“Are you ready for some football? Are you ready to party?”
Hank Williams, Jr. penned those words and rocked them for many years to kick off Monday Night Football. In that fashion, it truly is time to party! It’s fall, y’all! And that can only mean one thing — football season is finally upon us.
Although it doesn’t feel like fall in Mississippi right now — more like we are walking on the sun’s surface — despite our legendary Southern heat, football is back on the gridiron. Fans, especially in the South, love football and anticipate the season almost as eagerly as Christmas morning.
Buddy Brannon, a lifelong devoted Mississippi State Bulldog, has been a tailgater since he was six and remembers simple but sweet memories of tailgating with his dad.
“Back then, tailgating for us meant throwing some lawn chairs and an ice chest in the trunk on the way out of town, stopping at the grocery store to grab some canned drinks, packages of ham or bologna, some mayo, bread, chips, and some sweets and that was it,” Brannon said.
He and his dad would claim their favorite shade tree and listen to an old radio to keep up with the scores of other games until it was time to turn it on to hear the official MSU broadcast. Now, Brannon has tailgating down to a science, knowing exactly when to set up the tents and planning the menu based on their opponents. Tailgating has changed for Brannon and family as now substantial sound systems, disco balls, twinkle lights, and chandeliers are often the backdrop for postgame parties. Whether their bulldogs win or lose, Brannon understands the importance of football in the Magnolia State and offers his expertise and words of wisdom for anyone new to the tailgating arena.
It’s been said that football is more like a religion in the South. If that’s true, tailgating must be the pregame breaking of the bread with others often wearing different colors who may have misguided judgment about the team to support. The pregame festivities are cordial, even though those same people will become hated enemies right after kickoff.
Tailgating is a reverent tradition that goes back years. It is a time-honored tradition today. Fans take tailgating as seriously as the guys that strap on the pads and pound it out on the gridiron for four quarters.
To help any novice tailgaters out there or some tried and true tailgaters who want to add a little spice to their pregame repertoire, we’ve got your 411 on tailgating etiquette, ideas, and some faithful traditions from some veteran tailgaters.
Of course, the essentials of a popup tent, table, lawn chairs, coolers, portable televisions, radios, grills, and definitely a fan or heater, depending on the weather, are crucial items to the success of any tailgating celebration.
In addition to the basics, here are some sage words of wisdom from some true tailgating champions:
- Presentation is imperative! Your squad MUST be decked out in your team colors, and your tailgating arena must be covered in pom pons, signs of support, decorations, stuffed mascots, crepe paper, and any kind of decoration in your school colors on everything that stands still. Let the visitors know whose house they’re entering.
- The bountiful food spread is usually the centerpiece of your festivities. Sometimes, more preparation is put into the table setting than at a Thanksgiving gathering. Tablecloths, napkins, plates, cups, everything must be in team colors. Go wild with the centerpiece to stand out from the crowd. Incorporate megaphones, footballs, stuffed mascots…anything is allowed! Your only limitation is your imagination.
- Just as important as the presentation is the food spread. It depends on your tastebuds, but you can’t go wrong with ribs, chicken, hamburgers, or anything barbequed. A little coleslaw and potato salad are always good complements to the dinner. But hamburgers, sandwiches, and hot dogs are always a big hit. You can snack on chips and dip, salsa, nachos, popcorn, and any type of munchable before the big game.
- Dont’ foroget dessert! Your dessert selection can be simple and elegant or elaborate and fun. I’ve seen intricate fruit displays in the shape of mascots and the most deliciously beautiful cake displays honoring the team colors. Still, team-colored icing on cupcakes with adorable pennant accents stuck in the top is always popular.
- Of course, you will have to have a variety of beverages to wash all that great food down. Cokes, Sprites, Diet Cokes, water, and whatever your pleasure of a cool drink. Always remember that all tailgaters don’t go for the alcohol, and for those that do, please go lightly on it in this extreme heat. Remember to drink responsibly, have a designated driver, and ensure everyone stays hydrated (with water or sports drinks).
- It’s always fun to have a football to toss around with the kids, and lately, cornhole has taken a prominent place in pregame celebrations. Also, don’t forget band-aids and a first-aid kit in case of any unforeseen injuries that are likely to happen.
These tips are a good foundation for setting up a true tailgating celebration and, above all else, be sure to enjoy the memories made with your loved ones.
It may be hot, y’all, but it’s finally football season! Whether you’re wearing the black and gold and yelling SMTTT after every first down, shaking that cowbell, shouting “Hotty Toddy!” or whatever your team’s trademark battle cry might be, remember to have fun and support these young men who have been grinding away in extreme heat for their team and fans. Start with a great tailgating party, then cheer your team on to a big W.
Is it time for kickoff?