Photo via Celero (flickr)
Seventy-three more days.
By now, if you live nearby, you've probably already ordered your season tickets. You've studied the roster. Bought three inches of college preview guides. Scoured the Internet looking for information about this coming season.
Alas, though, seventy-three more days still remain. And there's not much more to do but wait, and keep talking to other members of this great community about what this season may, and may not, bring us as fans.
But there is one thing you can spend your time working on. Preparing to return, in style, to the Rose Bowl to take part in one of college football's most hallowed traditions. The kick-ass tailgate party.
My tailgating Mecca
As you may know, I think the Rose Bowl is one of the nations premier tailgating locations. And I'm not alone. So, whether or not KD and the gang will get it done on the field, there's no excuse for us fans to have anything short of an epic pre-game experience in the friendly confines of Brookside Golf Course.
We already know, all too well, how not to tailgate. And there's no shortage of folks out there with their own tips on how to throw the best tailgate party, but I figured I'd throw in my own two cents, at least somewhat specific to UCLA's home stadium, based upon a decade or so of personal experience.
Getting to the Rose Bowl
Now, I'm not going to share my own secret route into the Rose Bowl, because then I'd have to kill you. But, there's no shortage of ways in. Here are some. That said, avoid the main routes, and consider this:
- Whatever route you choose, just make sure that everyone in your group goes into the Rose Bowl the same way. It can be quite a hike if you park at the Aquatic Center and your buddies are on the golf course, or if a large drainage ditch separates your car from those of your friends. And the parking drones are usually less than accomodating if you try to navigate your own path once near the stadium.
- Arrive early. It's like clockwork, my friends. Leave 3 1/2 hours or more early, and chances are you'll glide right into the Rose Bowl, and be into your fourth cocktail by game time. Leave 3 hours or less early, and you'll sit far too long in a line of cars and barely get your chair unfolded before its time to start the walk. And it takes 3 hours or more to properly cook, throw around the football, and relax with your friends. Having to rush spoils it. Just trust me on this.
- Arrive at about the same time as your friends, if possible. Caravanning is sometimes best, if half your friends won't slow you down with last minute runs to the gas station or ATM, but if that won't work, at least try to get there in close proximity. You'll be able to park closer, and won't spend the afternoon re-playing a Verizon commercial while staring up at yellow numbered balloons.
- Drive the right vehicle.
Mr. T says: "You betta tailgate sucka!"
Okay, it doesn't have to be this cool. But make sure you drive something with plenty of room for all your gear.
Where to Park
This one's up to you. I used to dig parking by the Aquatic Center, but now I'm usually on the west side of the golf course. There's always the FoodZone on the south side of the stadium too.
But I'm not a big fan. Sure, it's cool to have your burgers flipped for you sometimes, but I prefer to host my own sorted affair. Go wherever you like best. Just toss out those reserved area season ticket placards and find somewhere on the grass to park. If you were looking for asphalt, they've got plenty in South Central.
The Right Gear
Now, I've spent many a time tailgating with little more than a blanket, a bag of subs and some lukewarm domestic beer. And, if that's what you've got, go with it. But you now have 73 days to procure what you need to really tailgate in style. Sure, there is a lot of stuff you could consider bringing, but here are the essentials:
- Coolers. Yes, more than one. One just for the libations. One for the food. And I like a third for "clean" ice for beverages.
- Barbeque. I prefer the collapsible propane models. Sure, many will say charcoal is better for taste, but it's a pain to deal with on the golf course. I like the collapsible ones because they're not too big, but stand up like full-sized grills, keeping me from cooking on my hands and knees. If you've got a truck, by all means, bring in a full-sized version. That's just not how I roll.
- Chairs. Throw away the twenty year-old beach chairs. Amazingly comfy camp chairs, complete with foot-rests and drink holders can be had fairly cheaply. And bring extras; at least some of your friends will forget to bring their own.
- Shades and Canopies. Unless it's a 3:30 game, or its really hot, I generally skip it myself. It's usually not worth the time setting it up and breaking it down when the sun just peeks under it. But, I have one anyway, kinda like this:
- Tunes. Ten people within ear shot will be playing their own, different, music. If you want to be that guy, and play it loud enough so that you can really hear it, bring a boom box. Car stereos usually sound terrible outside of the car.
- Football. Your going to a tailgate party. Bring a football. I don't care if you haven't thrown one in 30 years. Bring a football. It's mandatory.
- UCLA Gear. Wear UCLA stuff. Not just a hat, either. And leave the white stuff at home. Think sea of blue. Maybe print up some of these.
- Detail stuff. You'd be surprised how many tailgate parties are undone by a missing can opener, bottle opener, book of matches, spatula, utensil, etc. Think of the little stuff. Keep a box with stuff to use every game without having unpack/repack everything each time. I also find that a Swiss Army knife comes in handy more often than you'd think.
- Leave home the junk. I know, stuff like this looks like a good idea.
Chainsaw + blender = genius.
But it's usually not. You can have daiquiris at home, if that's your thing. In my experience this stuff rarely works well, and isn't worth the trouble. Again, though, if you have a big truck, and want to roll in with a Lazyboy and a TV with a DirectTV receiver, be my guest. If you've reached those heights of tailgating-ness, you sure don't need to be reading this.
Food and Libations
On the beverage side, I usually pick a drink of the week (Bloody Mary's, etc.) plus a good assortment of soda, beer, wine and other refreshments. I also stock a couple bottles of Gatorade for after the game. Just remember, it's not okay to run out of beer (or ice).
"Uh, Dude, we're gonna need a bigger truck."
On the food side, I prefer things that are relatively simple and/or can be mostly prepared the night before. It's no fun to spend half the day chopping and cooking, when you should be relaxing and getting ready for the game. That said, just bringing Subway is for rookies. You'd be surprised how well you can eat if properly prepared. Burgers and dogs are great, but, in my experience, just a little more effort is greatly rewarded:
Who to Bring
Alumni, friends and family. Anyone from Bruins Nation. Just leave home that bandwagoning SC "fan" you still call your friend. Oh, yeah, you may want to consider bringing her too:
I'm sure I've left out some stuff. Please feel free to chime in with your tips in the comments section.
Like I said, just 73 more days. Utah fans are getting ready for it. So should we. I can't wait.