I know it is a bit early to start talking about next year's football season, but some of my friends and I thought it would be important to offer instructional help on one of the most important aspects of football season, tailgating. I spoke earlier about stealing tailgate spots, but my friend whiskeyjacket has comprised a set of guidelines to which all Jacket fans should take heed when planning next year's pregame parties. Next year we have some big games at home and away games at some of the best locations (i.e. Clemson), so we as a fan base really need to make sure we do it up right. Enjoy, but take notes if you need to. -yb
The following is in my opinion how to perform a proper southern tailgate. Let me first say that a tailgate is a living thing, it is constantly changing and adapting to what you have seen and what has been done before and worked for you. In any case, there are several important things that must be included in any good tailgate:
1. Necessities: In my opinion, there are things which must be included in every tailgate. They include but are not limited to: a grill, a tent, coolers, tables, chairs, a stereo, and a flagpole.
2. People: Your personal preference will entirely dictate the number of people you wish to include. A more organized tailgate normally has fewer people. I have struggled finding the right number of people to make the tailgate organized and efficient. It seems our tailgates always attract more people than we expect (I suppose this has something to do with having been in a fraternity). Some people will say the more people the merry, but you can still have a great time and experience with a smaller number of friends. In either case, bring as many folding chairs as you can, you should always be able to fill them. Tailgating is a great way to mingle with old friends and to make new ones. Our group sets up shop next to another group of friends and it is always good to talk to people you don't see often.
3. Location: Location is key to any good tailgate. You must choose a spot where you can see and be seen. The more people that walk by, the better. The more people that look in awe at your tailgate, the better. It is also important to tailgate close to other fellow fans, especially at road games. I personally do not enjoy the anxiety of tailgating solely amongst rival fans, as the tension in the air supersedes my ability to have a great experience, which is what it is all about. You should include a tent in your tailgating if you have the room. It gives your tailgate a focal point, and a place for people to gather out of the elements.
4. Food: There are many choices when it comes to food at a tailgate. You don't want to get stuck doing the same thing for every tailgate, and you want something that is both appropriate and enjoyable. For instance, chili is a great tailgate choice, it can be made the night before and heated easily, but it should not be brought to your tailgate in August or September. It will be enjoyed much more when the weather is cold. Look for other things besides hamburgers and hot dogs. Although this is a good choice occasionally, it is pretty standard and your "ideal" tailgate is better than standard. There are plenty of options out there, including beer-can chicken, brats, shrimp, and ribs. If anyone you know has a turkey fryer and knows how to use it, this is an excellent choice for tailgating. you can prepare a myriad of foods quickly and easily. There are plenty of books and websites devoted to recipes. If you don't feel like preparing food at every tailgate you've still got some good options. A tray from subway or blimpie will do fine, as will fried chicken. [Note from Yellowblazer's fiancee Elizabeth: unless a hurricane destroys your house the night before the game, buying the main course for a tailgate from a fast-food restaurant should be seen as a last resort. Good tailgates require prior planning and nothing says "thrown together" like a sandwich tray or a chicken tenders platter. If this does become your main course, it then becomes necessary to bring dishes from home and take the food out of the store provided container to at least make it look presentable. It also helps if you triple the amount of homemade side dishes and desserts. If you and your tailgating friends cannot plan a tailgate far enough in advance to allow time to make homecooked food, your tailgate will probably be lacking in other areas besides the meal.] Another important part of the food for a Saturday soiree is the side dishes. You don't want to be stuck offering only meats and their accompanying buns to your participants. Any number of sides will work for a tailgate, you should just be creative. One thing that I have found goes over well is having a theme to your tailgate's food offerings. for instance, when playing Virginia Tech, why not fry a turkey (hokie = castrated turkey). Some themes are easier to come up with (Hurricane Party) than others (what do you do for Wake Forest?) but if the core group of your tailgate participants will sit down and brainstorm, it is not normally hard (especially if you also invite at least one woman) to come up with a main course, a featured beverage, and a few key side dishes. Be creative with your side dishes, as they can make or break the meal. Anything you prepare the night before can be re-heated on a grill. I think it is very important not to try something for the first time at a tailgate. Chances are you will be feeding too many people for there to be any room for error. It is also important to bring more food than you think you will use. Leftovers always find their way to unanticipated tailgate friends and family. Don't forget to bring the tables, plates, napkins, condiments, and utensils. [Note from Elizabeth: Try and make this stuff conform to the white and yellow color scheme if possible.] If people at your tailgate start eating potato salad with their hands, things will get messy.
5. Drinks: Your tailgating drinks can be included in your theme (i.e. hurricanes when we play Miami or devil's punch when Duke rolls in to town). This, along with changing the food will keep up the excitement week in and week out for those members of your group that may enjoy feeding people more than seeing them play football (women). Other than that, the standard drink offerings at my tailgates are bourbon and beer.
6. Attire: this is often overlooked by most tailgating groups, but it is a good way to distinguish yourself as a superior clan. Everyone must wear their team's colors, not the accent colors like navy that might be easier to wear. There not much difference between "old gold" and yellow, and most true fans will appreciate it if you go the extra mile and sport the "old gold" instead of "citron". That being said, all yellows are better than no yellow at a GT game. Jerseys are never acceptable to wear to a tailgate and football game. You are not in elementary school and you do not go to Miami or Southern Cal. Those are not southern schools, so act like a gentleman and dress accordingly. The ideal outfit includes khakis and team-colored polo style shirt for men. Women can get away with most anything and most women will conform their level of dressiness to that of their male counterpart, so guys, the onus is on you. [YB's note: The one thing we see over and over again is women trying to pass off colors other than gold and yellow as team colors. Ladies, beige is not a team color. Sandstone is not acceptable on the Flats. Blue might bring out your eyes but we are not from North Carolina. Fellas, let your lady friend go out and splurge on a few crucial yellow or gold pieces for the game. It will be well worth it in the long run.] The older you are, the more important this rule becomes. There is nothing worse than a 60 year old, well respected alumnus who shows up wearing a fanny pack and tevas. If you have children, dress them in the team's colors. If you have a dog, do not put a shirt on him, never do that. Ever.
7. Other Things: A flagpole is a great way to demand respect from all who pass by. A telescoping flagpole can hold several flags, and can easily pack in the trunk of a car. Upon this flagpole you must fly your teams flags, that is not an option. A stereo is important to listen to pre-game analysis, other games that may be going on, or music. The music should be proper southern tailgating music including The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Alabama, and any other southern rock or manly country (that means no Keith Urban or Rascal Flatts) bands of which you are aware. Jerry Reed's "Amos Moses" is a classic and all who are not aware of this fine song should immediately purchase "The Essential Jerry Reed", a great album. Your discussion at your tailgate is entirely up to you, but should always include your own analysis of the teams playing and your team's chances. You may and should revert to discussing the old glory days often. Again, it is important to change your tailgate from week to week. If you tried a new food that didn't work out, learn from your mistake. It is also important to include as many people as will commit in the planning of a tailgate so that they can help cover some of the costs and provide ideas. This will also keep you from forgetting anything important. If you want to have a proper southern tailgate, follow some of my advice. If you want to have a proper miami hurricane tailgate do the following: wear a jersey, jean shorts, and sketchers with your black socks pulled up as high as they'll go, listen to marc anthony, gel your hair, drink your coronas (they are for the beach, not tailgating), eat your fish tacos, grow out a nasty moustache, and talk down to women.