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Translation Tuesday: Tailgating

September 11, 2012

Football season. In The South, we spend January- April counting down to the spring game. We then spend the rest of April- end of August counting down to college football kickoff day. Along with the first kick-off of the first game comes the best part to go along with the game: tailgating season.

Recently I have started to look up my Translation Tuesday topics on the internet, just to see if my explanation is on par with what others think. And, oh my, did Wikipedia throw me for a loop on this one. The first Wikipedia item to come up for tailgating: “Tailgating is the practice of driving on a road too close to the vehicle in front, at a distance which does not guarantee that stopping to avoid collision is possible.” Bless their sweet little hearts, that company is obviously not connected to the South in anyway if that is the first hit that comes up! Now, third down on the list when you click on other uses for that word, you get: Tailgating Party. Now folks, it is a party…. but we just call it tailgating around these parts. And it is the best part of football. Ok, I should clarify. If you have a winning team, it is the second best part of football. If you have a team that perpetually struggles, it is the best thing.

So, what exactly is tailgating? It is gathering of people outside a sporting venue to eat and get together before a game. It is supposed to be done around the tail gate of a truck, so you can lower it and use it as a table- hence the name. Mostly it is associated with football, but I have known people to do it before baseball games too. I mainly think this has to do with weather- I mean who would want to tailgate in February in the dead of winter? No one.

In short, tailgating is a picnic before a sporting event (I guess you could do it before a concert too) that involves food, lawn games, alcohol and hanging out with family and friends. Now, since we do things bigger in the South. Take that concept and amplify it times 100. Tailgating is an event here. There are tents. Not only are there tents, but there are tents that are color-coordinated with those of the team. There are flag poles to fly the team’s flag (this is also helpful when trying to find your way back to your tailgate spot after venturing away). The food spreads range from a bucket of fried chicken (mainly brought by people who didn’t plan ahead of time) to massive gas grills hauled in on trailers, where the grillmaster is serving up steaks, chicken and burgers to order. The drinks range from beers and Cokes in a cooler, to mixed drinks that generally involving bourbon. The spreads can include a bag of chips to catered dishes of pimento cheeses and hot pita chips (my personal favorite).

The set up for a tailgate can be simple- an open tailgate with some chairs pulled around. But that is not how most people do it down here. No, most people pull up with a tailgate tent, which they set up behind the tailgate of the truck. Often times people don’t even need the truck here, and they just set p their tent by their car. A table and a lot of chairs are a must. The really seriously people though, which is about 75% of what I see- bring all the comforts of home with them. Who cares if it is in short “ an outdoor picnic.” Those that mean business haul in things: large comfortable tailgate chairs or hammocks. I have even seen couches, like you would find inside a house. Also, not unheard of- large flat screen tvs, complete with satellite dishes…. because 1) you want to watch the pre-game show and 2) you need to know how the rival schools in the conference are doing in their games.

As for lawn games- you will always find people tossing a football or Frisbee around. Cornhole has become popular in recent years- don’t let people down here convince you that they invented it though. They like to try and make that claim to fame, but I was playing it back in the Fort long before I saw it make an appearance down here.

So, when you hear a Southerner talking about tailgating, recognize that they are probably not talking about how someone is driving, they are probably making plans for next Saturday.

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 15, 2012 10:05 pm

    I once brought a friend from Ohio to an August SC football tailgate and game. She wore a dress with a stick-on bra. By the time we got through the first quarter, we had to leave because her bra wouldn’t stick anymore because it was so hot. I hence learned to give my Yankee friends a dress code for tailgating. 🙂

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