It was early on a Saturday morning, the sun just barely breaking over the horizon. The air was dewy, fresh, and new, full of opportunity. She woke up early to have a moment to herself so she could reflect on the day ahead. She got ready as usual but had her special dress hanging in the window. As she prepared her coffee her stomach leapt with excitement and nerves. Today was the big day. She sent text messages to her girlfriends encouraging them to come over as soon as possible with the champagne and bagels.
As he got out of bed, he realized that today is the big day. As of now every other Saturday was meaningless, merely a preparation for this moment. He showered and shaved, finally remembering where he had been the night before. He put on his good luck shirt and met his best friends who were already waiting out front, beer in hand.
They spent the day with friends and family playing games in the open air and enjoying freshly grilled meats beneath open-sided tents. As the day wore on the dewy air turned to humidity. It was hot. And sweaty. But that did not stop them from enjoying moment. They knew that soon they would be connected in a way that would bond them forever: Kick Off!
Game Day reminds me of that other special day, Wedding Day: the nerves, the anticipation, the excitement, the fear that something might go wrong, and the comfort in knowing that if it does, at least you are with your loved ones. There is something about the camaraderie of the game that brings people together. It’s rooting for the same team and having an excuse to spend time with family and friends. I love when people playfully heckle each other one minute and share battle stories the next. I love that when I move to a new town there is a Florida Gator Alumni bar waiting for me to watch the game in. Most of all I love being there, on the grounds of my beloved college experience, in “The Swamp” where only Gators get out alive!
It was easy to take it for granted when I was a student. I lived two blocks behind the stadium. It happened every Saturday. If I wasn’t working at the pizza place (The one and only, Italian Gator, Pizza by the Slice) then I was hosting friends and family for a tailgate complete with a potluck and game of Bags (or Corn Hole depending on where you’re from).
Last football season we were lucky enough to score some tickets to the UF vs LSU game. It was a great excuse to visit with one of my college roommates, Stephanie, and her husband, Jon. The crap we went through in college bonded us for life and I love any excuse to spend time with them.
Tailgating as adults/alumni made me realize that life is no longer as simple as waking up, opening a beer, and stepping out on to your porch to watch the game. We have to travel from out of town, find a parking spot, and battle the crowds. So just like your wedding day, if you do the leg work ahead of time you ensure a smooth, magical day. Here are my tips for a successful alumni Game Day tailgate:
1. Prepare ahead of time. Discuss in advance how long you plan on being outside. You will want enough food for 2 or 3 meals per person as well as water, sodas, and adult beverages. Stephanie makes a large amount of Jambalaya in her crock pot. It lasts all day and she doesn’t have to worry about lugging a grill in the car. So be prepared, are you going to be near an electrical outlet? Are you allowed to have an open flame? Do you want to wander or stay in one place? This will help you decide what is essential.
2. Bring sunscreen. You might not realize it but if you tailgate for a few hours beforehand then enjoy the game, you could be in the sun for up to 8 hours! You’ll definitely want to protect your skin.
3. Have a rende vous point. Because you will inevitably get separated over the course of the day, determine a time and location where you will meet. Often cell phones don’t work while the game is going and afterwards as everyone else is texting and calling to find each other and to discuss the game.
4. Bring a signature cup or coozie. This will help when trying to identify your drink as the tent gets crowded or you set it down. You don’t want to waste that precious beer, do you?
5. Be flexible. Something will go wrong, someone will drink too much, or your team will lose. If the day doesn’t go just as you imagined, take a deep breath and remember you are here to have a good time and to re-live the glory years.