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Freshman 101: Tailgating Etiquette

Attention, freshmen: The moment you’ve been waiting for has finally arrived.

Sure, you came to Penn State because it offers top-ranked programs and great academic and post-grad opportunities, but you’d be lying to yourself if you weren’t dreaming of your first game in Beaver Stadium as a student from the moment you put pen to paper. It’ll be an experience you’ll never forget, but before you get too carried away, here are a few things to consider if you want your first experience to go smoothly.

To start, get familiar with how kickoff times correlate to tailgate duration. If it’s a noon game, you better be damn sure you’re up when the sun is, because those precious few hours of tailgating will evaporate quicker than the morning dew. Sure, the game might start at 12, but if you want a good spot in the consistently-packed student section, you should get there roughly an hour and a half prior to kickoff. If you’re ambitious and want to sit in the first five rows, you’ll have to either attend Nittanyville or make your trek to Beaver stadium about two hours before game time.

You’ll come to learn that 3:30 kickoffs are the best that college football Saturdays have to offer. It’s perfect: You wake up at a reasonable hour, make your way to the RV lots at between 9-10 a.m., and usually have just the right amount of time to fill yourself with grilled meat and fine pilsner. Once your cravings have been satisfied, go enjoy some football with 107k of your best friends. You’ll leave the game with just enough time to freshen up (or not, your call) and head out for a night on the town.

But, should you find yourself preparing for a primetime kickoff — both homestands against Ohio State and Iowa will kickoff under the lights — be cautious. On paper, it might seem as if you have the entire day to booze and party before watching some nationally-televised football, but tread lightly youngsters. If you overdo it during the day and consume just a bit too much grain alcohol, what you thought would be the best game ever will quickly transform into the first quarter from hell, most of which you’ll likely spend perched over a urinal. Like a marathon, primetime tailgating is a distance run, not a sprint. Drink some beers, maybe do some shots, but most importantly: drink water.

No matter the game time, a few tried traditions and rules still hold true:

  • If you’re not 21, put your drink in a plastic cup. Police will be patrolling, and though the cops are usually pretty relaxed during tailgates if you are, better safe than sorry.
  • On that note, if you see a cop, maybe wait a minute before doing that shot. There’s plenty of time and though the police aren’t out to get you on game days, don’t give them a reason to investigate your level of inebriation.
  • If you’re really worried about the above two (don’t stress too much, you certainly won’t be the only underager drinking a few cold ones), bring a travel coffee mug or other fun, reusable drink cup. While not foolproof, it’s a little less obvious than a red solo cup or a Koozie.
  • Technically, you’re not allowed to drink in the tailgate lots after kickoff. So if you have tickets and you’re able to make it into the stadium, there’s not much reason not to.
  • Eat something! Not only do tailgates have the best food, but you’re going to be out in the sun all day and if you’re not nourished, the game’s not going to be pretty. Even if you’re saving yourself for your first-ever chicken basket, snack a little at your tailgate.
  • Sunscreen. Trust me, especially tomorrow and some of the earlier games.
  • Have at least one tailgate location nailed down before you head out. There’s minimal cell reception once you get out too the fields so texting, calling, and checking that Facebook invite you got become near impossible.
  • Have a Game plan. You know when kickoff is, so make sure you give yourself enough time to walk to the stadium from wherever your tailgate is. It takes about 10 minutes to get through Gate A, which will probably be at least doubled with the new security measures, so if you want to be in the bleachers 30 minutes before kickoff, you should probably start thinking about heading in an hour-and-a-half before.
  • Be a part of the best football culture in the country. Don’t spend the whole time looking at your phone or whatever else it is you kids do these days. Actively enjoy your tailgate, your neighbors tailgate, any tailgate you walk by, and every Penn Stater you see. There’s no atmosphere quite like a football Saturday at Penn State, and a Happy Valley tailgate is like no other.

If you execute these steps properly, your time spent as a spectator will be #Unrivaled. Tailgating is an art form, and you should aspire to be Picasso. Happy tailgating!

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About the Author

David Abruzzese

David is a senior from Rochester, NY, nestled right in beautiful Western New York. He is majoring in Broadcast Journalism, and as an avid sports fan, he passionately supports the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres. He is the first Penn Stater from his family, and couldn’t be prouder to represent Penn State University. In his free time, he likes to alpine ski, and play golf. You can follow him on Twitter @abruz11, and can contact him via email at [email protected]

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