The Signal’s tailgating tutorial

Photo by Ruth Pannill | The Signal

College football season is upon us and with it comes another time-honored tradition: tailgating.

Tailgating began during the Civil War when civilian supporters of the Union army came to the battle field with picnic baskets to cheer by shouting, “Go Big Blue!” And thus the madness began.

Obviously, a lot has changed since the Battle of Bull Run, but the spirit of pre-game revelry is alive and well. So, as our contribution to this historic ritual, The Signal is pleased to bring you this “Tailgating Tutorial.”

The first thing you need to know about tailgating is that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to tailgate. Don’t make other people’s tailgating experience your benchmark for success. However, you can look to experienced tailgaters for ideas. Just don’t fixate on duplicating what they do. The main thing is to have fun and to support your team.

Where to tailgate:

Traditionally, tailgating takes place at the venue where the game is being played. The Georgia State Athletics website indicates that you are allowed to tailgate in all of the Dome’s surface lots but not in the parking decks, and you can begin as early as four hours before kickoff and stay until two hours after the game ends. For the full list of Georgia Dome Tailgating Guidelines, please visit

If you want to buck tradition, however, you can tailgate just about anywhere you’re allowed to park. For instance, if the Dome is too long a drive, then go to a local park or community recreation center. You can also set up camp in the parking lot of your neighborhood watering hole, especially if it’s a sports bar. The point is that the festivities will happen wherever you are.

Decide on a menu:

Your food will have almost as much effect on the mood of your guests as the outcome of the game. Whether your team wins or loses, you’ll celebrate or commiserate with food. The standard fare—hamburgers and hot dogs, baked beans, potato salad, etc.—will always be in abundance. However, literally every type of food from every type of plant or animal is acceptable. So if you want goose liver paté, bring it on! If gyros and lamb kabobs are your thing, oopah!

There is only one hard and fast tailgating food rule: if you don’t know how to cook on a grill, especially a charcoal grill, don’t do it! Bad barbeque at a tailgating event will make you a social pariah. If you’re the adventurous type, however, and just have to fire up the grill, remember to use low heat for a long period of time rather than high heat for a short period of time. This will ensure that your food is cooked to the proper internal temperature and the smoke flavor will have plenty of time to permeate your food.

Also, be prepared to share with other tailgaters; even the opposing team’s fans.

What about the game?

The next consideration is whether or not you’ll actually watch the game. Back in the day people would tailgate at the venue and listen to the game on the radio from outside. But utilizing today’s technology, we can watch our game as well as any number of other games we want to see while we tailgate. So your options for watching are almost limitless.

For those people who are just there for the party and don’t care too much about the game, there is still plenty of fun to be had.

For starters, nothing goes more perfectly with tailgating than a good, old-fashioned drinking game. Every time the opposing team scores a field goal; one drink. If they score a touchdown; two drinks. You can assign drinks for every first down, fumble recovery, interception, sack and the list goes on and on.

Even if you’re not watching the game, just listen to the crowd; their cheers or groans will tell you whose turn it is to drink. If drinking isn’t your thing, you can play a card game or just enjoy the comedy brought on by drunk, overly excited football fans.

Ever since the Battle of Bull Run, fans of competing teams have shown up to the “battlefield” for pre-game celebration and demonstrations of support for their team. The Georgia Dome is our battlefield! The Panthers are our team! Let’s honor those brave tailgating pioneers who literally risked life and limb by showing up in the end zone of the Dome and cheering for our team with the same shouts of “GO BIG BLUE!”