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Tailgating 101

From the food to the fields to the fanatics, we've got everything you need for a healthier tailgating bash.

It's a crisp, cool fall afternoon. The leaves are changing. The aroma of booze and burgers wafts through the air. All around you, the sense of anticipation is so palpable you can almost taste it—or the half-pounders on your grill. It's Game Day. You're in the parking lot of the stadium where your favorite team is about to play, surrounded by a few thousand of your closest friends. The beer flows. The BBQ roasts. And the babes? There's nothing like it.

There's no single party more exciting than the one that takes place all over the country on Saturdays and Sundays in the fall—tailgating. Whether you're looking to make your virgin expedition into this sacred national ritual or you're an All Pro TG'er looking to refine your beer-swilling, hog-grilling, and body-painting techniques, we've put together an MF-approved four-part plan filled with all the essential rules and tips to help you and your friends have the time of your lives, without trashing your now-fit body. No need to thank us, either. We'll be there right beside you, getting our game on; so just offer us a beer.

1.) STAY IN SCHOOL
Most tailgating aficionados agree that parties on college campuses are far superior to NFL TGs. "It's on a college campus, which gives it a great vibe, and sometimes, depending on the school, it can be a week-long event," says Colin Cowherd, the host of The Herd with Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio. Don't stress too much if you can't make it to campus for the big rivalry game, he adds. "Obviously, Ohio State–Michigan may be a bigger party, but the fans don't really take a week off. If you only get six home games a year, you schedule six big parties. And sometimes for those big games, you may actually drink less, because you want to be more lucid later when the game's taking place."

As a general rule, Cowherd says the best tailgates are in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). "The South was the last region to get professional sports, so college sports is just a bigger deal there," he says. "College football has always been the one thing that the South has been able to compete in at the highest levels in this country, and it's the thing they're proudest of. Some people say football is almost as big as religion there, but it's actually bigger."

As rabid as the college fans are, they're generally welcoming to outsiders and non-alums. "I find that the people who hold these events are really good people," says Cowherd. "They want to bring you in and show you how good their food is. Southern hospitality rules."

2.) GET BATTLE READY
Prep Your Car
Ready Your Ride: Hit the car wash, have your oil changed if necessary, and make sure all fluids are at their proper levels. Check your spare and throw in some jumper cables as well.

Buy an Inverter: Your cigarette lighter can be used to power a slow cooker, TV, stereo, or other small appliance. Just make sure your inverter is powerful enough for what you need—a 140-watt one won't even run a blender.

Fly Your Flag Proudly:With a telescoping flagpole and a wheel stand that rests under your tire, you can set up your flag in five minutes. $200 for the flagpole and stand @ wonderpole.com

Make Sure You Can get Home:To prevent your battery from dying mid-party, disable your interior light if you'll be keeping the tailgate open. And start your engine every once in a while if you're using the stereo.

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