Tailgating 101 for college freshmen

Missouri Girls Tailgating

This week and next, college freshman will be jamming the front offices of dormitories and residence halls filling out paperwork and getting their keys to their first dorm room. A very exciting time in a young man’s and young lady’s life. Amidst the excitement of finally being away from home and making new friends is the anticipation of finally being able to participating in some big time college football tailgating.

A lot of freshman arrive on campus and don’t have cars. They live on campus, walk to the commons for meals, walk to class and Greek row is normally a short walk near campus. Stands to reason college freshman don’t need cars. Since tailgating typically takes place behind a car, there could be a problem brewing. Not true. Not having a car should not discourage those incoming freshman from fully participating in the Saturday ritual and rite of passage known as tailgating.

Most freshman or tailgating novices may be a bit intimidated by tailgating for fear of not knowing how to do it right. This fear can be magnified if they have chosen to attend a big time college football school steeped in tradition that boasts veteran tailgaters with elaborate set ups. But fear not my young freshman tailgaters. We have compiled a useful guide for you to follow that allows you to go tailgating without a car, drops some tailgating etiquette knowledge and basically shows you how to tailgate like a pro without having previously placed a foot in a stadium parking lot prior to arriving on campus.

We will break this Tailgating 101 guide down into two sections; Things you will need, i.e. buy or borrow and Things you will need to know, i.e. like tailgating etiquette and what to look out for.

Things you will need

Tickets – This may seem like a no brainer but you would not believe how easy it to forget these. The reason why you are tailgating in the first place is because a game is going to happen in a few hours. When you are preoccupied with all the other things you will need to remember for tailgating, tickets can be easily forgotten. Put them in your wallet or next to your keys or on top of your cell phone so you have to look at them before walking out the door. If the tickets are balancing on top of your keys you will have to pick them up in order to lock your door before leaving.

…Showing up empty handed is a non-starter and will guarantee you won’t be invited back next week…

Food & Drink – If you are joining a friend’s tailgate, make sure you bring something that contributes to the effort. Tailgating is often misunderstood in that the generosity and open hospitality displayed can be mistaken as an open invitation for anyone and everyone to get free food and drink. Although tailgaters often share food and drinks with their parking space neighbors, notice I said SHARE. That word implies that the tailgating neighbors are exchanging food and drink and not one tailgater is providing everything like the back of his car is a catering truck. Make sure you bring something to throw on the grill even if it is a package of hot dogs. Showing up empty handed is a non-starter and will guarantee you won’t be invited back next week.

Cooler – No matter if you are going to be tailgate hopping or meeting friends at one particular spot, a way to keep things cold is crucial, especially in the warm months of the early football season. If you are going to be joining a friend’s tailgate, a cooler on wheel is extremely helpful especially if you need to walk from the dorms to the tailgate party. When a cooler is full of ice and drinks it can get quite heavy and cumbersome. You don’t want to be overheated and sweaty before you get to the tailgate because you were lugging a full cooler across campus.

Ice – This goes hand in hand with the cooler suggestion but can not be stressed enough. Ice is always something people run low on and nobody wants to leave the tailgate to run to the store for more. When you pack your cooler, don’t pack it to the gills with drinks and food, only leaving room for a few ice cubes to settle into the cracks. Fill your cooler about halfway with food and drink and the other half all the way to the top with ice. Not only will it help keep everything ice cold but will allow for you and others to put a handful in a cup if you aren’t drinking straight from the can or bottle.

Sunscreen/Hat – These early months of tailgating the sun will be out a lot and sunscreen will be literally a lifesaver. Melanoma is not a good look plus if you get a sunburn, the rest of your game day experience will be miserable. Also, don’t be afraid to reapply. An added bonus is that if you bring the tube of sunscreen with you, you have an outstanding excuse to rub it on the shoulders of the cute shirtless guy or girl in the sundress tailgating next to you.

Team colors apparel – You don’t have to go to the team store and buy out everything in your size but you should be sporting the colors of the team you are rooting for. Officially licensed merchandise can be expensive, especially for college students on a tight budget, so you can never go wrong with your favorite pair of jeans or shorts that are a neutral color and even a plain t-shirt in your team’s colors. Just don’t make the rookie mistake of not knowing the acceptable colors or you could end up wearing the colors of the opposing team. That’s a tailgating faux pas you can’t recover from. (Side note: This has nothing to do with tailgating but when choosing your outfit, dress for the body you have and not the body you wished you had… Just saying.)

