This post is sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011.
Unfortunately, the most prominent tailgating tradition at IU is tailgating in lieu of game attendance. I made clear my thoughts on that "tradition" a few years ago. Still, tailgating is an integral part of the college football scene at IU and many other schools. I don't have season tickets, so I can't claim to have any sacred rituals in tailgating. Still, I have a few thoughts about it in general:
1. The spot. At IU, the prime spot for tailgating for students is south of Memorial Stadium, in the park-like wooded fields just beyond 17th Street. I've been to a number of college football venues, and while IU's in-stadium atmosphere leaves much to be desired, I really think that the atmosphere in that part of the campus measures up well. On the other hand, it can be muddy, and for those who are a bit further removed from college and who are attending the game with young kids and senior citizens, it can be a bit wild. A fine alternative is the lot north of Assembly Hall, between Assembly Hall, Mellencamp Pavilion, and the Tennis Center. It's lively enough there, but it's a bit more family oriented. It's more common to see a father and son tossing around a football than to see a sorority girl tossing her cookies. Also, there is easy access to restroom facilities. I haven't spent much time in the lot south of Assembly Hall, the fields north of the stadium where the RVs park, or the VIP lot west of the stadium.
2. The beverages. Much of this depends on the time of day and the time of year. Noon kickoff? Bloody Marys must be part of the mix. November? Hot cider and rum, definitely. A September scorcher? Make sure there is plenty of water on hand. Of course, there should be a variety of beers. This is college football, not a NASCAR race, so try to class it up a bit. While it can be pricey, it's nice to have some local flavor. The Upland Brewery in Bloomington produces some fine beverages, as do other Indiana breweries including Three Floyds (in Munster, one of the very best microbreweries in the country), Barley Island (Noblesville), Oaken Barrel (Greenwood), and a new one, Sun King (Indianapolis). If you are budget-conscious, then at least spring for some higher-end macrobrew stuff, such as Sierra Nevada or Goose Island. And, of course, make sure you have something from "the big three" for those who prefer their beer watered down. Liquor? I think it's a tough call and depends on the clientele. at your tailgater. If grandpa is going to insist upon his martini, then fine. But if it's a more youthful crowd, I would be careful. It's easy to drink one's self silly with beer, but it's hard to drink one's self dead with beer. Hard liquor can be a different story.
3. Food. The only 11 a.m. kickoffs, which have become noon kickoff since Indiana adopted Daylight Saving Time, presented the breakfast/lunch conundrum. Even noon kickoffs can do the same. My main advice? Keep it simple. There are only 6 or 7 or 8 home games a year. Don't spend the whole day cooking at the expense of having fun. Focus on things you can make at home.
4. Entertainment. For me, standing outside on a nice day with a football stadium in view, watching the people go by and socializing with friends and family is good enough. Still, the tailgating games have proliferated. Is it just me, or did "cornhole," the beanbag game, storm the nation in a very short time? Ten years ago, it was nowhere to be found. Now, it's everywhere at every stadium. As I said, I'm not a season ticketholder at this point in my life. When I get back to that point, some sort of a satellite TV setup that would allow viewing of early or late games would be nice to have. I love attending games in person, but the only downside is missing out on the channel-surfing paradise that is a college football Saturday. Finally, IU, particularly when Terry Hoeppner was coach, has tried to generate interest in The Walk, the Hoosiers' trip from where the buses drop them off to Memorial Stadium. It hasn't attracted the interest that might be hoped, but it is an option.
Well, there's my take on tailgating. Please add any of your own traditions or preferences in the comments.