Friday, February 1, 2013

The Art of the Tailgate

Being a Penn State graduate, although not in this decade I am sad to say, I consider myself to be an expert tailgater.  Although my taste in beer may have become more refined, choosing a local micro-brew over college favorite Natty Ice, there are a few key tailgating elements that hold true.  In the spirit of this weekend's big game, I thought I would bestow my knowledge onto you.  I can guarantee future success in all of your tailgating endeavors.

1. Food is crucial.  The kind of food may been even more crucial.
Jen & I 2009 Tailgate
Back when I attended Penn State as a student, this may not have been true.  Instead of eating I would funnel my beers, glance longingly at the tailgate spread but pass on anything of subsistence since my beer has just too many calories.  As any former college student knows, this effort would be futile because fast forward 6 hours and my friends and I would be huddled around a large order of Pokey Sticks (amazing.amazing.) virtually undoing the entire day's hunger strike.  Now that I am a full-fledged, tax-paying adult (gulp), I now understand the importance of a balanced diet, heavy on the greens, lights on the booze (95% of the time).  Therefore, armed with my new 'food is not evil' approach, tailgating becomes more of a celebration of the booze and the food.  One crowd favorite that is a must at any suitable tailgate is guacamole with tortilla chips.  If its homemade then even better.  I have linked a great recipe I use sometimes.  Another tailgate must is chili or some sort of belly warming soup.  I've been at tailgates with cheeseburger soup.  Delicious.  Anything that is easily transferable in a crock pot, coats and warms the belly, and is easily served in a plastic bowl with a plastic spoon is tailgate approved in my book.  Aside from that the usual suspects of soft pretzels, cheese and crackers and maybe even chips and dip are always safe tailgate choices.

2. Let there be booze.  We are tailgating after all.

Kate & I Tailgate 2011
Notice the tundra...
Now when deciding what kind of alcohol to bring to your tailgate, it makes sense to remember that most tailgates are a marathon not a sprint.  With that in mind, I usually opt for beer at any of my tailgates.  Give a crowd of shivering friends a bottle of vodka to work with and you will be looking at said friends passed out in your car in no time.  Of course, you should be prepared with an arsenal of liquor for the inevitable celebration shots as your tailgating time draws to a close.  Also, you should keep a few bottles of wine on hand for those that choose to ignore they are in a field in an unflattering puffy coat and want to class up the joint a bit.  Depending on the time of year your choice in beer may change as well.  For the early season games or baseball games, Corona with a lime is a good choice but by the end of the season a heavier beer, like Sam Adams Winter Lager, may be more appropriate.  Its really up to the person throwing the tailgate but there must be some sort of adult beverage.  Nothing optional about that one.

3. Six hours won't pass themselves.  Provide some entertainment.
Once the small talk and food grazing dies down, some sort of entertainment should be ready. A game that has made a huge appearance on the tailgate scene is Baggo. Who thought that throwing bean bags into a hole on a slated board would provide hours of heated competition. They are widely sold but a lot of people dare to make their own Baggo boards personalized with their family name or favorite school. I've seen a lot of impressive ones. And let's make something clear. We are never too old for riveting games of Flip Cup or Beer Pong. Be prepared for these at your tailgate by bringing a long table and ping pong balls. 

4. The most important factor - Friends.
Standing outside in the cold with just you and your spouse is just about as fun as it sounds. As in not fun at all.  Any tailgate's success hinges on having a group of people with good times attitudes

Happy tailgating!  We Are Penn State!

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