Tailgating: A Thing the Big 12 Could Learn from the SEC

Eric MariottContributor IAugust 13, 2009

BALTIMORE - SEPTEMBER 23: A tailgater cooks food prior to the start of the NFL game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Arizona Cardinals on September 23, 2007 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. Born and bred into American sporting culture the act of tailgating is a tradition practiced unlike anywhere else in the world. Tailgating by definition is the act of partying or picnicking around a vehicle in a car park prior to the start of a sporting event. At any major sporting event in the United States you will find die hard fans, all settling into car parks surrounding the stadium, hours before the event even begins. Tailgaters, young and old drink, play games, barbeque and party, rain, hail or snow and often in unusual places, just about anywhere it?s possible to park a car and setup a barbeque. What started as a small pre-game picnic held out of the back of a pickup truck has now evolved into a multibillion-dollar business, with participant numbers estimated at over 50 million over the course of a se

I can honestly say the best tailgating I experienced in the middle of Big 12 country was at a Kansas City Chiefs game. 

What?  Who did I offend?  Did I make some Sooner or Longhorn fan upset?  Well…maybe you should be offended.  I have spent several times sampling the tailgating in several places in the Big 12 and the SEC, and the SEC knows how to party. 

Maybe it’s just the location, the socio-economic differences between the regions, but it’s hands down SEC all the way.  Maybe the Big 12 could learn something about college football from the SEC in the eyes of a fan.  Read some of my thoughts below.

I challenge the Big 12 and it’s fans to prove me wrong.  To get there, you have to know some basic rules and how these rules apply to YOUR game, as in YOU the tailgater.  We will start with the absolute basics and work forward.

1.  Understand What to Talk About and What Not to Talk About

Tailgating isn’t the time to discuss why or why not Barack Obama is a good president or why Sarah Palin is or isn’t good for the Republican party.  Leave your political BS home.  This goes specifically with a game in Austin during election year I was at.

This is a time to rally behind your team and enjoy the time with friends and family.  You only get 12 weekends a year to do this, and at least four or five will be away games.  Take a few minutes out of your day to stop talking shop with your co-workers.  They will still be there around the water cooler Monday. 

Also KNOW a little bit about your team.  If your Mizzou Tigers are struggling in the backfield and you are still talking about last year’s crazy and exciting run, you are going to be hurting yourself in the social ladder.

So read the paper, or EVEN better, watch ESPN College Gameday every Saturday and visit a few websites and brush up on your knowledge.  Read the breakdowns and find out the names of some of the players on the other teams.  That information isn’t put out just to take up cyberspace—it’s to be read!

2.  Create and Work a Circuit of Tailgate Tents, but Be Flexible

As you arrive on campus, have a plan on where you are going and who you are going to see.  If your boss has a major tent happening, it’s probably a good idea that you go there first when you aren’t sweaty or drunk.

If that really nice family from church invites you to come, again, probably a good idea to go their first.  Be polite at these functions, as they probably aren’t hardcore college football tents.  These are social tents that are necessary for you to go to that will help you outside of college football. 

After you make the rounds on the softcore stuff, then it’s okay to run over to your best friend’s "compound."  That’s the area that has usually five tents all put together with 40 chairs, two 50 inch+ LCD TVs hooked up to Dish Network with games all over the country on.

Just look to the right and you will see a complete set up with a guy in a custom chef’s jacket cooking up tons of food under the sun for everybody and half a dozen coolers lined up, color coded for different sodas, beers, and water.  That is where you are going to spend the majority of your time and you will use as your base of operations.

Be flexible enough to go visit another tent, be it your son’s little league coach that you didn’t really like, or a consultant that works for your office, or even your spouse’s coworkers.  You never know what will happen or who will pop up but it might bring a great networking opportunity. 

3.  Trash Talk the Visiting Team’s Tent, but Be Friendly Enough in Case They Want to Hang Out

People that travel to other stadiums and tailgate are serious about their football and love to go hang out at other campuses.  They spend money in your school's town, and sometimes they bring food and drink. 

If that guy from Texas A & M comes up to you and wants to have a beer with you even if you are a die hard Jayhawk fan, go for it.  It might come in handy when it’s time to go visit them.  Friendship might help you reserve a spot down there when you visit or help you make contacts for tickets. 

4.  Learn How to Dress

The SEC has the Big 12 and pretty much every other conference beat on this.  Guys, leave the Sooner and Mizzou jerseys home.  Jerseys only look cool on little boys running around with the little black under their eyes on game day.  Ladies…yeah…well the Lane Bryant stretch pants aren’t going to get it done. 

Go to Oxford, Mississippi, or Tuscaloosa, Alabama and you might learn a thing or two.  Granted, not every lady is going to be cut out for the cowgirl boots and sorority dresses that the 20 year olds are wearing, and maybe not every woman is going to be comfortable wearing four inch heels to the game, but the point is don’t just throw anything on before you go to the game.

Some of the Bedlam Series games in the 90’s had some of the poorest dressed fans, which shouldn’t be OU or OSU, as I have seen alum from both schools dress VERY well.  Guys, leave the cut-offs and jean shorts home.  Khaki shorts, nice jeans, khaki trousers, period.  Have some pride. 

5.  Food Selection Is Very Important

One thing I have noticed out of all the Big 12 schools I have visited during games, and I have been to most, is a very boring thing: Hamburgers on the grill.  This doesn’t obviously apply to every tailgating tent, but the reality is that you need to have a staple thing you cook for games or the tailgating season.

The SEC has the best food.  The tailgating isn’t just about burgers and brats, it’s about real barbeque, low country boil, jambalaya, nachos, and the list can go one.  Make that banana cream pie or that chocolate cake, sure, but come to campus ready to cook, eat, and drink.  Use your imagination.  Who knows, maybe everybody WILL like that Po’ Boy recipe that your Aunt Charlene gave you. 

The most important thing about tailgating is having fun, but don’t make it a boring occasion, make it an event, a social happening.  Dress up just a tad and come to campus and enjoy college football…just remember there is no such thing as a cocktail party in the Big 12.

Roll Tide.  Go Pokes.


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