This post is sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011.
I guess this is really about preference.
Are you a simple tailgater? Do you just need a beer and the knowledge that football will be played in a couple of hours to make you happy? Pop open a generic beer, you're easy to please.
Or do you go to the same place every year and eat the same food? Is your morning/afternoon tailgating routine a finely tuned machine? Do you get misty eyed thinking about the bridges, roads, and tennis courts you walk/stumble over to find your way to the stadium? Have you ever been arrested while tailgating? If this describes you a bit better, leave us your favorite traditions and stories from those magical hours spent ingesting brats and beers before the game begins....and after the game ends.
If there is one thing all Big Ten schools can agree on, it is this: we all do tailgating right. As an obsessive football academic (if there can be such a thing), I gave up combining football with alcohol after my freshman year because it interfered with my ability to properly analyze, and thus enjoy, the game. In spite of my sobriety, I was no less connected with the rich tailgating and pre-game traditions at U of M. As somewhat of a history buff, I liked to focus on the more tradition-laden aspects of tailgating at U of M.
As a member of the University of Michigan Men's Glee Club, a small group of us would tour various tailgating hotspots every Michigan football Saturday to spread some "Go Blue Cheer" (tacky, I know). The 150-year old club (second oldest in the nation, friends) sings a variety of songs about the University of Michigan--including Hail to the Victors, which noneother than John Philip Souza himself once declared "the greatest college march every written"--and would go from tailgate to tailgate singing songs that the Michigan faithful had hummed for decades, and will continue to hum into the distant future.
A mandatory stop on my Michigan football Saturday tour was the BX house at the intersection of State Street and Hoover. This "fake frat" was notorious for epic pregame football tailgating insanity, with wild characters in flamboyant garb that would participate in extreme acts of drinking in the name of sport and school. My personal favorite BOX moment is after the unfounded "PracticeGate" allegations from the Detroit Free Press by public enemy #1 Drew Rosenberg, the BOX hung this banner high:
Perhaps the greatest pre-game tradition at the University of Michigan involves the historic UM Marching Band, which has been a Michigan football staple since 1898. The faint echoes of Michigan songs on brass, woodwinds and drums ring through Ann Arbor early in the morning on a Michigan football Saturday as the band rehearses. An hour and a half before kickoff, I used to head to the steps of Revelli Hall to wedge myself in the gathering crowd to get some good seats for the UM Drumline's Step Show, where the Drumline performs several pieces of their repertoire:
Following the Step Show, the entire Marching Band led by the cheerleaders, line up for the procession down Hoover into the stadium in parade-like fashion. Fortunately there was no rule against harassing my friends in the band, so we'd march right next to the band whooping and hollering at the Tuba section for the entire way in. They weren't allowed to look at us, but they knew we were there. From there, I'd head into the stadium to mingle with 110,000 of my closest friends to partake in one of the greatest atmospheres in all of sports.
TRE's founders are no strangers to cold weather tailgating.
It's 2008. Michigan...is...horrendous. I pay $125 dollars for a ticket in the middle of the Buckeye student section so I can attend my first UM-OSU game. Skipping out onto the Columbus streets with tremendous energy, I am quickly and soundly defeated by the 17 degree weather. Not only were my Under Armour gloves too light, but I am only wearing a t-shirt and North Face fleece. LawBuck's parents bail me out, if only for 25 minutes, by bringing a vicious space heater to the Ohio Stadium tailgating lot. Unfortunately, that same space heater singes my jeans and shirt, a fact I vaguely recognize in my weakened, frozen state.
Charming cold Midwestern weather my ass.
My family had never been major tailgaters; while we went to the games, we rarely went before it started, and we didn't stay around afterwords (granted, it was during the Cooper era, so there wasn't much cause for celebration). That said, however, after starting my Freshman year at Ohio State, my feelings on the traditions and tailgating changed drastically. I started to play corn hole, party, riot, and, of course, jump into freezing Mirror Lake the Thursday before we, once again, beat the pants off of Michigan.
Hypothermia is underrated.
These traditions, from the insane, to the mundane, are what make the Big Ten so amazing to be a part of, and what makes college football in general so great. The bonding between all the fans of the teams, young or old, graduates or not, makes the atmosphere magical. This bond is what makes college football and amazing game, and what makes each of our teams so special in our hearts.
I'm not a big tailgater, as I don't get to a lot of games in person. When I do tailgate, it's usually to Iowa games (my brother has season tickets) and I tailgate with him and his wife. Traditional stuff...hot dogs, hamburgers, and beer. Lots of beer. Leinenkugel's Sunset Wheat.
Jerdogg's infamous maroon and gold trailer. RIP.
As much meat, beer, maroon & gold as possible. The Gopher alumni band walking through the parking lots firing up The Rouser. Lingering at the tailgate just a little bit too long... heading back to the tailgate just a little bit too early. And no matter who we're actually playing, the possibility of a good ol' WHO HATES IOWA!?!?!?! WE HATE IOWA!!!!!! chant.
City Barbeque has the best beef brisket in Columbus.
As far as I'm concerned there are five ingredients to a successful tailgate on the banks of the Olentangy. In no particular order: 1. City Barbecue beef brisket (pink with extra bark), 2. A keg of CBC's Apricot Ale, 3. Chocolate and peanut butter "Buckeyes," 4. A box of Padron 5000 cigars, and 5. Satellite television.
Here's a brief list of Ohio State tailgating dos and donts.
DO: Park in the Victorian Village; Show up early for a mimosa before the Gameday taping; Save your seat at St. Johns for The Best Damn Band in the Land's Skull Session; Rent a private Port-a-John (the lines by the French Field House take forever); Show up even if you don't have tickets; Smile at the Rose Bowl Committee "green jacket" members; Take a picture in front of the Ohio Stadium Rotunda.
DON'T: Take I-315; Wear a Notre Dame jersey; Plan on getting out of town quickly after the game.