It’s hard to say exactly when the tailgate party became such a part of sports. You could probably argue that the first tailgate party happened in Neanderthal times when two cavemen were having a spear-throwing competition and one of them hit a mammoth. The cheering fans carved up the mammoth and ate it while waiting for the next round of the competition to begin, all the while singing great fight songs like “Uggh” and “Braaahaha.”
It’s interesting to note that the definition of a tailgate party has broadened considerably over the years. For instance, you no longer need a sporting event – you can have a tailgate party at a concert, a “Black Friday” sale, or a visit to the orthodontist, if it’s a really good orthodontist.
And you don’t need a grill anymore, either. Technically, opening up that bucket of KFC in the back of your truck puts you safely at number 1,374,286 on the waiting list for the Tailgating Hall of Fame.
With all the changes to tailgating over the years, you really do need to step up your game if you want your tailgate party to be remembered. With that in mind, here are some ideas to make your tailgate party a bit more fun and memorable:
#1: The Chef
If you can get Emeril Legasse to cook at your tailgate, you’re golden. If not, you can at least look the part. If you have a proper apron and a legitimate chef’s hat on, people are going to be a lot more interested in what you’re slinging from the grill than they would if you’re wearing a greasy Packers jersey and a mud-stained John Deere cap. You don’t want to dress identically to your wife or mother anyway.
#2: Unique Food
Everybody in the parking lot will have ribs, chicken, hamburgers, and hot dogs. If you want to stand out, break out the fajitas, crawfish, or maybe roasted mammoth. You can still cook the standards, but throw something odd on the grill, too, just to get people’s attention.
Do not, under any circumstances, trust the radio to provide your tailgate music. Similarly, avoid putting on the sports talk radio station before the game. Break out your MP3 player or your best party music CDs, and let the party rock.
#4: Control the Drinking
Nobody is expecting you to have a bunch of teetotalers at your tailgate party, but if your group is on its fourth bottle of tequila before kickoff, it’s not going to be a good day for anybody. Beer and wine served sparingly will work just fine.
#5: Color Coordinate
Make sure your team’s colors are easily visible so you don’t have enemy fans coming in and mooching your food. You don’t have to paint your truck in team colors if you don’t want to, but you should at least dye your kids’ hair.
#6: The Tailgate-Specific Vehicle
The Denver Broncos have the blue and orange party bus, the University of South Carolina has train cabooses: Are you sure you want to unpack your tailgate from a gray 2006 Volvo? RVs, trucks, and SUVs are preferable, but the ultimate situation is when you can have a dedicated tailgate vehicle, like an old truck or bus, that you can deck out in the team colors and roll to the stadium on game day.
There’s an old adage in sports: “How you practice is how you play.” Don’t spend $500 on food and grilling supplies for the big game if you’ve never cooked with this particular grill before or if you’ve never been to a tailgate party. Throw a mini tailgate party in your driveway to learn the limitations of your equipment and how to manage the space in and around your vehicle more effectively.
If you want to attract people to your tailgate or even get it on the ESPN pre-game coverage, cheerleaders are your best bet. You don’t need a full squad, but two or three women giving cheers in the team colors will have all eyes on your tailgate. Or maybe, theirs.
#9: The Non-Sporting Tailgate
The theory behind the creation of the tailgate wasn’t just to show team spirit – it was also to give you a chance to fill up on relatively cheap food and beer before you go into the stadium where you will need a second mortgage to buy a bag of peanuts. With this in mind, why not tailgate at other expensive venues like amusement parks or museums?
#10: The After Party
A lot of people really kind of miss the boat by partying before the game. Throwing a tailgate party before the game just means that you’ll be forced to get to the game two hours early and you may be all partied out before the event even begins.
If you save your tailgate party until afterward, you can be chowing down and rocking out while everybody else sits in gridlock trying to get out of the parking lot. Tailgating is a great way to get together with friends to eat, drink, and celebrate your favorite sport, or even a sport of which you’re just kind of vaguely aware. If you use the ideas listed, you can make your tailgate party fun and memorable for everybody who comes to it.