National Football League
15 tailgating essentials for ultimate pregame party
National Football League

15 tailgating essentials for ultimate pregame party

Published Jun. 30, 2017 6:28 p.m. ET

Sep 10, 2016; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators fans tailgate before the game between the Florida Gators and Kentucky Wildcats at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

These 15 items are essential if you’re planning on having an ultimate tailgating party.

With football in full swing, tailgating has become an essential part of everyone’s life. Showing up to a stadium parking lot hours ahead of time to fire up the barbecue and get blitzed all in the name of sports pride. It’s a time to bond with fellow fans and share in the glories of the past accomplishments.


It’s also a time to prove that you’re a tailgating master. That means that when you are leading the tailgate, all eyes are going to be on you. If the tailgating experience goes off without a hitch, then everyone is going to remember you as a legend. If it turns into a disaster then your days as the man around these parts are over. With that in mind, there are 15 essentials for throwing the ultimate tailgate.

15. Beer

Beer might be first on this list, but it’s the most important thing you can bring. Without beer, you don’t have a party. That’s not to say you need to have alcohol to have a good time, but it’s the most common element of tailgates.

When tailgating, don’t try to bring a six-pack of beer and think it counts. The host should have a solid 24-pack at least  depending on who’s coming. Don’t inundate your audience with foreign beers to try to be hip and different either. If you’re going beer, just get the essentials. This is tailgating, not an event to dress up and sip wine.

Sep 3, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Sierra Tiede, 17, of Missoula Montana plays cornhole at an ROTC tailgate party before the game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and Bowling Green Falcons at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

14. Tables for beer pong, food or professional wrestling

One of the essential items of a tailgate is a table. That means bringing something that can hold food and other items that people bring. It can also be good for setting televisions on and or playing beer pong with as well.

If using tables for your normal activities doesn’t do enough for you, then you can use it for professional wrestling and try to jump through one. They often do this during Buffalo Bills games and it is quite a site to see. These alcohol-fueled warriors sacrifice life and limb to go viral and there is no stopping them.

But seriously, even if you don’t plan on throwing out your back in your 30’s, you need tables and probably multiple of them. If the party is greater than four or more, then two tables is a must. For every four people present, add a table. Pretty soon, the party is large enough and well there better be people in this party with parking passes so that everything can fit.

It should also go without saying that table should be out of harm’s way. That means if someone throwing a football or not paying attention gets a little wild out the wildcat formation, the chips and dip won’t end up on your aunt’s head.

Jan 2, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Fans participate in tailgate festivities prior to the game between the Arizona State Sun Devils and the West Virginia Mountaineers Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

13. Canopy

It doesn’t matter if the weather is great or terrible, no one wants to bake in the sun for a long time. Therefore it’s important to have a shade source that can appeal to everyone. The most common thing for shade at a tailgate for college football or the NFL is a canopy.

They can be found at your local sporting goods store and even most box stores have them. They’re easy to assemble in just a few steps and they can take up a good deal of space to provide ultimate shade. When everyone is sweating in early September, it’s good to get out of the sun.

Even in the winter, it’s great to huddle under with a heater that’s not exposed to any loose items. What’s cool about canopies is that you can get your favorite college or pro team on them. Most stores like to capitalize on the popularity of the local teams and will put them right front and center.

If you can afford a canopy or forget to bring one, there’s always ways of making a make-shift one. Tarps that are long and can be tied to something overhead can also provide shape. It’s not aesthetically pleasing, but it beats becoming a dermatologist’s favorite customer.

Nov 14, 2015; Starkville, MS, USA; Fans tailgate before the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Davis Wade Stadium. Alabama won 31-6. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

12. TV and Satellite

No tailgate is complete without a TV and satellite dish. If you want to be known as tailgate king, your audience better be able to flip through all the games that are going on. While everyone is going to see their favorite team play, it’s important to keep tabs on the top teams that are playing.

