As you wander around the Golf Course on a picturesque Michigan Football Saturday there's so much to take in. The bag sets, ring toss, and bolo games are all out on the pathways. Grills the size of nuclear submarines are churning out sufficient amounts of charbroiled meat products to feed New Zeland for a month. Music of all flavors blares from car doors and stereos as slightly inebriated 30 somethings try to pretend they're still 18. All these things have been going on since the beginning of the tailgate, and all these things make it wonderful. But over the last few years, thankfully, people have figured out how to improve it even further.
As technology has continued to improve, electronics have done the opposite of Mark Mangino's waist line. It wasn't too long ago I was helping a good friend donate a 46 inch television. A TUBE television. It wasn't pretty. by my estimates the TV weighed a metric ton and had the type of weight distribution you'd atribute to placing an elephant in the back seat of a '56 Caddy.
The thing is, I knew people who would bring this damn thing to TAILGATES. They'd drag this unfathomable beast down two flights of stairs. Put it in the back of their tailgate van and lock it down with enough bungie cords to safely jump off the
Sears whatchutalkinaboutWillis Tower. Then they'd bring an extra car battery or generator, and then they'd put everything else in the van. When they'd get there they'd unfold everything around this monstrosity, hook up the rabbit ears to the top of the van, and then turn it on. The sound, that weird "pu-chzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz", and then the tube finally warmed up enough that you could see what was going on... provided the game you wanted was on network television. But this thing was massive, and as nice as it was to turn on the network pregame, you really couldn't use it as much as you'd like.
Thankfully, those days are long gone and you can basically carry a 40 inch flatscreen on a bicycle at this point. And people are taking advantage of this. Nowadays, as you walk around your various tailgates, the really posh ones have giant flat screens with satellite dishes bringing in ESPN and all the High Def games. (yes, I said posh. I've been watching a lot of Top Gear recently.) It's glorious. Not only can you sit outside in beautiful weather enjoying a tailgate, you can also watch Michigan State lose to Central Michigan before you head in for the Notre Dame game! Now if you were at home, sure you could've done that, but when you're at the game it used to be one or the other. Maybe you could catch it on the radio, but it's not the same. Watching a team you hate go down in flames as you sip a beer on the golf course holding your game ticket in the other hand is far more gratifying than hearing about it.
As a result, the rules of a proper tailgate have changed. Granted a good deal of this is dependent upon your economic means and the size of your... ahem... tailgate, but if you can do this, well, you should.
The obvious rules still apply. You need a vehicle with a tailgate, this is a requirement for a proper tailgating party prior to a game. I'm on the fence about whether an SUV's tailgate counts, but for now we'll say it's okay. Next, you need a table(s) and folding chairs (6-8). You need a grill that can handle an entire cow. Then, food and a swimming pool's worth of beer and other beverages. That's a traditional tailgate. Bonus points for a bag set, or some other game that people can play easily in a stupor.
However, because you can fit a 47 inch TV in the back seat of a Camry and still have room for five people, there's really no excuse not to do it. The caveat to that is, you have to have satellite service. If you don't, don't bother. Cable's expensive enough, so I'm not going to judge you if you decide to pass on another $100 a month bill. But, if you do, it's on. Now, because you're bringing a TV, you'll probably want a tent to ward off some of the glare from the sun. It's just common sense. And for the truly ambitious, I also recommend bringing a video game station for giggles. Nothing like watching your bombed buddy trying to belt out the lyrics to "Barracuda" while failing to hit a single note on the virtual guitar.
In a strange way, having the flat screen seems to involve people a little more in the tailgate. They get up, they talk a little more. The wierdest thing about technology's intrusion on our lives is that more than ever you see people staring into their phones for score updates, emails, and other nonsense. When you've got another game on in the background, or can throw on a preview show, everyone seems to talk a little more or be a little more animated. I guess it's just a function of the changing times, but technology's become moer integrated into the tailgate whether we like it or not.
So, if you're planning on getting a sweet tailgating rig or just planning on getting a new car/truck that you will use to tailgate, make sure there's enough space for the LCD. Also, make space for the robots that will eventually replace you.