10 Must-Haves for the Ultimate Home Tailgating Experience

David LutherFeatured ColumnistApril 22, 2013

10 Must-Haves for the Ultimate Home Tailgating Experience

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    The best place to be early Saturday is surrounded by friends outside of the stadium back at Dear Old U. The stacked grilled, the stocked cooler and old college buddies all combine to make the college football experience truly something special. But not all of us can get back to campus every Saturday. What then?

    Watching college football at home doesn't have to be a drag. Sure, we'd rather be there in person, but why not turn our home-viewing into a close second? If we take a few simple tips and put them to use, we can transform our living rooms, backyards, driveways and man-caves into the near-perfect college football tailgater.

Must-Have No. 10: The Right Decor

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    When you walk into the tailgating areas on campus, you don't see a bunch of clean, pressed linens on the table, wine glasses and fancy silverware. You see fold-out tables with school logos, plastic forks, Soho cups, tents and flags.

    If you want to tailgate right, you're still going to need all the trappings of that traditional atmosphere. Why not pull out that tailgating tent, set it up in your backyard, put the pregame on the radio, hoist up the colors and make it look like you know what you're doing?

    Have trouble getting your decorating started? You can always get the ball rolling with a Fathead.

Must-Have No. 9: Appropriate Fare

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    There are plenty of examples of pretty elaborate tailgating menus from around the nation.

    LSU fans love their gumbo, Wisconsinites have a way with brats. Heck, you can even find new and exciting recipes to try each and every week.

    But no matter what you decide to make for your non-tailgating tailgate party, there's always one constant when it comes to food: you must be able to prepare it outside.

    Anything that requires hours in the oven right before serving is a no go. Similarly, anything that requires massive amounts of appliance-intensive preparation should also be left off the menu. The simpler, the better.

    Just remember, simple doesn't mean bland.

Must-Have No. 8: Charcoal

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    One of the best things about tailgating is the ability to cook your own food the way you like it cooked. All over America you can find unending recipes for essentially the same dish, yet each variety has its own style. Why not bring your own unique style of cooking to your unique tailgater?

    Grills come in all shapes and sizes, and you can get grills that use all manner of fuels. But for that true tailgate flavor, charcoal is the way to go. There's just something about food cooked over charcoal rather than a propane flame. The smell, the flavor simply say “football,” and since we're tailgating at home, we need to bring all the football we can to our tailgater.

Must-Have No. 7: School Spirit

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    While walking around your house on an average Saturday, you're probably not out to attract too much attention with your clothing. But this isn't an average Saturday, and today has to be all about school spirit.

    If you were walking around campus on Saturday, would everyone tailgating be wearing jeans and a sweatshirt? Heck, no! If you really want to bring the tailgating experience to your neighborhood, you have to dress the part, too! Jerseys, construction hard hats, school color wigs, dyed facial hair, whatever. It's up to you, and it's your job to really sell your home-brew tailgater as the next best thing to being there.

Must-Have No. 6: Tunes

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    There isn't a single tailgate lot anywhere in the nation that isn't thick with the tones of Americana. The genre of music may change depending on exactly where you're tailgating, but you can rest assured that there will be no shortage of rock, country, jazz, hip-hop or pop—and likely all of them together—on every college campus come Saturday afternoon.

    If you really want to replicate the feel of a classic college tailgate party at home, you're going to need to fill the air with more than smoke from the grill. Thankfully, outdoor music is a lot easier these days than it used to be. With outdoor speakers like those available from Brookstone, taking the music outside is as easy as plugging in your iPod and carrying the speaker with you.

Must-Have No. 5: Tailgate Talent

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    Tailgating hasn't just inspired some great food over the years. Activities and games are the new wave of tailgating, and lucky for you, there are plenty of tailgating games you can pluck right from the parking lots and drop right in your own backyard.

    From flag football to ladderball to beer pong, there's nothing better than a little physical contest to get the competitive juices flowing before game time.

Must-Have No. 4: Some Bros (or Gals)

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    No one likes to party alone. Can that even be called a party?

    We're throwing a tailgater, so engraved invitations probably aren't a necessity here, but it pays to give the guys a little heads-up a week or so in advance. If it's a particularly big game, the gang will probably be in search of a place to gather anyhow, so why not take the opportunity to showcase your budding home tailgating skills?

    Plan ahead, make some calls, shoot off some emails, and your home tailgate party is sure to be as crowded as any tailgate lot come Saturday.

Must-Have No. 3: Some Brews

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    Tailgating without beer is like playing football without touchdowns: you can win, but it feels somewhat less than satisfying. That's why you need to make sure the cooler—or in this case, the fridge—is well stocked with an assortment of beer. Not everyone has the same taste when it comes to the suds, but if you keep a few well-known stand-by brands on hand, you should be okay.

    Bud Light, Labatt Blue, Dos Equis, Miller and Coors are all great beers to have on hand, but for a distinctly local flavor, try finding your local microbrewery. Even better, order some specialty beer from a local brewer from your college town.

Must-Have No. 2: A Little Something from the Top Shelf

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    There is one great benefit of having this exclusive tailgater away from the bustling crowds of campus on football Saturdays. When breaking out the “good stuff” in tailgating areas in and around campus, you usually find that you suddenly have way more friends than you remember.

    Cracking open a bottle of top-shelf liquor usually means you can kiss every last drop good-bye within minutes, and you're lucky if you even get a taste yourself. Not so at your little private non-tailgating tailgater we have set up.

    One of the world's top brands, Johnnie Walker, has just announced that the Double Black Label has been added to its permanent lineup.

    With the availability of this rich, high-quality scotch whiskey on a permanent basis going forward, there's no reason any well-stocked tailgate party—either at home or on campus—shouldn't come complete with the top-shelf stuff.

Must-Have No. 1: The Game

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    What would tailgating be if there's no football afterward? A prime spot to watch the game is a must, and with larger and larger flat-screen televisions hitting the market at cheaper and cheaper prices, there's absolutely no reason you and your buddies can't have a front-row experience from the comfort of your very own man cave.

    The best thing about catching the game at home after a private tailgate party? No lines at the bathroom and free refills on your Johnnie Walker!