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Ranking The Best Tailgate Games

Tailgating is a lifestyle. “I Tailgate With the Best” is one of the most popular Penn State-themed shirts, and every football Saturday includes tens of thousands of people using parking lots, intramural fields and fraternity yards to get smashed, grill, and, of course, compete.

Tailgate games are as integral a part of the experience as burgers and beers, and they allow you to release your inner competitor even if you won’t be on the field. The battle rages on at every gathering in State College, and many have their own opinions on which is best. We’re here to settle the debate once and for all. I present to you the definitive ranking of tailgate games.

7. Ladder Golf

ladder golfKnown to some as “ball and ladder game,” this game totally sucks ass. I can say with 100 percent certainty that nobody has ever had more fun playing the ball and ladder game than doing anything else at a tailgate. Adding charcoal to the grill? More fun. Trying to find a way to charge your phone before the game? More fun. Underage drinking arrest? Definitely more fun. The only legitimate argument for it is that it can be played with one hand, so it’s easy to drink while playing. This game is the worst, and the same people who use this as a cornerstone of their tailgate also probably work out to Daughtry songs. Don’t ever play ladder golf.

6. Beer Pong

beer pong

Calling beer pong a tailgate game is just admitting to yourself that you didn’t want to go out and get the necessary materials for a real tailgate game, but you have an extra folding table and some cups. Everyone knows and loves beer pong, which some poor, unfortunate souls refer to as “beirut” because they were born under a bad sign. However, as enjoyable a party game as it is, beer pong does not make for the best tailgate game for a multitude of reasons. Typically, weather conditions aren’t the best during the late fall in State College. When the wind is whipping, trying to throw a ping pong ball into a plastic cup makes the insolvable chalkboard problem from Good Will Hunting look benign by comparison. Second, the ball is going to end up on the ground and it’s going to happen often. If you’re playing with beer in your cups, congrats, you’re drinking dirt beer. If you’re using water in your cups and drinking simultaneously, why the hell are you playing beer pong anyway? Who brings water pong to a tailgate anyway, you weirdo? Beer pong can be thrilling, especially games that go to redemption and chandelier-style overtimes. The middle of a parking lot or grass field on a windy morning, however, is not the ideal location.

5. Dizzy Bat

Dizzy Bat
Image: Archives

The ultimate spectator sport of tailgate games, dizzy bat is miserable for the person playing. Rules: Fill a dirty wiffle bat with beer, chug as fast as you can, and spin around in a circle using the bat as a base for as long as it took you to chug, then attempt to hit the can the beer originated from with said bat. While knocking a dinger certainly feels good, the immediate urge to sit down and take deep breaths that comes shortly thereafter does not. As entertaining as it is for everyone to watch you make an ass of yourself, dizzy bat is a one-man game that lasts only scant seconds (unless you’re really bad at it), and in the end falls behind more interactive games.

4. Stump


Here’s where the games go from bad to good. Before coming to Penn State, I had never heard of this. At first glance, it seemed like perhaps the stupidest thing in the world. As a matter of fact, it IS the stupidest thing in the world. That’s why it’s so awesome. First, get a large stump and some thick wood nails, then hammer the nails in a bit and have everyone claim one. Next, take turns spinning the hammer in the air, and, in one smooth motion, catch it and hit another person’s nail. Last one standing wins. Dangerous, simple, and ratchet as all hell. Plus, you can play with one hand, holding a beer in the other. Stump is fun for the whole family, by which I mean you should let children absolutely nowhere near this amazing death trap of a game. Stump loses points for requiring you to bring a god damn tree stump to your tailgate, for involving literally nothing safe, and for the fact that, once you’re out of nails, the game is over.

3. Beer Ball

beer ball

Also a drinking game-turned-tailgate game, beer ball has multiple advantages over its cousin beer pong in this arena. For one, it involves chugging, which is up there with shotgunning and funneling in the holy trifecta of “ways to consume too much alcohol too quickly.” It removes the necessity for pouring the beer out or finding suitable plastic cups or lining up or arguing over racks or leans or anything. It also involves just a few items: a table, pong balls, and cans of beer. Place cans at each corner of the table, and take turns in teams of two throwing balls at the opposing team’s cans. When you hit the can, your partner begins to chug their beer for as long as it takes the other team to retrieve the pong ball and touch the table with it. Quick and ultra-competitive, beer ball is taken to another level of awesomeness/stupidity when you play full contact. Just make sure you’re in the grass fields when you do that.

2. Cornhole

Eric Barron
Image: Cory Sprankle

The concept of cutting a slab in two pieces of angled wood and attempting to throw bean bags into said hole doesn’t seem like the best game in theory, but it is legendary in practice. Custom-designed playing surfaces, arbitrary spacing, and the all-important ability to hold a drink in one hand while you play make it an easy enough game, as the only real rules are scoring-based. It’s a great spectator sport, it’s relatively mindless and endlessly entertaining, and can be played in any weather condition on any surface. If it weren’t for our final competitor, it would be number ones. Alas…

1. Kan Jam

Image: Thrillist

If you don’t love Kan Jam, you don’t love America. Or puppies. It requires skill, knowledge, teamwork, and the ability to drunkenly do math. The old saying goes that trying to hit a round ball with a round bat makes baseball the most difficult game, but trying to fit a frisbee into a tiny slit in a plastic can comes very, very close. Throwing a frisbee with deadly accuracy is enough of a struggle, but introducing alcohol into the equation takes it to another level. Winning in Kan Jam, more than any other tailgate game, feels like a true victory. It gets heated, and those at your tailgate will get into it heavily, picking sides and mocking and cheering, and in the end what you’re left with is a game that can be anything you want. It just takes two cans and a frisbee. It might not have cornhole’s versatility, beer ball’s built-in drinking, or stump’s wonderfully stupid danger, but it takes the best components of any good game and combines them to make something magical. Find a partner you trust, and you could run the cans for the entire length of the tailgate. You da real MVP, Kan Jam.

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About the Author

Noel Purcell

Noel Purcell is Onward State's Features Editor. He's a senior Supply Chain major, but is going to law school at some point in the future and masquerades as a writer for now. He continues to disappoint his ancestors by being a complete Irish stereotype. His email is [email protected] because there were no other Noels before him. His ex-wife got the good half of his bio in the divorce settlement.


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