Three years ago, bright-eyed me came into Notre Dame with no expectations for tailgating. I grew up in the suburbs of New York, aka no good high school football and absolutely no real tailgating. Well, unless you count Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville.
I had no one to guide me through the confusing lots of Joyce and Stadium or to explain the unwritten rules of tailgating. But now that I have mastered the art of tailgating, I am here to be your guide through the confusing and rambunctious experience that is a Notre Dame tailgate.
*Many of the acts listed below can help ND fans of all ages. I don’t condone underage drinking.*
What should I wear?
It’s an absolute must to wear some kind of Notre Dame apparel. Don’t have any? Any combo of green, blue and gold will work. A lot of kids tend to wear The Shirt to the first game as it’s a loose tradition, but there is no pressure to buy one if you don’t own one. Plenty of students will be wearing other ND attire.
Most men wear some kind of ND t-shirt or jersey, but I appreciate it when guys step out of their comfort zone and wear more creative ’fits.
Similarly, girls’ outfits vary from jerseys to Notre Dame crop tops and tennis skirts. As long as you’re supporting the Irish, it doesn’t really matter what you wear!
Of course, this changes past the second game, when the temperature starts to drop. If you still have it in you to wear cropped tops or skirts, have fun! But, if you’re like me and can’t stand the cold, I would recommend moving to jeans and an ND sweatshirt.
No matter what you wear, just make sure it is NOT the color of the opposing team.
What the heck does “Joyce 15” or “Stadium 32” mean?
Good question. Joyce and Stadium are our two lovely tailgating lots. Now, you may ask, what do the attached numbers mean? The lots are established as a grid system — you will probably notice the large poles on every corner. Each poll has a flag with the lot you are in and a number to distinguish where in the lot you are. You will eventually get a text from your friends and/or parents on where they are tailgating — either Joyce or Stadium, followed by a number.
Now that you know what it is, good luck navigating the large bodies of people. I would recommend staying either as close to the stadium or as close to the back of the lot as possible until you see the flag that you are heading towards. It will take hours to walk straight through the giant masses of people. Especially with a large group of people in tow.
Now I’m at a tailgate … what do I do?
This is where the fun really begins. The table provided will probably have a ton of free drinks and chips and dip galore. If you know the owner, it’s free reign, have fun. If you don’t, it probably is also free reign (but it never hurts to ask). There will be more alcohol and more food than you can ever imagine to finish off in the few hours before kickoff.
There will also be tons of games, participate if you want but no pressure. Most family-oriented tailgates will have at least one game of cornhole set up. I would explain to you the rules … if I actually knew them. Don’t worry someone there will (just throw the bag and hope for the best). There will also be a table at most of these tailgates to play more traditional drinking games. Beer pong, flip cup and rage cage are the classics. And if you think the party is too lame, it never hurts to offer a round of “Rattlin’ Bog” to get the party starting again.
You don’t drink? No problem. Most tailgates have tons of food and nonalcoholic drinks! No one is going to force you to take any drinks. If they do, leave that tailgate immediately. They’re not the type of people you want to be around.
Do I need to like or know football to go to the games?
Absolutely not! That’s the fun part of it. I still don’t know the words to the fight song or the Alma Mater, and I swear they will still let me graduate!
As a first year, I surrounded myself with a group of people who were very passionate about football. While I was busy chatting or eating the stale popcorn, they would explain to me in (sometimes excruciating) detail what had just happened. And look at me, three years later not only working in the sports department of the Observer but covering our first home football game of the season!
(Don’t worry Aidan [the Observer’s sports editor], I have learned a lot of the rules since then … probably).
Olivia, what is one last thing you would recommend to a new tailgater?
Eat food. You have a long day ahead of you. Even if you are not drinking, you will be standing on your feet in the sun for a large portion of the afternoon. Drink water, and eat lots of food. Your body will thank you later.
Also, have fun. I know, I know, super cheesy, right? But seriously, tailgating should be fun, and in no way stressful. You only have 24 home football games in your collegiate career, make each one last!