I live in the heart of college football country where we schedule life events around game days because tailgating trumps any other activity on Saturdays in the fall.
The term tailgating is actually too plain to describe the party that takes place at The University of Alabama before a football game. There are very few tailgates involved at all. That would be too simple, too typical. (Besides, trucks and all motor vehicles are strictly prohibited where the major action takes place.)
When it comes to football at this university, everything is done in grandiose style, especially tailgating.
Come game time, the Quad -- a large, green space in the center of campus -- transforms into a sea of crimson and white canopies, the spaces methodically planned out by the university's grounds crew.
The school provides generator electricity throughout open space of the Quad to further enhance to tailgating experience. Fans enjoy living room comforts along with the spirited excitement of game day.
A walk through the canopied abyss reveals microwaves, mini fridges and, my favorite, big screens. Apparently, it isn't enough to attend the football game, you must also have visible access to all the pre-game banter, post-game recap and rival team matchups.
While giant TVs may be the first thing you see, it doesn't take long to notice the rest of the tailgating set up. You will find a decent number of folding chairs and tables, which will be covered in red, white or black and white houndstooth. You might be surprised, however, at the amount of furniture that isn't of the collapsible variety.
Many University of Alabama fans deck out their canopy spaces better than I spruce up my house. I'm talking professionally decorated here. These game day rooms have won awards and been in magazines. They have plush carpeting on top of the grass, overstuffed furniture in team colors and trendy dishes for serving and eating.
Since I mentioned food, let's talk menu. Hamburgers and hot dogs are still staples and I'm sure steak and chops show up too, but BBQ reigns on Alabama game days. And, it's often catered to individual groups under their canopies.
Aside from the main dishes, a virtual buffet of side items and sweets round out the tailgating menu. Rich casseroles and cheesy dips stay edible in warming trays thanks to the available electricity. Dessert favorites include iced cookies from a local bakery in the shape of the school mascot and red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. Red and white are school colors, you know.
I'll admit much of the tailgating frenzy seems extreme.
But, there is no getting around it when you live nearby.
It's so easy to join the party, especially considering my history of football game attendance. I have stood up for four quarters in an overcrowded student section, been sat on by a professor in the more sedentary but just as packed faculty/staff section and, most recently, climbed dozens of teetering steps to reach my birds-eye view seat.
Yes, I definitely think tailgating, as over-the-top as it may be, is now my preferred choice for football viewing.