Football is tantamount to religion in the South (in fact, it’s not uncommon for priests and preachers to mention football during a sermon … even if it’s just to wake everybody up a little). Though football season doesn’t start until August and not really until September, southerners start getting excited for their favorite team to take the field against long-standing rivals well before then.
Part of the reason people get excited? Bragging rights. Weekly wins are paraded on Facebook, around the office, and any subsequent impact they have on Fantasy Football are also fodder for boasting. The culmination of all of this is, of course, in the bowl and championship game victories in which a team can assume a year’s worth of bragging rights over a long-standing rival.
People also get excited because of tailgating and the food (raises hand). As important as the condition of 20 year-old Johnny’s throwing arm is to some, the opportunity to show off with style and flair is of the utmost importance. Louisiana folk cook traditional Cajun cuisine—gumbo and jambalaya and Andouille—while Mississippi fans have their pimento sandwiches. Meanwhile in Alabama, we make BBQ (well, among other things). Chili, burgers, hotdogs, fried chicken, dips, and chips are all also standard tailgating fare. It’s a great excuse to show up and eat (again, raises hand).
So, gentle traveler, if you’re coming down here during football season and want to have fun without ending up instigating a feud worthy of Hatfield & McCoy status, then take my virtual hand and check out these handy travel tips.
Don the costume de rigueur
If you’re a fan of a team or are hanging out with a fan of a team, wear team colors. If you don’t know what they are, you can find out online (or your friend should tell you because they know better than anyone how wrong it would be to let you represent on Alabama’s side in orange and navy). Likewise, if you went to tailgate with Auburn fans in crimson, well, you wouldn’t be the most popular ant at that picnic, that’s all.
If you’re just going for the food (raises hand and waves it), then dress neutrally. Pick colors that don’t have anything to do with either team that’s playing and that don’t antagonize anyone. For example, Auburn (orange and blue) is playing LSU (purple and gold), and you show up in crimson (Alabama). That just upsets everyone.
The other thing that will upset everyone is an attempt at neutrality by wearing both colors. Oddly, even more upsetting to most football fans than liking the other team is not picking a team and trying to please everyone. So, for a football game, make sure you wear the right colors.
While we are on the topic of clothing, you should wear something you feel comfortable in. Ladies, I know we sometimes like to dress nice, especially in a large crowd, but as one who has done things like that in the past, it’s quickly very regrettable. The cute version of me in heels and a properly placed outfit quickly turns into a disheveled mess in which I’m limping on my heels and my hair is a rat’s nest.
Wear a tee or a tank and some shorts or jeans and sandals or tennis shoes and call it a win. Yes, you’ll look like everyone else, but you also won’t be walking like a scarecrow or be broken-hearted because some frosh staggered into you and got mustard on your nice linen button up (it happens).
Get tickets in advance
Tickets are always already accounted for. Season ticket holders have some; students (for SEC college games) have the others. Many sell their tickets, however, on Stubhub.com. Tickets can also be found on Ebay and Craigslist, but I’ve found Stubhub to be legitimate.
If you’re feeling risky, wing it and head down the stadium on game day anyway. There are always people selling tickets at the gate. The price might be negotiable, so it’s really just a matter of how much it’s worth to you. Bring cash, and keep in mind if it doesn’t work out, you can always head down to the local pub and sit in the air conditioning, watch several games at once with equally cool fans, and still have fantastic time.
Okay, you should BYO the other stuff, too, but you should definitely bring your own place to rest your weary legs at the end of the day (and that’s really just from the car to where you’ll be tailgating).
Bring a GPS or figure out parking in advance
Speaking of parking, you’ll want to figure out game day traffic in advance. Folks get up early to head to the games and to tailgate. Parking fills up quickly and is often reserved. There are some satellite parking lots that will shuttle you to the main area. My suggestion is to pick how you want to park based on how you want to leave because you’ll want to get out of there … so you can be first to the pub for the after party (raises hand).