The Art of the Tailgate


How to host a top one!

Over the summer, The Independent’s Sports Editorial Board was informed of the results of a recent Megabus survey. Against all odds, Harvard emerged as the #1 tailgating destination in the Northeast (see attached graph). The Indy thus answers Megabus’ timeless question: How do you throw the best tailgate?


1. Alcohol

It is to the tailgate as oxygen is to the astronaut, and as meteor-free skies were to the dinosaurs. The crucial importance of alcohol at a tailgate can be distilled thusly: so long as there is booze, so too is there a floor as to how bad your tailgate can be. The more alcohol on hand, the higher this floor becomes. There should be great quantities and some variety, ranging from cheap light beer to cheap hard liquor. Money spent on better booze is better spent on more booze. It’s a tailgate, not a Back Bay cocktail bar.

There may be a small but vocal minority of teetotalers and temperance activists who tell you that you can have fun at the tailgate without alcohol. This theory is generally disavowed by top tailgate destinations. Note that Brigham Young University did not crack the Megabus survey’s Top 10.

2. People

Nearly as vital to a top tailgate as alcohol. This should really go without saying, but the Harvard crowd merits a special reminder: If people do not attend the football game, or at least the preceding tailgate, it is hard to have much of a tailgate. We recall once attending a Harvard football game at which we were the only Harvard undergraduates present apart from the band. Attendance is a must.

Strongly Encouraged

3. Music

This requires a playlist of some sort, and a means by which to play it. Boom-boxes, car stereos, speakers plugged into rented generators – all will suffice. Louder is generally better, as the volume helps in such an open space and helps drown out any dissenting voices. Most genres work well, depending on the location of the tailgate and the tastes of the crowd. Whatever your preference, if you have enough alcohol on hand, there will be less objection to the music.

Suggested genres: classic rock, country, rap, and house music.

Condemned genres: classical, opera, show tunes, boy bands, and smooth jazz.

4. Grill

Charcoal, gas, electric – anything that will heat a metal grate and cook whatever tops it. The grill is meant for meat. Permissible exceptions include hot dog buns, hamburger buns, and corn. There are times and places for grilled zucchini. A top tailgate is neither.


5. Vehicle

A vehicle is great for facilitating the transportation of alcohol, people, music, and grills. But it is also the only means of producing a literal tailgate at your tailgate. Some people, especially in our Northeasterly region, do not know what a literal tailgate is. We know this sounds absurd, but we are reminded of a friend of ours from Manhattan who once visited a ranch in Texas. At one point, he stood behind a pickup truck and somebody hollered at him, “Open the tailgate, Vince.” He proceeded to stare at the back of the pickup in much the same way as a colorblind person might stare at a Rubik’s cube, or a dog might stare at a rocket ship. The very concept of the tailgate was as unfathomable and unknowable as the darkest corners of the universe.

We do not blame him for his struggles as a fish out of water. If a Texan went to New York, for instance, and someone hollered at him to build the Chrysler Building, he might have struggled similarly. All this being said in order to establish that many people do not know what a tailgate is, or how it operates. To clarify, a tailgate is the hinged back of a truck bed, which one can easily bring down so as to make it parallel to the earth. It operates by unlocking it and letting gravity take its course.

6. Games

Anything that involves throwing an object is acceptable – be it cornhole, horseshoes, beer pong, or just tossing a football. Hell, bring a set of bocce balls if that’s more up your alley. Excelling at such tailgate games lends more credence to forthcoming claims of how you could have done better than the guys on the football team.


Bad attitudes.

A top tailgate neither welcomes nor creates bad attitudes. Keep them for after the game, to sulk in defeat or jeer in triumph.

School talk.

Nobody at a tailgate cares about your struggles with classes. Keep all school talk restricted to the kids smoking cigarettes outside the library at two in the morning.

Excessive cellphone usage.

Phones should be used to communicate where your tailgate is located, and nothing else. Keep them in your pockets, not your hands.

By following these basic tailgate guidelines, you, too, can create a top tailgate destination in a Megabus survey. Better luck next time, Bama.

The Indy Sports Editorial Board ( is intrigued by Megabus’statistical analysis.