Rivals are just as important as your own team’s game and it’s good to scoreboard watch. There also might be those that have a little money on the games being played and they might want to make sure their finances are in order as well. Simply put, have the television ready.

Also keep the television and satellite dish in a protected area. Those things are expensive and if someone in your party decides to throw a line drive pass right through your area, it could prove to be the most costly tailgate of your life.

College football and the NFL are meant to bring excitement to their fans. No one is going to get excited if the owner of the broken television is chewing everyone out for being degenerates. Behave around property as you would want people to behave around yours.

Nov 14, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Temple Owls fans walk past a South Florida Bulls tailgate prior to a game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

11. Football

When having an ultimate tailgate, it’s imperative to have a football present. After all, what’s the point of even throwing a party in the parking lot if you aren’t throwing terrible spirals to your buddy? Well, that’s the point of bringing a football into the tailgate.

Before you go and watch if your team can score and put the ball in the end zone, you can watch yourself try to be a Heisman winner out in the parking lot. Everyone does it and that’s the best part of tailgating. Get a little exercise in with all the beers that you are going to be downing by yourself.

Now there are some things to be aware of when throwing a football at a tailgate. Try not to hit anyone that’s barbecuing or anyone at all really. Also, before you lead your cousin on a post pattern, make sure there isn’t a car that is coming his way and is ready to hit him like an All-American linebacker.

Having fun is the main objective during tailgating, but also not getting killed is another. Don’t try to show off in front of everyone, just play a little pitch and catch. It helps you kill time while you’re waiting for the game to begin.

Nov 7, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans fans tailgate before the homecoming game against the Arizona Wildcats at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

10. Barbecue

The main feat of any great tailgate is the ability to barbecue up a lot of food. That means cooking steaks, hamburgers, hot dogs and large quantities of any meat. To do that, it requires a barbecue and the person manning the grill is the headmaster of this tailgate. Some stadiums have rules about what types of barbecues can be used, but it is essential.

Charcoal grills are typically banned at most stadiums, but propane barbecues are easy to use. Just make sure there’s actually propane in the tank when using it. A barbecue for a tailgate should be light and efficient unless you’re cooking for a large group of people.

If that’s the case, try to find a larger barbecue that’s portable and can be easily moved around. When being a professional at these things, efficiency should be the driving force behind each and every single thing that is done.

Don’t try to bring some monstrous contraption that is going to take 10 guys to lift at once. Get something that one person can move by themselves in the event of an emergency. Also, don’t forget to turn off the gas and the grill when you’re done either. There would be nothing worse than coming out and finding out you destroyed your car and the next 10 cars as well.

Oct 10, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Utes fans tailgate prior to the game against the California Golden Bears at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

9. Wacky Inflatable Tube Man

Do you really want to stand out from everyone else in the parking lot? Then head on down and get yourself a wacky inflatable tube man. Those 20-foot tall inflatable tube men will make any tailgate look like the best one in the parking lot and will immediately draw all attention that way.

While this is awesome and is going to bring plenty of attention to you, make sure you’re doing it if you have the funds to do so. They’re not terribly expensive to rent at all, but it’s an extra expenditure that could always be spent somewhere else useful if cash is an issue.

A pro-tip for having one of these things is to try to get them in the colors of the favorite team. Being at an LSU game with green and blue tube men wouldn’t make much sense for people walking by or coming to check out the party. Purple and gold tube men would make everyone take notice of how strong your tailgating game is.

Also keep note of power lines and rules and regulations about a stadium’s tailgating rules. It’s highly unlikely wacky inflatable arm flailing tube men are on the banned list, but you never know what is and isn’t banned.

Oct 3, 2015; Lexington, KY, USA; Ralph Coldiron wears his school jacket during a tailgate before the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Commonwealth Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

8. Generator

While you want to be the tailgater that impresses everyone with all your devices, you need to be able to run those. In a parking lot or field, there isn’t going to be just some outlet sticking out that you can plug into. Therefore it’s important to have a portable source that your satellite dish can run off of.

