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How Not To Tailgate Illinois Fighting Illini Football

Here are some mistakes to avoid.

Nebraska v Illinois
“Be better. Be smarter.”
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Earlier, I brought you a detailed guide to tailgating at Memorial Stadium for Illinois Fighting Illini football, filled with helpful tips on what to do.

However, as with any instructional material, it requires a section dedicated to telling you what NOT to do. Here are some mistakes you should try to avoid.

Cooking At Your Apartment/House Then Watching The Game On TV Is Not Tailgating

You can’t tailgate if you’re not down by the stadium. Otherwise, you’re just doing kegs’n’eggs or a cookout prior to watching TV. This is fine and all, but if you’re near campus, you’re wasting an opportunity to get in on the party. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to pregame watching on TV if you move away from Chambana.

Same goes for Greek houses. Hey, having a cookout at your place is cool, but you know what’s even cooler? Having a tailgate! This, however, can only be done near the stadium!

Don’t Abuse Visiting Fans

Fundamentally, you’re all just there to have fun and watch football, right? If we’re going to rise above the divisiveness that’s infected all aspects of social life in this country, we need to forgive the visiting fans for their incorrect choice of team and agree to disagree on who should win the game (they’re wrong, by the way, Illinois should always win).

Furthermore, you can actually have a pretty good time being friendly with visiting fans. Challenge them to games of drinking prowess. Ask them about the tailgate scene where they’re from. Just don’t attack them or throw things at them or be genuinely hostile.

If you’re just overcome with a bitter resentment upon seeing thousands of fans (usually clad in some variety of red) descend upon Memorial Stadium like a conquering army, you’re not alone. I’ve been there too. If you feel this way, just ignore them. By 2019, the defensive line should dish out the abuse you desire to fling, so leave it to them.

Have Tickets! Also, Have Them Ready

Hey, you know what we’re all here for, right? There’s a football game happening. Hopefully this will look silly in retrospect, but right now, even if it’s an hour before kickoff, you can probably get on your smartphone and find cheap tickets available online. I paid less for Rutgers tickets the morning of the game than I did for Merry Ann’s, and they were on the 30-yard line in row 10.

Also, if you have enough Internet to acquire tickets, screenshot them. If you don’t, you’ll end up pacing around in front of the gate after waiting through a line because you just so happened to forget to print tickets for the only sellout game of the last six years and you’ll look pretty dumb trying to get enough of a connection to refresh your browser, and then you’ll look really dumb running away from the stadium to where there might be better coverage.

Trust me.

If You’re Going To Cook, Make Sure You Have A Plan

Cooking is a great part of tailgating, at least for me. I love entertaining people, and when I provide part of the lifeblood of the party, it’s a gratifying experience. You do, however, need to know what you’re doing ahead of time. Even for tailgating things other than Illinois football, this is a good rule to abide by.

For example, if you didn’t have a little propane grill, you might be tempted to just go buy a one-time-use temporary charcoal grill to make cooking happen this one time. However, if you don’t plan right, you may get to where you’re tailgating only to find there’s only dry, tall grass that’s likely to catch on fire if you put the grill on it, and you may consider lighting a big fire right on your car. As the possibility of brats fades away, your side dishes become the focus until you realize that you have no utensils or plates with which to eat them because you’ve forgotten them. Your desperation may get so critical that you put the foil pan from the temporary grill on the hood of your car and implore the sun to cook your bratwurst.

What I’m saying is that a little bit of planning can get you a meal better than room-temperature brats with a side of nothing.

Don’t Drink Like A Rookie

As I mentioned, you’re much more free to drink outside at the tailgate lots than at any other part of campus that’s not privately owned. Some may even argue that a healthy buzz helps dull the annoyance of having to punt so many times in a game. But if you pursue this route, take precautions: drink water and eat food.

We’re not here to be your supervisor, but we are here to suggest that if you were to show up to a tailgate on an unseasonably sunny day and drink straight whiskey for several hours without eating breakfast or lunch or having any water, you might be in for an awkward reunion when, say, an ex is summoned to your aid by strangers who found you napping against an electrical box and saw that the last thing you sent on your phone was “Help” in a text to that very ex, who was probably not thrilled about having to leave the game at the start of the fourth quarter even though it was not particularly close.

Don’t let this happen to you or your friends.

See you in the fall!