Folding chair – At some point during the tailgate you will want to take a seat and either enjoy your drink or have something to eat. Laying out your stadium blanket might look like a romantic picnic setting but this is tailgating. More than likely you will be in a asphalt parking lot and sitting on the ground, even if it is on a blanket, is literally a pain in the ass. If you can find tailgating chairs that fold up into a carrying sleeve or have shoulder straps, you can sling your chair over one arm and roll your cooler with wheels with the other and join a friend’s tailgate without being out of breath.

Things you will need to know

Fully charged mobile phone – This item belongs in the category of things you need to know rather than things you need to bring because more than likely you already have a cell phone. The reason for this entry is that you need to make sure your phone is fully charged all the way right up to the point you walk out the door. The reason for this is you will be using your phone probably more than you think while tailgating.  You will be text messaging friends to tell them where they can find you, using your college football scores app to find out the scores of the other teams in your conference, calling your mom and assuring her you are safe and studying hard, etc. All these things will drain your battery in seconds flat. Also keep in mind that even if you are not using your phone that much, your battery will drain quickly just by virtue of where you are going to be. Because everyone has a mobile phone these days and they will all be crammed into a small space, the cell towers on game days get pushed to their limits. Your phone is constantly looking for a cell tower signal and pulling in data for those apps, your email and text messages. Because your phone is competing with all the other phones in a small area the battery tends to wear down faster.

…Many of us get caught up in catching up with new and old friends, talking smack to the visiting team’s fans or even finishing out that best of seven series in guys vs. girls game of Flip Cup…

Set a timer to go into the game – They say “time flies when you are having fun“. Truer words were never spoken when it comes to tailgating. Many of us get caught up in catching up with new and old friends, talking smack to the visiting team’s fans or even finishing out that best of seven series in guys vs. girls game of Flip Cup. It is very easy to lose track of time while tailgating and before you know it, you can hear the public address announcer introducing the starting defensive players. By that time it will be too late to pack up and get through the security check points and be in your seat before kick-off. Don’t forget that the game itself is the main reason you left your dorm room on Saturday.

Offer to help – This also seems like a no brainer for those who were raised with any type of manners, but you would be surprised as to how many people think tailgating is an activity in which they don’t need to be helpful to the host. Ask if the host needs help setting anything up or even better, stick around to help them break things down and put them away. Helping to fold up the pop-up tent or wiping down the table before folding it away will ensure you will be asked to join the party again. Also, by being helpful at the end will aid in your chances of being able to stash your rolling cooler inside your friends car when you go into the game. That sure beats risking leaving it out in the open and exposing it to opportunistic tailgating looters who would drink your unopened beverages or worse, walk off with the whole cooler.

Georgia helmetsDo some research – As a freshman, no one expects you to know the entire history of your new college’s football program but having some basic knowledge will go a long way. Don’t download and memorize the Wikipedia page for your school’s football team but try to learn the basics. Things like knowing who is the head coach, if your team is ranked in the Top 25 and if they won or lost last week will help convey you belong. Nothing too serious but some basic knowledge will help you shake the image of being the “I’m just here for the party” person.

Don’t be ‘The Moocher’ – We may have alluded to this previously but it is the most important one to fully understand and become accepted within the tailgating culture. A tailgating moocher is basically someone who wanders from tailgate party to tailgate party and takes advantage of the tailgating community’s general hospitality and generosity. Showing up with nothing and expecting to be fed and handed drinks all day is what the moocher is all about. And because most tailgaters tend to bring extra food and are in high spirits and their generosity and spirits are running high, they tend to overlook these behaviors. But you don’t want to be that guy that just sponges off of others while tailgating. Bring something to the party and don’t take advantage of others in the parking lot. If you need more examples of this phenomenon, feel free to read our post we did back in 2007 entitled, Don’t Be ‘The Moocher’

That about covers the basics of tailgating for one who is a novice and a truly amateur tailgater. For those of you veteran tailgaters still reading this, feel free to offer up some advice of your own in the comments section. The beauty of this tailgating blog is that our readers tend to bring up experiences and tailgating ideas that we may not have thought of.