A good tailgate provides the perfect base to ensure an enjoyable experience at a football game. You have no idea and no control over what might happen during the game, but the power is in your hands before kickoff.
If you have the opportunity to travel to an away game, the best possible way to take in an enemy stadium is to meet new people and enjoy the local fare. Whether it’s southern hospitality in Atlanta, a BBQ cookout in Kansas City, or lobster rolls in Foxborough, a good meal with new friends awaits you.
Some stadiums set themselves up better than others for tailgating, but as long as they allow for entry into a common area at least a few hours before a game, someone will be grilling and someone will be imbibing. This creates an opportunity for the hungry football fan looking to grab a delicious meal. Follow these five simple steps to fill your stomach and create a lasting memory, regardless of how your team performs on the field.
- Target a Larger Crew. If it’s already a big party, it’s a little easier to join in without rocking the boat. Approaching four guys huddled around a little smokey grill might work, but your success rate increases with the number of people in and around the tent. The relationships are likely loosely organized as it is in a big group with the participants open to meeting new people. I suggest starting with a group of people that look like they’re having a good time that match your energy level. Your novelty to the group would likely be an asset.
- Be Friendly. Maybe this should go without saying but trash talking fans of the other team is a good way to get bounced quickly. The vast majority of tailgaters are there to have a good time and eat some good food before watching their favorite football team. Ride those good vibes. If the energy of the group starts to crash or turn negative, feel free to dip out and maybe find another crew.
- Find an entry point. Throwing around a football, asking to get in on the next game of bags, or even just giving praise to someone’s set up can be a good way to break the ice. I once joined in a group in Kansas City by saying “oh, that smells amazing” to the guy smoking up lunch. That exchange ended with me housing a plate of pulled pork nachos.
- Bring something to the table. Would you show up to a potluck without anything? Even a bachelor brings a bag of chips and some queso. A tailgate is no different. It might be a bit odd if you’re walking around with a plate of deviled eggs — a great side, but homemade dishes from an interloper might raise eyebrows. A case of adult beverages to throw in the cooler or maybe a packaged dessert should do the trick. Bring more than you personally will consume as this is a sharable item for the party. I once bought a giant box of decorated cookies from a local grocer to throw in at a Saints tailgate. It was a big hit.
- Offer to pitch in some cash. Most tailgates have way more food than necessary. You’re almost certainly going to be told no but offering to pay provides the opportunity for the host to say no. There’s a psychological “trick” there that improves the social interaction. If they accept, well, better that than paying stadium prices. There are, of course, tailgating parties that do cost money to get into and food vendors that sell food. That’s fine if you don’t feel comfortable crashing in on a party, but there’s nothing as good as scarfing down a free meal with your new friends.
Have you ever crashed a tailgate? What are some of your tips? Has anyone ever tried to crash your tailgate and what would you do if someone wanted to join your festivities? Sound off in the comments below or find me on Twitter @gridironborn to keep the conversation going.