysit you. Get the kind of drunk you would if you were the best man at a wedding. Not so drunk that you can't get through the speech, but drunk enough to make the groom second guess asking you.
10. Plan B.
If you're like me, the Utopian tailgate can seem like a myth that can be unattainable. To put on a truly magnificent tailgate, you've got to be ready to drop some cash and you need a dedicated group of friends to shoulder the burden. Plan B is a more frugal approach. All you have to do is to take the train to the stadium and crash the tailgate that is adhering to rules one through nine.