Someone coming to the States who wants to have an American time should look no further than “the tailgate.” Sport is such a huge part of our culture here. Between professional and college sports, there’s hardly ever a day where you can’t tune into something on TV whether it be baseball, basketball, football, soccer, golf, tennis, hockey, etc. I spoke to my husband (an expert with years of personal experience integrating into American culture) about this sacred practice so you can really get a feel for why you should attend a tailgate if you are coming to the U.S.
First, some general information about the American tailgate:
The most common sport to tailgate for is American football…NFL (National Football League) and college teams–not soccer which is called football in every other country. Football season runs roughly from the end of August to the first weekend of February, so if you are traveling to the U.S. in that window I highly recommend researching to see if any games will be on where you will be traveling. Even if you aren’t a big sports fan or if you don’t understand the rules of football, the NFL is a league built purely on entertainment so it will be an experience regardless.
Tailgating is the name given to partying before the game begins usually out of a vehicle. A tailgate typically occurs in a parking lot outside the stadium and lasts about 3-4 hours. People get all decked out in their team apparel (some fans get way dressed up which is fun to see), grill out, eat, drink beers and other alcoholic beverages, dance to music, and just get hyped about the game in general. Like I said at the start, it is a very interesting and fun tradition in American culture. Americans take sports pretty seriously, with most people having extreme loyalty to certain teams from their hometown or where they went to college. The tailgate is another avenue, besides just attending the game, to outwardly express this loyalty.
I sat down with Ollie to get his take on tailgating and why he recommends experiencing one if you can. Here’s what he had to say:
Tailgating is like God’s gift to society.
The only time an Uber dropping you off 2 miles away from your destination is ever justified is when you know you’re walking to a tailgate. As you get closer to the stadium, you smell the grills fired up with every delicious thing your slightly intoxicated mind could imagine. You walk through the sea of tents with the stadium in the background, and it feels heavenly because you know what’s about to happen. It creates the perfect ambience for getting into your zone before the game.
The die-hard tailgater is surely something that needs to be seen.
Some people not only set up tents/coolers/grills but also set up satellite dishes, flat screen TVs, electronic generators, and sound systems out of the back of their car so they can watch other sports during the tailgate. These people are the pinnacle of what sporting life is all about. You also don’t want to miss the super fans who get all dressed up in different costumes for the game.
Attending a tailgate can potentially save you money at the game.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that $14 for a Bud Light could run Bill Gates’s bank account into the ground. One of the great advantages of tailgating is insuring that you get your fill before you even step a foot inside the stadium. Let’s not forget about cost of food. If you’re lucky enough to tailgate with people who know their way around a grill you are going to have a good time.
The atmosphere at a tailgate is one-of-a-kind.
There is no sense of excitement like die hard fans grilling and drinking outside of a stadium wearing their team colors. The excitement of fans in its purest form is something you could only see at a tailgate. You don’t want to miss seeing everyone tossing around the pig skin, playing corn hole, listening to music and dancing around. It is the pregame TURN UP.
Thanks for those great words of wisdom Ollie 🙂
Practical tips for attending a tailgate:
The NFL has restrictions on what you can bring into games. If you don’t know anyone to tailgate with or don’t have a vehicle to leave stuff in, I recommend putting some beers and ice into a disposable bag or container. That way you can have drinks during the tailgate without needing to store anything when it’s time to head into the game. They only allow you to bring clear bags into the game, so you’ll need one of those. Alternatively what I do is keep my ID, credit card, and cellphone in my pockets and go without a bag.
It just so happens that we were recently in Miami for a Dolphins game and attended our third Dolphin’s tailgate (but our first actually in Miami). Here are some photos to give you a glimpse into what it looks like when it all comes together.
Have we convinced you to add tailgating to your US itinerary?