The Tailgating Gent

Football season has finally arrived, the long awaited return of the United States’ true pastime is here! Cue the impromptu trips to the bars on Thursday nights with the guys to watch the game and waking up extra early on Saturday’s to participate the holy grail of collegiate athletic celebrations: tailgating.

At first glance, being a gentleman and attending a tailgate seem like not great bedfellows. This is why we are delving into the subject of how to be a gentleman while taking part in some of the best outdoor parties known to man.

A tradition that is believed to have origins in 18th century France (surrounding the beheadings of the day), tailgating started its more American roots in 1861 at the battle of Bull Run where civilian spectators brought food and wine to watch the battle. Leave it the U.S. to turn a terrifying battle with with death and most likely some dismemberment into a cause for overeating and drinking. A few decades and the end of a few wars later, Yale, of all schools, is the most commonly credited site for which tailgating is known to have started in relation to football. Today, about one hundred years later, the tradition is stronger and more widespread than ever. With different traditions and games present at every school, there are only ways to experience a tailgate, the host or an attendee.

Hosting a tailgate is no easy task, the food, the drinks, the tent, the car, are all but a few of your responsibilities now, regardless of what you actually brought to the game. As a host, the grill is your prominent domain, you live in the smoke and the heat, slaving away so that your drinking compatriots have plenty to eat while they get fueled up for game time. From the grill you can monitor the crowd, make sure people have enough to eat, to drink, to snack-on, and for this you will be a focal point of discussion and praise. Take this attention and praise with a smile, you’ve earned it, but don’t throw it in your weekend patrons’ faces.

Everyone is welcome at a tailgate. There are no walls when it come to school spirit and all who wear the common colors should be welcomed. But let’s face it, tailgating is expensive, so If you choose to ask for money, put a jar out on your table asking for something in return for the food and drink, no one likes the awkward panning for money when they say “sure I’ll have a brat!” So leave the verbal begging to the folks on the PATH train.

Attending a tailgate holds much less responsibility, but requires much more self-governance which can be harder to manage, especially when drinks are free, and games are many. First thing’s first, if you are attending another’s tailgate, never show up empty handed. If the host is willing to satisfy your every need at his/her tailgate, the least you can do is bring some snacks or beverages to add to the collection. Most likely, the host will be dishing out enough food to stuff you to capacity and enough drink to make it hard to remember that you did. The key is moderation. Most tailgating sessions are marathons, not sprints. There will be plenty of food and drink for the taking, so try not to act like a homeless drunkard who was just granted access to an all you can eat/drink buffet. Again, moderation. This is important, especially at the collegiate level, because you never know who is going to show up at a tailgate at your alma mater.

Since you typically have a lot of common ground with your fellow tailgaters, it very easy to strike up conversations. Ideally, you would not be too drunk, but just tipsy enough to keep the conversation flowing nicely. You never know, you may find yourself speaking with some successful people or others who have connections to a job you may be interested in, so it’s important to be prepared for this.

Let’s now discuss dress. To be honest, attending or watching a sporting event is the only time it is appropriate to wear a team’s jersey, so if you want to take advantage of this limited opportunity, go for it. If you’re thinking to yourself, “What about my sick throwback Vince Carter Raptors jersey,” I ask you this: why are you reading this article while you’re at a frat party? Bottom line: tailgating is not an excuse to wear sloppy clothing. There is nothing wrong with sporting a jersey, or even a nice t-shirt as long as you keep it clean (side note: you can find some great team t-shirts at your local vintage store that add some unique flair to your tailgating get-up). If you don’t go this route, be sure to wear your team’s colors at the very least. Lastly, always check the weather before the game, and dress accordingly, which typically means layer-up. The weather this time of year can be all over the place, so you want to make sure that you’re prepared for it all. As the temperature drops, a good rule of thumb is to always assume it’s going to be a 5-10 colder than it actually is. Being outside for extended periods of time and standing/sitting relatively still (if you’re packed into a stadium) can exacerbate the cold. A true fan stays for the entire game, so you want to make sure your clothing doesn’t prevent you from going the distance.

Have any other tips for the tailgating gentleman? Share your thoughts in the comments below.