The local hardware store has plenty of these things. They can also be rented if they’re only going to be used once, instead of dropping a good amount of money. Season ticket holders should consider buying because those that don’t have season tickets should consider the renting option.

Also, try to get a generator that is quiet and doesn’t sound like a lawnmower that is going constantly. It’s a good way to make sure that people are going to leave and go somewhere else. If they have to scream at each other two inches away, then they aren’t going to be happy with the generator.

Also if it’s a gas generator, make sure to bring gas to fill it up. Getting all the way to the stadium only to find out there’s no fuel to run this big tailgate could pose a major issue for the full party experience.

Sep 5, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; ASU fans tailgate prior to the game between the Arizona State Sun Devils and the Texas A&M Aggies at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

7. Hammer and Rope

No, you’re not going to murder the annoying fan in the wrong jersey. A hammer and some rope are essential for a good tailgating experience. Weather can tend to strike and it’s important to have tools necessary to keep things from going awry. That means having the ability to bolt things down can go a long in making sure your tailgating party doesn’t become the joke of the office.

Most canopies come with stakes that can help nail them down into a ground. Now, if this canopy is on all asphalt, stakes aren’t going to be an option. That’s where the rope comes in. In large parking lots, there are usually big poles to signify the parking space number.

If you can get close to one of those, then you should definitely look to tie off to one of those. A good sturdy rope can go a long way and rope used for boating and or other outdoor activities should be used for tying off.

Also, the hammer and rope can be used for other things like breaking up ice, tying up loose materials and other various things. A great tailgate can ultimately rest on the little items at stake.

Sep 10, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Temple Owls fans tailgate prior to action against the Stony Brook Seawolves at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

6. Heater

While football starts in the fall, there are going to be those minutes where a heater is in need. Imagine it’s below zero and icicles are forming to your cheap beer. Yeah, the beers are frozen and if you don’t warm up in the next 20 seconds, you’re going to be taken down by the next ice age that is about to occur.

A grill can also provide a source of heat for the person grilling, but it isn’t enough for everyone standing around to benefit from. The key to a good heater is finding one that’s portable, small and can give off a great amount of heat.

The heat dishes that look like little portable fans are good if there is somewhere to plug into. Having one of those will allow a freezing day to be made bearable before going inside the stadium to be cold again.

As mentioned above, efficiency is the driving force here and that’s what is needed to make this a winning tailgate. It might be tough to convince others to join you in the cold instead of being warm at home, but the brave souls will thank you for having something in place.

Sep 19, 2015; South Bend, IN, USA; College Football fans tailgate before the game at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

5. Wiffle Ball Bat

Every great tailgate has that necessary item that leaves people wondering why it’s there. Yes, there are moments for everything during the big party in the parking lot, but there is always a reason to have a Wiffle ball bat. Simply put, it’s for those brave soldiers that are ready to down a beer in five seconds.

There are countless videos on the internet of someone chugging a beer and then spinning around with a Wiffle bat on their head for five seconds. It’s totally pointless, but it’s for those parties that get out of control and make you pull the phone out.

Of course, make sure that the person spinning around isn’t going to go run out into traffic afterward from being dizzy. Also, make sure they don’t take the Wiffle ball bat and pretend they’re the living embodiment of Bamm-Bamm Rubble.

If a Wiffle bat isn’t preferred, another fun option like a funnel can be used. Let the other fans know just how crazy you are willing to get before entering the stadium. Also, make sure there is a sober buddy to take care of them because it might not always end well for the person spinning.

Sep 5, 2015; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers fans tailgate before a game against the McNeese State Cowboys at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

4. Chairs

Yeah, a great tailgate involves moving around and mingling with your guests, but sometimes chairs are needed as well. Whether it’s for people that have walking issues and want to have a savage afternoon still, but are prohibited in their movements or you want to get the legs rested before the game, bring a chair. They are necessary and the outdoor camping ones are usually a staple of just about every single tailgate you see.

