College Football 2012: Reviewing the Dos and Don'ts of Tailgating Before Kickoff
The 2012 college football season doesn't kick off for slightly more than four weeks yet, so it's safe to say we've all gotten a bit rusty when it comes to our ritualized Saturdays.
As a service to the general college football community, we thought it would be prudent to review some of the things we may have forgotten over this long, long offseason that has been filled with far too many heart-wrenching distractions.
So, to help you prepare for the upcoming season, and to help you forget the offseason that will soon come to a long-anticipated close, let's review a few of the dos and don'ts when it comes to one of our favorite autumn pastimes: pregame tailgating!
Do: Remember the Food
You'd be surprised how many times this happens.
It's not so much that we show up without any food, it's that we get our vehicle snuggled into our usual spot, unpack everything, set up the grill, table, chairs, tent and whatnot and get everything going before we start sheepishly looking around for the buns we foolishly left on the kitchen counter at home.
Ever try to eat a freshly-grilled brat without a bun?
If you have, you probably know two things: how un-fun it is, and what it's like to be the idiot that forgot the buns.
Don't: Wing It
Tailgating, like any great, traditional pastime, requires a bit of preparation.
The college star, All-Conference, All-American tailgater knows that you can't just throw everything together last minute and expect to have a great tailgate.
Sure, you might be able to get by with a case of beer and a bag of chips, but absolutely no one will be remembering where your car is parked for the next home game.
The mark of a true tailgating genius is the long lines and huge crowds clamoring for the tiniest morsel of his or her top-notch tailgating fare.
Beer and chips are OK, but it's the guy with the signature purple cocktail in a yellow Solo cup at LSU or the Ann Arbor resident with the crushed Buckeye dessert that gets remembered.
Do: Announce Your Arrival
OK, we're not talking about laying on your horn as you enter the tailgate lot (unless, of course, your horn happens to play the fight song).
But every top tailgating spot usually has some identifiable symbol identifying its location. Whether it's a unique collection of flags, or a unique flag itself, an enormous tent or a giant RV, your tailgating fans need to be able to find your elite tailgating locale.
Don't: Attract Too Much Attention
While we certainly want to attract the best tailgaters to our top-tier tailgating location, we definitely don't want to attract the wrong kind of attention.
We're talking about the local campus constabulary, of course.
Whether you're at the big state school with its own law enforcement department or the small private college with the group of 60-year-old security guards in golf carts, it's best to keep them away from your little soirée.
It's not that we don't appreciate all our campus police/security force does for us. Keeping campus free of human scum is a tough job. But when it comes to tailgaters, the local stand-up “campo” can be a bit of a buzz-kill.
Also keep in mind that cameras are everywhere these days. Almost every cell phone on the market has a built-in camera. Remember: There's a fine line between “history” and “evidence.”
And you definitely don't want to be the next guy to scream out, “Don't taze me, bro!”
Do: Be Possessive
There's nothing worse than setting down a beer for a brief instant and returning to a missing cup—or worse, an empty one.
If you're like Toby Keith and a raving mad fan of the Solo cup, you should also follow the suggestion in his song and write your name on the cup with a Sharpie.
If you opt for the higher-class glassware, make sure yours is sufficiently different from those of your tailgate-mates to ensure some old dude with a Santa Claus beard doesn't dip his whiskers in your favorite refreshment.
Don't: Play Favorites
In no way are we suggesting that you USC and UCLA fans send each other embossed invitations to each other's tailgate.
But when it comes to your compatriots, it's important to remember that you're all cheering for the same team.
If you're proudly wearing your UCLA blue and gold, you should never watch a fellow Bruin shuffle by without an offer of a nice cold one.
Similarly, if you're enjoying your favorite grilled item under the flutter of a flag proudly proclaiming the superiority of the Men of Troy, make sure your fellow Trojans have something with which to toast your team.
And if all else fails, extend a friendly offer to those of your opponent to join you.
Maybe you can convince them that you are the true gods of tailgating, after all.
Do: Bring the Fun
Far too often we wander through tailgating areas to see groups of people sitting in their chairs or in truck beds eating and drinking, but otherwise looking pretty bored and generally miserable.
Granted, those of you taking this refresher course probably aren't among those groups, but they exist nonetheless.
As we near the end of this seminar on tailgating for 2012, we're going to issue an assignment. You are now bestowed with the duty to ensure that every fan of your team that shows up to tailgate this season never forgets the experience; no more bland tailgaters—or tailgate attendees.
We won't put too much emphasis on how you do it. Music, games or even stepping it up a notch on the grill are all valid ways to take your tailgating to the next level.
But whatever you do, make sure it's fun and memorable.
Don't: Spoil It
And we come to our “don't” assignment, and final instruction for your 2012 tailgating experiences.
It's quite simple: Don't spoil it for you, or anyone else.
How do people usually go about spoiling a tailgater?
We've all seen “that guy” who refilled his Solo cup a few too many times, runs through through the lot half naked and winds up bringing the unwanted focus of the powers that be to your little corner of tailgating heaven.
Your assignment here is simple: Don't be “that guy.”
We all enjoy tailgating before the big game, and by following a few simple dos and don'ts, you should be able to make 2012 the most memorable tailgating season on record.
Dust off the tailgate equipment, clean off the grill and get your shopping lists made; Week 1 will be here before you know it!