Food & Drink

13 beautiful things you only see at a tailgate party

Ditka
<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/drmiggy/" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Michelle Calabretta</a>

Whether it's held outside a football game or outside Jimmy Buffet's 21st Annual Farewell Tour, a tailgate party is full of sights so life-affirming you'll wonder why you ever wrote that college thesis about how the movie My Father The Hero proved there was no meaning in the universe. We rounded up a baker's dozen of inspirational tailgating visions, though there are of course many, many, many more. Revel in their glory, then pack your cooler and get yourself to the parking lot.

Cleveland Sucks
<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/daveynin/" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">daveynin</a>

Straight talkers

Especially in election years it's a borderline miracle to run into a man who says what he means, means what he says, and says the thing he means in clear, unambiguous terms that allow no room for flip-flopping or claims that he was "taken out of context". When this guy wants to tell you that Cleveland sucks, he says "Cleveland sucks", not "We hope Cleveland will respect the will of the people and commit to a program of sucking less".

Sausage Man
<a href="http://admin.thrillist.com/admin/pinnacle/preview/bm9kZS8zODcxNzkz" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Texas A&amp;M-Commerce</a>

Great chefs who aren't jerks

This guy isn't even pondering the possibility that this isn't the most excellent sausage ever grilled and that anyone who gets a bite of it won't be overwhelmed by a deep happiness seldom experienced by mortals during our time on this great, glorious planet. But his lack of false modesty doesn't mean he's a hissy-fit-throwing diva like a comparatively accomplished kitchen chef would be if he'd just tonged up this tube of juicy perfection. Nowhere else do you see a guy with this much obvious talent who's also just a good dude.

Father and Son
<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/via/" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Via Tsuji </a>

Fathers passing the torch to their sons

Walk around a tailgate and you can see tradition being passed down from one generation to the next, compelling you to reexamine your relationship with your own dad, or at least give him a call. Walk around a campsite checking out that same generational bonding, and someone will call the police to report that there's a creepy weirdo stalking around in the woods.

Blizzard at the Tailgate
<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/patriotworld/" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Karen Cardoza</a>

People braving sub-zero temperatures... just to party

Normally when you plan an outdoor party and there's a blizzard you postpone, or you just don't plan an outdoor party in the first place because you live in Blizzardsville. Tailgaters don't care. Tailgaters will eat flesh-colored sausages with blue-colored fingers because that's what has to happen. If you're ever unfortunate enough to have your plane crash on top of a snow-covered mountain, pray that your fellow passengers are tailgaters. They'll probably still eat you if it comes down to it, but until that point comes, you definitely won't hear them complaining about the weather.

Tom Waddle?
<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/augiecrazy8" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Clayton McLaughlin</a>

Recognition of accomplishment

Right about now you're probably thinking, "Tom Waddle caught as many passes in six years as Wes Welker catches in a season and a half, so how is that an accomplishment?", or "Who is Tom Waddle?". But you know what? Catching 173 career passes for a professional football team is a very big deal, even if they are spread out over six years. Yes, you could interpret this dude's jersey as symptomatic of widespread ironic appreciation of obscure slot receivers, or you could see it as a sign of respect for everyone who ever got pounded by a safety going over the middle and managed to hold on to the football even once.

Dog in Jersey
<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/mhaithaca" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Mark H. Anbinder</a>

Spirited dogs

Even dogs who love sports don't usually wear jerseys except when they're at tailgating parties -- it's just kind of awkward for them, the same way it is when a person wears a jersey somewhere that's not a tailgating party. But here in the parking lot, dogs are like, "It's game day. Jersey, on".

Party Pants
<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/patriotworld" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Karen Cardoza</a>

Grown men shamelessly wearing party pants

Tailgating provides an opportunity for men to expose a side of themselves they never get to show anywhere else. Specifically the "ridiculous pants" side of themselves. This isn't a superficial thing: it takes a tremendous amount of emotional self-confidence for a guy whose diet consists of 97% meat to wake up and say, "I think I'm going with the floral pattern today". There's this myth that men who love sports hide behind hyper-masculine behavior to hide their emotionally stunted inner something or other, but these pants aren't hyper-masculine, they're just hyper-awesome. Deal with it, America.

Ditka
<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/drmiggy/" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Michelle Calabretta</a>

Unquestioning devotion to a higher power

At most parties it's all "me, me, me, listen to my hilarious banter, I'm going to eat all the sausage-bread hors d'oeuvres when nobody's looking". At tailgates, people respect that there are larger forces in the universe, and act with appropriate humility. They don't need proof that these forces exist (can anybody prove Ditka isn't just a character created by the late character actor Robert Prosky?), they just have faith.

Go team!
<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/tamuc" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Texas A&amp;M-Commerce</a>

Old people who still care about things

Sometimes when you get old you quit caring about things so much. Old people at tailgates still care a lot, which makes people who are not old feel so much better about the fact that one day they'll be old too. Honestly, it's very difficult to find an old person who doesn't care about things at a tailgate party -- if you want to come to grips with the fact that your 40 time is probably a full three seconds slower than it used to be (how would you know for sure, you don't run 40s anymore), a tailgate is the best place in the world to put it all into perspective.

Rivals
<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/joshua_schlag" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Josh Schlag</a>

Friendships that transcend rivalry

You know those commercials where traditional enemies all hug each other because they bought the same car or something? Cars and somethings don't really bring people together like that. Neither do movies or work retreats or global peace initiatives. Almost nothing brings people together like that. But tailgate parties do. Granted, these two teams aren't exactly the fiercest of rivals, and the Cardinals might not even have a rivalry, but still, feel the love.

Steelers Head
<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/dperceptions" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Darren Pierson</a>

People making the most of what's available

It's extraordinary how much awesome tailgaters pack into a tight, confined area. Grills, coolers, games, tents, tons of people, and a car, all in a standard-sized parking space. If there's not enough room for something, instead of complaining, tailgaters innovate -- clearly this camp didn't have space for signage, and this guy was just like, "You know, I've got this head..." It truly is a reminder to be thankful for what you have.

We Believe
<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/cpstorm/" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">C.P. Storm</a>

People who believe*

If you're holding up a "We Believe" sign your team is either on an improbable run that's almost definitely about to end, or they're just terrible. Either way you don't care, because you believe. In a world where nobody believes anything anymore thanks to the last century of wars and Jerry Seinfeld, that's no small thing.

*This entry is completely different than the Ditka entry. If you don't buy that, ask your local philosophy professor, he'll tell you.

Sunrise
Arina P Habich/Shutterstock

The sunrise

When else do you see the sunrise? Never, that's when. What's the point of waking up before noon if you don't have a tailgate party to attend? No point!