The local sporting goods stores carry them right under the canopy they have on display. There’s no excuse not to have one and quite frankly, you might need them if that guy in the opposing face paint comes over and starts screaming in your face about how great his team is, despite the fact he works a terrible job and his life is crumbling in places.

If you’re one of those people who starts tailgating at 7:00 a.m. for a 5:00 p.m. game, then you’re going to want chairs. Everyone likes to have a little bravado, but standing for hours on end before going to game where you’re going to stand for most of the night sounds like a bad bet.

It is also a beneficial idea to make sure that the person that grilled all the food or provided the tailgating experience gets the best chair. That means don’t give them the one that stands a chance of collapsing on them.

Sep 5, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers fans tailgate prior to the game against the Bowling Green Falcons at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

3. Team Pride

No tailgate is complete without team pride. That means don’t be a stick in the mud or be the hipster that wears the wool beanie with a Twenty One Pilots shirt you got at Urban Outfitters. Quit trying to be better than everyone else and throw on that sweet jersey of yours and wear your team proud.

It’s also good to rock the logo wherever else you can as well, whether it’s a canopy, a giant flag hanging from the tailgate or painting your pride all over the Chevrolet Astro, there’s just too much work to be done in terms of team pride. Roll into the parking lot letting the opposing fans know that this is your house and they are in for a rude tailgating.

The biggest thing that can’t happen is to have an opposing team show up with more pride in their tailgate. If the most noticeable thing at a tailgate is how the other colors stand out instead of your own, then it’s not a good sign.

That’s not to say bigger fan bases won’t show out more, it’s just saying make sure your tailgate is well represented. Don’t buy the boring blue standard canopy if your team has red in the colors. Get everything on the same page.

Oct 10, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Utes fans tailgate beside an antique fire truck prior to the game against the California Golden Bears at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

2. Designated Driver

When the beer is flowing instinctively like the salmon of Capistrano, then it’s a good idea to have a designated driver. When it’s warm out, the alcohol tends to go down pretty smooth and that leads to inebriation. When it’s freezing and everyone is looking like Jack Torrance in a maze, then the alcohol goes quicker while warming up the inside of the body.

This goes beyond thinking straight. If you’re going to be drinking at a game, have someone who can drive home. Everyone’s lives are put at risk at that point and a fun time can be ruined just as easily. Therefore this requires planning ahead of time.

Don’t alienate the person that is the designated driver either. Since they’re going to be fighting a traffic jam on the interstate afterward, make sure they get first dibs on food, beer or whatever they want. They’re doing a service and should promptly be compensated for it.

There have been too many examples of people driving drunk after a game and killing someone. There are also cops waiting for drunk drivers after the game as well. Use your brain and be smart about all of this.

Feb 21, 2015; Daytona Beach, FL, USA; An ambulance carrying NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Kyle Busch (54) leaves the track after Alert Florida 300 at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

1. First-Aid Kit

Yes, every great tailgate needs to have a first-aid kit. Whether it’s the guy you don’t know or your cousin Jimbo, someone is inevitably going to end up hurt at one of these things. With tailgates taking place in a parking lot on an unforgiving ground, too many possibilities for someone to end up on the injured reserve.

If someone tries to do a diving catch on the asphalt, then a first-aid kit could be handy. Should the situation arise where someone wants to go through a flaming table, for the love of everything stop them. If you can’t, then have a fire extinguisher and a first-aid kit ready. Also keep 911 on speed dial if something dumb really happens.

Minor cuts, bruises and scrapes can be had in an unforgiving environment and safety should be of the highest concern. Having something handy for treating wounds should be a component of just about every tailgate that is going to happen.

Even if it’s a quiet social gathering of few people, things happen. It’s better to be ready ahead of time, then to get sacked by a situation you weren’t prepared for. Stadiums also have medical personnel on hand as well for bigger emergencies.

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