It’s fall: Trees are ablaze with colors, days are warm, nights chilly and … there’s football!
Whether professional, college, high school or Pop Warner, football is synonymous with autumn. Part of that most American of traditions is the tailgate party where friends and families gather at the back of their vehicles in Berkshire County and beyond and warm up for the big game.
Tailgating, as it is known among football fans, has become something of an art form. Where once a few refreshments and a “sub” sufficed for a pre-game meal, football fans now vie to outdo each other for the honor of being tailgate king or queen of the parking lot.
Enter the barbecue grill. Grills send plumes of gray smoke into the air as their owners load grates with all sorts of, well—certainly not health food.
Football food consists of bangers—hot and sweet sausages—hot dogs, burgers draped with cheese and anointed with jalapenos and other toppings, ribs slathered with sauce, wings, steaks for the more chic tailgaters and on and on. Chips, nachos and other snacks are a must. I assure you this isn’t a vegan convention.
You’ll need a folding table and lawn chairs to properly enjoy the feast. Some fans also opt for a pop-up sun tent to keep them safe from the elements, which can ruin a well-planned tailgate party, especially on chilly New England evenings.
Of course, proper tailgating is more than food. You must dress the part. You simply must wear the colors of your team, preferably a uniform top with the name of your favorite player emblazoned across the back. Flying the flag of your school or team from your vehicle also helps create the proper mood for pre-game festivities.
I went to a tailgate party where I saw a camper completely decked out in the colors of the Philadelphia Eagles, from the outside of the massive vehicle to the interior décor. It was very cool, indeed.
A radio or portable CD player is a must to jazz up the mood. Some tailgaters create their own music by bringing along a guitar. My buddy brings a harmonica to games. I’ve even seen bands performing at professional football tailgate parties.
If you have access to electricity, you can bring a small television along to watch the hours-long pre-game shows. You will probably be in the parking lot for quite awhile, so some form of sporting entertainment is a must. Of course, a football is obligatory to toss around with friends and other tailgaters.
Those arriving early are rewarded with prime parking spots close to the entrance of the stadium. It beats having to walk a half-mile, especially at professional games, to get to your seat come game time.
And, remember; bring garbage bags to carry out what you take in. Clean up after the party—and that means making sure the charcoal is cold and swept up. Most stadium parking lots have places to get rid of your trash but, if they don’t, make sure you take it home and throw it away.
Tailgating has become such an event—and so much fun—that some fans actually never enter the stadium, preferring to listen or watch the game in the comfort of their blacktop sanctuary. This is extreme, I know, but it does happen.
Personally, I believe it is a lot more fun to watch the action. The game should never become secondary to the partying. After all, it’s the reason you’re there in the first place.