Tailgating Dos and Don'ts: A Guide to Game Day Etiquette

Adam KramerNational College Football Lead WriterAugust 17, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 12: Penn State fans drink at a tailgate party outside Beaver Stadium before the start of the NCAA football game between Penn State and Nebraska in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal on November 12, 2011 in State College, Pennsylvania.  Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno was fired amid allegations that former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was involved with child sex abuse. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Mario Tama/Getty Images

I have seen the very worst of game day. 

I have filed a missing persons report (don’t worry, we found him eventually), rode on the back of a John Deere with a friend who shattered his ankle on a bully cooler and been on the wrong end of more than a handful of “learning experiences.”

My trials and tribulations at the tailgate have taught me quite a bit about myself and this joyous day we flock to like deranged lemmings every fall. 

The combination of alcohol, meat and camaraderie on a college campus is on a platform by itself. You can see it, taste it, feel it and smell it. Oh, that smell.

I can’t explain what tailgating means to you—that’s a personal matter—but I can pass along some friendly advice to help you maximize those epic Saturday mornings. That time is almost here, my friends. College football is nearly upon us once again, and this is the year you do it right.

As you manicure your grills, reassemble your tents and ready your supplies for another season, take note of the following Dos and Don’ts.


DO charge your cellphone or bring extra batteries. At some point in the day you’re going to want to know the score to that Duke-Memphis game (which is very real), and you’re not going to want anyone else to know that you actually care about this game. For concealment purposes, stay charged.

DON’T do anything involving body paint. I get it. You’re trying to show support in every possible way, but there are better ways. You will likely be very sweaty at times, which could get incredibly sloppy. In the hundreds of thousands of body paint vs. sweat battles over the past 50 years, sweat remains undefeated. On that note…

DO bring a sweat towel. This is more for you fine SEC fans, although even we Big Ten peps will need to towel down through some weekends in October. It can be a shirt, an oversized washcloth or even a full beach towel. Large men sweat outdoors; you can’t fight science.

DON’T, under any circumstances, “ice” any bros. “Icing Bros” had a lifespan of about 90 days, although try telling this to the guy who just put one in that bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. Please, just don’t do this. Go show random girls your tribal armband instead.

DO expect collateral damage. Something will break, people will get lost or drink way too much too early, and things will not go as planned. Be ready to ditch the blueprint. Don’t let one’s unfortunate decisions impact the marathon. Also, if things REALLY go astray, just increase your intake.

DON’T be sloppy with your music prep. Some of the songs deep down on your iPod are terrible, and they should never, ever work their way into your “ROLL TIDE 2012 GAME DAY MIX Y’ALL” playlist. Also, only one dubstep song an hour. Rules are rules.

DO bring enough chairs. Sitting on a 30-pack of Busch Light for more than four hours will do horrible things to your insides and dramatically decrease your probability of reproducing. Plus, sitting on 15 or so beers by mid-afternoon will be incredibly uncomfortable.

DON’T be the “let’s turn this game of catch into a game of throwing a football hundreds of feet” guy. This man hits cars, children and tables and doesn’t care about his surroundings. I’m all for a casual toss if my left hand’s firmly around a koozie, but please take your Tommy Rees, glory-day-lovin’ ways elsewhere.

DO smell any potent cocktail someone decides to hand you, especially if it’s in a Solo cup or a strange glass jar. Whatever it is, there’s a good chance it’ll smell awful and it will likely cause your nose to faint. If the group is watching at you intently before you take it, ready yourself for that long burn downwards. Don’t turn anything down, though. That’s rude.

DON’T go light on sauces, dips or condiments. A lot of this will depend on what you’re packing for that particular Saturday, but this is not the time to go cheap. If anything, up the ante and make sure that mooch in the group doesn’t consume it in one serving.

DO watch the early intake. I’ve seen expert tailgaters succumb to magnificent night game settings, especially early on in the year. There are no preseason tailgate sessions, folks, and while you can argue that there should be, make sure your liver is in “game shape” before you rip off the dial and smash it.

DON’T cook your meat anything beyond “medium.” In fact, even that’s pushing it. This useful tidbit stretches well beyond a parking lot, but the “well done” epidemic is one we must all fight in order to put it to rest. And if you’re wondering if ketchup on steak is recommended, well, please hit that giant “X” in the top right of your screen and never come back.

DO bring ample ice. You’ll have to carry it and go out of your way to buy it, but don’t go cheap here. The sun can be a tailgate’s worst enemy, especially for you fine SEC folks. Like Abraham Lincoln once wisely said, “Warm beer really, really sucks.” Amen, Mr. President.

DON’T be late. Someone will be straggling or hung over in your group while someone else (perhaps that same person) will want McDonald’s drive-thru. An Egg McMuffin or three and a few hash brown chasers does make a solid base. Plan to be late and you won’t be.

DO embrace the wonders of caffeine. Coffee, energy drink or some strange, all-natural hipster concoction will go a long way in getting you in the proper state of mind. Embrace this wonderful drug and prepare for more of it early and late in the afternoon. It never disappoints.

DON’T Be the “I Count All My Beers” Guy. Everybody knows ‘em, and this gentleman will keep a stack of Busch Light cans off in corner just so he knows HE DID THAT. He’ll likely stop after SEVEN or so and move on to forcing strangers into taking shots, but make no mistake about it. This guy is awful.

DO stay on top of bathroom awareness. This can include a group of trees, a Porta Potty, an actual bathroom (if you’re lucky) or a strategically placed car door. Watch out for bike cops and plan ahead before it’s too late.

DON’T go shirtless, a staple feature in this series. Bros don’t let other bros take their shirts off at a tailgate.

DO enjoy yourselves. The season will go by far too quickly, and every Saturday is one worth celebrating. I have no doubts that you will.