Football season is literally upon us: Sundays in front of the T.V. shouting so loudly your neighbors can’t stand it, unnecessarily large snack dishes no one ever finishes, and unexpected victories and losses that make every raspy Monday voice and overfilled stomach well worth the suffering. Nothing you can do at home, however, competes with the excitement and camaraderie that stems from an early morning stint in the parking lot of your favorite stadium, enjoying your favorite food and drink with friends new and old. Tailgating is a tradition as old as some sports themselves, and one that many take as seriously as the games it accompanies. The name itself implies a certain vehicle type, one that many of us don’t own: a pickup truck. The eponymous tailgate is a staple of tailgating, so what can you do if you don’t have one to make your experience all that it should be?
Firstly, it should be known that as it’s evolved, tailgating has become less of an action and more of an attitude. It’s a spirit of friendship among common interests that extends beyond what you pull into the parking lot. Sedans, SUVs, even minivans aren’t as important as the people in them. A parking space becomes a safe zone, a friendly place where anyone can join in the fun (and the food) that pre-game festivities bring. Whatever you drive, know that how you use it is what determines the level of joy it brings. That said, here’s a few things you can do to compensate for your lack of a material tailgate.
Firstly, make sure you’ve got everything you need. Essentials include a grill, some drinks, and somewhere to sit. That’s pretty much it. Know how many people you’ll be hanging out with, triple it to account for new friends, and plan accordingly. Football games tend to be associated with chilly weather, so leave the cold salads and ice cream behind. Burgers, hot dogs, brats, chili, and hot chip dips are some basic staples of the tailgating game. When it comes to drinks, though, they should always be cold. Whether it’s beer or cocktails, the colder the better. However, if you’re really feeling a warmer touch, coffee and hot chocolate-based drinks complemented by Kahlua or Bailey’s can be some instant fan-favorites in the bitter winter cold. Pop a squat in some comfy camp chairs draped in blankets, and you’re good to go. There aren’t many cars out there that can’t fit these essentials with a little creativity. And while you’re whipping it all up, invite some passerby in for a drink or a burger. Food, drink, and friendliness are all you need.
Outside of the basics, there are a few other things you can add in to spice up your space, no matter what you drive. Many people have been known to bring area rugs along to comfy up the cold parking lot pavement. When you’re done cooking up your favorites, keep the grill going as a fire pit, and voila: You’ve effectively built yourself a tailgate living room. Couple the welcoming feel with more drinks, and you’ll have people stopping by in no time. If your car has an excellent sound system, throw on some highlights from recent games in the league, especially if it’s late in the season and every touchdown counts. Even opposing fans will stop to listen if there’s news about the Patriots losing. Everyone hates the Patriots.* If there are no highlights to play, a bumping playlist will do the trick just fine.
Pro tip: tag along a sun tent, just in case. Winter might usually mean cold, but it doesn’t always mean cloudy. This is especially useful in warmer climates and for early season games.
Aside from good food and drink, nothing draws people in on a cold day like a bit of activity. It gets the blood pumping, it encourages teamwork and, best of all, it makes people hungry. Yes, it’s mostly always about food with us. That said, keeping the feeling in your fingers and toes in the hours leading up to the game is crucial. Why stop before you start? Nothing keeps the juices flowing more than a friendly game of catch. Footballs, frisbees: all are good sport. Wanna add a little competition? Bring a ladderball or bags set. While the movement might not be as intense, nothing gets things going better than a nail-biting game of bags. All of these fan-favorites come in versions that are collapsible for cars of all sizes. Unpack, and enjoy.
At the end of it all, you’ve gotta know the strengths of your vehicle. Sometimes, just being the car that gets the most people to your tailgating party is all you need. If you have a vehicle where you can flatten all the seats for a reprieve from the wind for those you’re with, that’s just as important. Again, tailgating is an attitude more than anything else. If you show up with a little more than you need, willing to share with those around you, you’re going to get the vibes you need. Be welcoming, be friendly, and be ready to win. Excitement is contagious. Bring it to your tailgate, and no matter what you drive, you’ll be ready to go.