I recently had the opportunity to go on CFRB 1010AM and talk with Ed Prutschi and Barb DiGiulio about tailgating. You can hear me about half way through the recording if you’re so inclined. In preparation for my discussion on-air it gave me a chance to reflect on the 25+ years of tailgating I’ve been doing in various NFL stadiums around the US. Over the years I’ve fired up the grill in Atlanta, Nashville, New York, Pttsburgh, Buffalo, Chicago, Green Bay, Detroit, Washington and Cleveland! Sometimes for a car full for 3 or 4 guys but sometimes for dozens of revelers in giant sponsored BBQ events. If you’ve never been to an NFL tailgate it’s really something to behold. Fans arrive hours (4+ hours!) before game time to crack open a beer, light the grill, toss a ball and just a great all-around time with like-minded fans of both teams. So what wisdom can I bestow on you if you’re looking to take in an NFL game and get the full experience?
- Do Your Research – not all NFL stadiums were created equal. I’ve found there are a few variables that really make a difference when it comes to a good tailgate. If the stadium is in the middle of a big downtown core with sporadic parking it’s tough to get a good tailgate going. Tailgating is about sharing the experience with hundreds of other fans. If you’re in a downtown parking lot between two office buildings you’re probably not going to maximize that experience. The best stadiums have wide open parking lots around the stadium that serve the purpose way better. Stadiums like those in Buffalo and Green Bay are great examples of perfect tailgate lots. Do a little research ahead of time. You may have to pay a little more (or sometimes less) to get into the best tailgate lots, but it’s totally worth it!. Secondly, if the team you go to watch is in a working class city where fans work hard all week but play hard on Sunday – again, you’re in good company. The rust belt is a perfect way to ensure the fans are hard core and ready to party.
- Prepare, Prepare, Prepare – make sure you think through everything you’ll need. Bring all of your food and beverages with you. Bring all of the grills, tents, chairs, utensils, football, and make sure you prepare for the elements. The last thing you want to do is have the weather ruin your day. prepare for warm, cold, rain, snow and everything in between.
- Pimp Your Ride – Obviously your vehicle has to be big enough to fit your crew and your gear, but a big part of tailgating is the journey to and from the game. I’ll often rent a vehicle to ensure I maximize that part of the journey. One of my favourites to rent is the Toyota Highlander. The 2016 and 2017 versions allow multiple phones to simultaneously connect to the bluetooth system and switching between them is super easy. That means whether you want to have a spontaneous sing along to Chicago 17 (I plead the 5th whether this happened on a recent road trip) or listen to comedy clips on youtube it’s easy to swap between devices hooked into the stereo system. It also has a bird’s eye view monitor which will ensure you’ve got your vehicle in the perfect parking position to ensure you can get easy access to all of your tailgate gear. This vehicle was just meant for road trips like this.
- Go Big Or Go Home – You want to have a good time at a tailgate party. Sure hot dogs and burgers will do… but you are going to make a lot more friends if you dream big! Stop at the butcher and get a little creative. Giant slabs of ribs, turkey legs etc. do nicely. Borrow a giant grill or your buddy’s rotisserie. The more impressive your spread, the more attention you’ll garner and the more friends you’ll make. Suddenly your tailgate is the life of the party. Do it right!