Tailgating. A sports tradition. Although some people claim that tailgating began in the frozen tundra of Green Bay in the early 1900’s, it actually dates even further back. The first tailgate party came in 1869 in a college football game between Rutgers and Princeton. Fitting as it is, almost 150 years later, tailgating has become a staple of American sports society, especially in college football. Here are 15 tips to maximize your tailgating experience at the Rose Bowl:
Be prepared- To have a perfect tailgate, you can’t start planning the day of the game. Tailgating is an art form and must be thought out in advance. Arrival time, the food menu, chairs, shade, games, etc. are all examples of things that must be planned in advance. Take some time and think it through.
Have a leader- In order to be prepared, you often need someone to take charge. You need someone to be the one to make decisions and tell everyone where to meet and what to bring. The role of the leader is not to be a dictator and make enemies, but rather keep everything flowing smoothly so when you get to the Rose Bowl and set up, everything is taken care of.
Tailgate with good people- Often times, everyone wants to have the biggest and baddest tailgate party and their group includes people they don’t like. No one cares if you have 20 people or 3 people. Make sure you enjoy spending time with those people. The goal of the tailgate is to have fun and if you spend time worrying about the person you can’t stand, it will take away from your overall tailgating experience.
Have a good cook- Hopefully in the group of good people you tailgate with, one of them is a good cook. You don’t want to show up and realize that you don’t have a good cook to make all the awesome food that you brought.
Variety of food- Most seasons you get 6 UCLA home games at the Rose Bowl (this year 7), so make sure you don’t eat the same boring hot dogs and hamburgers every week. Mix it up. Try something new. Anything that can be barbequed is an option. Heck, if your BBQ has a side burner, eggs are easy to make, too (perfect for the November games).
Arrive early- One of the most important ways to maximize your tailgating experience is by showing up early. Whether you get there 8 hours before kickoff or 2 hours, you still pay the same, ridiculous $20 parking fee. Lot H is the place to be in the early hours at the Rose Bowl. The gates open 6 hours before kickoff, but that doesn’t stop the hardcore tailgaters from getting their earlier. In every single home game last year, I was the first truck waiting along the side of the road for the gates to open to Lot H. Rules say arrive 6 hours early, show up 8! Park along the side of the road and throw your football or Frisbee around in the park. A perk of being one of the first groups to arrive is you get a front row spot with extra space to set up your tailgate.
Wear game attire- No black, no green, no purple, and sure as hell NO RED at the Rose Bowl. Wear your Bruin blue and gold. Rep the Bruins every time you tailgate. Enough said.
Show off- One way to show off your tailgate is by getting a UCLA flag. You can buy a cheap flag pole with a tire mount and show your Bruin pride high in the sky. 5 years ago, 15 and 20 foot flag poles were standard so I went higher and bought the 25 foot. The last few years, people have caught up, so I bought a 28 footer. Your flag marks your spot and can be seen from far. Another way to show off is by buying a sweet UCLA canopy, UCLA chairs, and other UCLA gear.
Bring a TV- Since you know to arrive early, you need something to do all day. The best way to pass the time and not get lost in all the other college football action is to bring a TV. There are two common ways to get TV access at the Rose Bowl; both need power obviously, which is best accessed with a generator. The way which I have used in the past is to get a converter box. With a converter box, you also need an antenna and you have access to local channels 2-13. The upgrade I made this year was to satellite TV. With satellite, you need your TV, satellite, a tripod, and a generator. Make sure you have an active box, either from your home system or a friend or family member. Getting signal is not a problem at the Rose Bowl and all you have to do is follow the on screen instructions, point your dish, and watch football all day.
Upgrade each year- The previous tip is an example of how you upgrade. It may seem like a lot of money to spend to buy everything for the perfect tailgate all at once. No need to worry, you can definitely take your time creating the perfect tailgate. Each year, upgrade one aspect of your tailgate and enjoy the benefits for 12 months and then it’s time to upgrade again.
Play games- The perfect weather in Pasadena offers chances to play a wide variety of games at the Rose Bowl (although drinking games are now banned). Bring a football. Bring a Frisbee. Try playing ladder golf or bean bag toss. Play cards. Whatever you like to do, give it a try.
Meet people- If you are open to talking with your tailgating neighbors, you might be surprised how cool everyone is. Get to know the people around you. If you listen to rule number 6 and arrive early, odds are you will be seeing the same diehards around you each week. I got to tailgate the last season near the family of defensive lineman Seali’i Epenesa and they are the nicest people. They are just one example of the many great people you will meet at the Rose Bowl.
Stay late- If you don’t have kids that need to be home early, why leave when the game ends? Once you come back out of the Rose Bowl after a Bruin win, fire up the TV and BBQ again and keep on tailgating. The late games are usually near conclusion and I have watched more classic college finishes when tailgating after games than before! An added benefit of showing up early and staying late is that in the front of Lot H, the Bruin players who are either injured or redshirting come out and hang with you for a while. I’ve watched games in recent years with Dietrich Riley, Jerry Johnson, Andrew Abbott, Ben Wysocki, Richard Brehaut, and many more Bruin players.
Drink responsibly- Alcohol usually plays a major role in tailgating parties, but don’t make it a major role in ruining yours or someone else’s time. You don’t want to be so wasted that by the time the game starts you are too drunk to know what is going on. You also don’t want to EVER danger yourself, your friends, or anyone else by driving drunk after the game.
Have fun- Throwing a tailgate party can be a lot of work and you could put pressure on yourself to make everything perfect. If you forget something, don’t worry about it. You are there to have fun. If tailgating becomes burdensome and you aren’t having a good time, then it may not be for you. Relax, enjoy the awesome weather, the beautiful women, and UCLA Bruin football