What Are the Rules of Tailgating?

Before you grill up the burgers, cook the chili, drink the beer, and cheer your team, a proper tailgating session must take place. Follow these 3 easy do’s and don’ts to have a great time on your home turf.

Richie Frieman
4-minute read
Episode #177

As I write this, I’m getting ready for my Baltimore Ravens to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in what will (hopefully) be described as a bloodbath. But before the players take the field, the fans will have already been parked outside the stadium for hours, gathering in groups to join the time-honored tradition of tailgating. From grilled goodies, to home baked treats, and libations of all sorts, a football game really starts when the grills at tailgates are fired up.

Proper Tailgating Etiquette

In my many years as a diehard sports fan, I’ve been to tailgates big and small, and I will say that no matter how good the food, nothing can ruin a good tailgate like impolite tailgaters. 

What, there’s actual etiquette when it comes to tailgating? Of course there is! A mannerly tailgate is what makes the difference between a quality get together and one that resembles something out of AMC’s Walking Dead - with crazies fighting over food, yelling at the top of their lungs, and showing complete and utter lack of respect for their fellow tailgaters.

Yes, you can still party like a rock star, but before you tap the keg and break out the crock pot, check out my top 3 Quick and Dirty Tips for proper tailgating etiquette:

Tip #1 – Don’t Trash the Place

I went to the homecoming at my alma mater last year where one friend had a huge tailgate, equipped with a tent, TVs hooked up to the game, three grills, and an amazing buffet. His kindness and devotion to making a great day of tailgating made our team’s loss tolerable. Suddenly, in mid-bite of my hamburger, I see over the parking lot a tailgate by the Omega Buncha Losers fraternity who looked like they just escaped from prison and this was their first meal in the free world. It was disgusting! Trash cans were overflowing with bottles that fell to the ground and shattered.  Pizza boxes were flung along the ground like fallen leaves in November, and (some of the worst) music blasting to volumes unknown to mankind. Bottom line, they trashed the entire parking lot, without any concern for their fellow tailgaters.

As I watched this, I couldn’t help but be amazed at how improper their tailgating etiquette was. It was the same behavior that made campus cops hand out citations like club promoters distributing flyers for a Greek Week event. When you see something like this going on, I recommend offering a little assistance. Say something like, “Hey guys, we had some extra trash bags, did you need any?” Or even something as bold as, “Listen, we have kids with us, you mind toning it down a bit?” Yes, this may sound like I’m an old crotchety man, but at 32 I’m old enough to know better and young enough to remember how dumb it was to be around a group of drunk 21-year-olds. And being able to look back at that day is one of the reasons I love being the Modern Manners Guy!

Tip #2 – Be a Good Guest

I have a group of friends who have had season tickets to Ravens games since day one and their tailgate has now grown into, at times, a hundred-person feast. What started out as a dozen friends getting together has turned into something that I wished for at my bar mitzvah: food of all kinds, drinks galore, and people having a great time together. Still, regardless of my friends’ kindness for setting up such a fun event, there are many who take advantage of the festivities, bringing their “friends of friends of friends,” crashing the party and eating all the food, under the radar of the mass crowd. HIGHLY unmannerly!

For starters, expecting a free meal from people who have a designated tailgate every week is incredibly rude. Who are you that they should be waiting to serve you? It’s their money that bought that food and all you did was stumble upon it, luckily. If you know you’re going to a tailgate, bring something – anything! As I wrote in an earlier article on Proper Hostess Gifts, bringing a gift for your tailgating host is only proper. You don’t have to go all out. Be it chips, drinks, even just cups or napkins – anything helps. Your host or hostess will appreciate your generosity and you won’t feel guilty when you ask for seconds on the chili dogs.