04/24/2013 22:28

Being devoted to a sports is, like the sport itself (in all likelihood), a team effort. That's why you see big groups of half-naked men painted blue and screaming in the stands: they're part of a community that appreciates and supports their team. Freezing your butt off in a stadium chair isn't the only way to support your team, though. Even with season tickets sold out and you locked out of the game, you can still do one thing, and do it well: tailgate.

For tailgaters, tailgating is an art. It's about more than going to some chintzy bar named Tailgators and cheering when your team scores. (Or booing when the other team scores a clearly illegal advantage.) Tailgating is a community activity wherein you, the tailgaters, come together to celebrate your team, eat greasy meat and drink cold beer while listening to the game on the radio, on the loudspeaker, and cheering with the crowd inside the stadium walls when the time comes.

A good tailgating experience starts with being prepared. Tailgating without the right equipment would be much like camping without the right equipment: a complete disaster, and definitely not fun. To start, you need tailegate clothing. It can get cold during the fall, winter and spring months, especially in the great northern bastions of sports and athletics. So, get your team-affiliated coat. Get your hat, your cap, your sweater, your gloves, and of course your jersey. Be prepared for every type of weather Mother Nature could throw your way.

Now you need a tailgating grill. You need to eat after all, and what self-respecting tailgater doesn't grill up a few hot dogs, burgers, and maybe a big of chicken or even a steak if he's feeling ritzy? Cooking is a great way to bring your team – and by that I mean the other tailgaters – together. It'll warm you up in the night and give you something to cut all the beer you've been swilling since noon.

For the truly devoted, a tailgate tent will be necessary if you intend to get the best spot possible in the parking lot. Showing up just before the game will relegate you to the most distant of parking spots, far away from the big screen TVs outside the stadium and the other tailgaters. If you show up the night before and camp out, you can be there in the morning when the other tailgaters get started, talking trash and getting psyched up for the day's game. That is, after all, what it's all about.