I had a week full of tailgating recently, hitting a University of Georgia football game in Athens, Ga. then a Mumford and Sons show outside of Greenville, S.C. I’ve always enjoyed tailgating more than the main event we’re supposedly prepping for (open containers in a piping hot parking lot—what’s not to love?). I used to think tailgating was an art form—an outlet for self expression. Now I see it more as a pissing contest. And that’s okay, I like pissing contests.
Here’s what I mean: We had an RV for the UGA tailgate, complete with two big screen TVs (one inside and one outside), a cooler so large and so full of Sweetwater 420 and Terrapin Hopsicutioner that it took three men to lift it, and a commercial-sized grill firing the hundreds of brats and burgers. For entertainment, we had cornhole and a drunken longboard slalom contest. For the game, we had 65 mini bottles of liquor to stuff in various crevices throughout our bodies. Needless to say, we won that pissing contest hands down.
My Mumford and Sons tailgating experience wasn’t as successful from a one-up-man-ship standpoint. The first thing you do when you pull into a parking lot for a show in the South, is start checking out everyone else’s tailgate situation. People pulled full dining sets out of the trunks of vintage Mercedes. One group was eating sushi. Another was playing a weird drinking game using their iPhones. You could sense the competition in the air. If your neighbor has beer, you’re drinking a signature cocktail. If the carload to the left of you is sporting a keg, you should have a pop-up cocktail bar complete with a mustachioed bartender.
I didn’t even compete. There was no RV this time, just my minivan, the trunk open, a small fold out table with fried chicken and olives and a cooler of beer. We had chairs, which is better than the sorry group in space 13B who just stood the whole time (like animals), but otherwise, I was embarrassed by my lack of showmanship.
Did I have a great time? Yes, but that’s not the point. The point is, I could’ve done better. I should’ve done better. A margarita machine, perhaps. A small grill for turkey and brie Paninis. I didn’t even have a tablecloth for Christ’s sake. My table just sat there…naked.
I blame all those years I lived out West. The mountains might be bigger out there, but their tailgating pales in comparison to what the South has to offer. They just don’t bring it like we bring it. Then I moved back and had kids, and who has the time to practice tailgating when you have kids…so now I’m rusty. My gear is outdated and I have no imagination when it comes to the menu and activities.
Tailgating is an important skill to master, particularly if you’re adventurous. After all, what we’re really talking about here is an abbreviated car camping situation. How can you make an uncomfortable situation (hanging out in a parking lot, sleeping in the woods) feel more like home. Inflatable furniture? A misting tent? Perhaps. A pony keg of local beer? Definitely.
I’m racing this weekend and hope to tailgate before and after the race (nothing says I’m ready to ride 70 miles like eating a cheese and hummus plate out of the back of your van at 6am), so please, dear readers, send me your advice, tips and tricks to help me elevate my tailgate game. I know I’m not going to win the race. But there’s a chance I could win the tailgate.