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The Real Fan's Guide To NFL Tailgates

Updated on December 29, 2009

Suddenly you wake up, covered in a cold clammy sweat. You stand, but your knees immediately quiver... then buckle. You manage to slip a brightly colored jersey over your head as your hands tremble with excitement. You hobble toward the pickup parked in the driveway and spot the grill in the back seat: a vision of beer-drenched brats fills your head and your stomach grumbles as you rev the engine and hightail it to the football stadium. It's game day, baby!

To some, tailgating is the illegal act of driving too closely to that slow car in front of you. But to you it's the parking-lot party you partake in before a sporting event which is the real reason you go to games hours early; the real reason that car in front of you seemed so slow in the first place!

Sure, many NFL stadiums serve stellar cuisine guaranteed to satiate an average fan's appetite in between quarters. But you're not a casual fan: you're an insatiable fanatic, the type who lives, breathes and eats this stuff eight days a week.

OK, so you don't need to be an overboard fanatic to enjoy a tasty tailgate but it's definitely more fun that way. Depending on your situation, here are some game plans guaranteed to garner a tailgating victory.

In New England they dig clam chowder; in the Carolinas they crave pork shoulder; and in Green Bay, the "Cheese Heads" go bonkers for brats. Some of these diehards have been known to brave the frigid Midwestern winters and tailgate in front of hallowed Lambeau Field for hours on end without even entertaining the notion of ever entering the stadium! If you've ever hung out in Wisconsin in December, you know just how crazy these people really are!

Regardless of what's on the menu, you won't want to rush a good thing. So show up early, bring plenty of food, and most importantly: don't forget to assign a designated eater.

Think ahead. Instead of insulating your cooler with ice, pour water into plastic jugs and freeze it; this way the melted ice won't leak about and after the game you'll have plenty of cold water: perfect for getting a wise start on taming the postgame hangover.

Park at either end of the lot as this will earn you extra room for pacing about, and come decked in team colors, prepared to "touch base" and "chew the fat" with fellow fanatics. Lastly, a seasoned veteran always remembers: the start of a game should never interfere with a top-notch tailgate!

Cowboy fans in Dallas are fearless as they're infamous for hurling condiment-loaded hot dogs at fans wearing an opposing team's logo. Browns fans are even worse. The bleacher bums in the Dawg Pound are downright harsh: renowned for hucking "live" beers at game-goers wearing another team's insignia, even if it's not the team they're up against!

So, depending on the city, and what fans you're up against, you might want to think twice before advertising the fact that you're an out-of-towner. And, if this is the case and you indeed fear for your personal safety then you should consider following the home team game plan and pretend you're more into the pregame cookout than the on-the-field blood bath. As long as you can masterfully tackle the grill, you're in the clear.

Continued in The Real Fan's Guide To NFL Tailgates, Part II

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