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How to make the most of your tailgate experience at Patriots games

Some tips from a veteran about tailgating before Patriots games.

Pat Lane

With football games finally starting back in New England, now is the perfect opportunity to talk about tailgating. And as a veteran of the game myself, here are five tips to live by when tailgating at a Patriots game (or any other football game).

1.) Get there early

I get it, it’s Sunday, and you don’t want to have to wake up at 7 a.m. to get to the Patriots game. If tailgating is important to your game experience (which it absolutely should be, otherwise, why are you even reading this?), then sacrifices must be made. Now, if you’re going with a large group, not everyone has to get there early, but you need at least a few people there to get a pretty good spot and get everything set up.

It can be a long day of grilling, eating, and drinking, but starting early is the key, that way you’re relaxing and not rushing. Nothing ruins a tailgate like knowing you have limited time and rushing through everything, or having to park a mile away because by the time you got there most of the lots were full.

I also recommend having a designated place that you tailgate, though I won’t go so far as to make it an official tip. We have been parking in the same lot since Gillette Stadium opened, and we will continue parking there for as long as they will allow us to. We don’t have a spot, but we always know that we’ll be around the same place, and I like that.

2.) Talk about the menu

Most times, the food and drinks are going to come from different people. One person is going to buy the steak, someone else is going to buy the chicken, and so on. Make sure you discuss this ahead of time. The last thing you want is two people showing up with the same food. You also need to make sure that people are going to eat what you bring, and check if anyone has any food allergies. Everyone at the tailgate should have plenty to eat and drink. This ensures that everyone is able to enjoy themselves and get ready for the game.

Our menu consists of a ton of meat every week. We always start with kielbasa, no matter what. Then, we’ll do a combination of chicken, pork, steak, ribs, shrimp, or sausages (usually two out of those choices, but sometimes three, depending on the crowd). It isn’t a low-calorie tailgate, but Dr. Atkins would probably approve.

3.) Be prepared for the weather

In New England, there are dramatic changes in weather during the football season. There are going to be games where it is hot and sunny, there might be games where it is cold and rainy, or snowing, or freezing cold temperatures. You need to be prepared for all of these, but it is inevitable you’ll be stuck tailgating in at least a few bad weather games every year.

So, what to do? Go out and buy a tent. I recommend a pop up one that can fit at least eight people. Sides are possible too, but they’re always difficult to put up.

For those super cold days, I dress warmer for the tailgate than I do for the game. By the time I get in the stadium, I’m clapping and cheering, and if you’re in the lower bowl, you’ll get some relief from the wind too. Don’t start your day freezing or soaking wet; that can make even the most excited fan miserable.

4.) Remember that you’re there for the game, not the tailgate

You don’t have to be crazy people, like my family, who like to get in an hour before kickoff to see the team warming up, but get in your seats before kickoff. At the end of the day, you’re there for the game, so don’t spend too much time outside, no matter how much fun you’re having.

You’re not at a bar or a nightclub, you’re at the stadium cheering on your team. As I mentioned, you can always save some food and drink for after the game too, just make sure that you do so responsibly.

5.) Have a few rituals

My family and I have been tailgating together for close to 20 years, so we have a few of these.

Before the game, anyone who tailgates with us is required to throw and catch a football at least once. It’s a little superstition for us, and we do it no matter what the weather is outside.

Saving one thing to do after every game can be another thing to do. My family and I bring Cheez-It’s to every game, but we save them until after the game. On the ride home, win or lose, we open the box and eat the Cheez-It’s. No one is allowed to eat them before the game, they have to be saved for the ride home. These are small, silly traditions, but they’ve become a staple of our tailgates, and that makes it fun. If you don’t have one of them already, it’s never too late to start one.

For me, tailgating is a chance to spend time with my family and friends. My dad tells people that he gets to spend a few hours every Sunday with his wife and kids, and his best friend and his family, and what could be better than that? Ultimately, that’s what tailgating is all about, getting a chance to spend time with the people you love, and then go inside and root for the team that you love. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday (or a Saturday, or a Monday night, or a Thursday night).

Next time you’re in P2 tailgating before a game, come over and say hello!