Pretty clearly, fans do not live by victories alone. We're all still breathing and on the top side of the dirt, at least for now, right? Looks like we Cowboy-philes are not gonna get our minimum annual nutritional requirements in the form of Ws.
So I'm looking to get fed. If I can't be "fat and happy" as a fan this year, I at least want to be full and satiated.
My crew calls itself "The Big Game Hunters" (get it?). Have ballgame, will travel and will chow down. Our "been there, done that" list is ever-expanding and includes high school, college and pro stadia all over North America. (We have extensive CFL experience as well. Perogie, anyone?) Here's the lesson we've learned: Keep it simple. That's not to say you can't or shouldn't get beyond cold sandwiches, chips and canned beverages. But your Fun-to-Stress Ratio should always be lopsided in favor of the former. No need for your menu to look like Garrett's laminated play-calling chart. (Come to think of it, he should keep that simpler, too.)
Most important ingredient in the successful tailgate formula? Quality company, which can include non-annoying family members, old friends, new friends, opposing team fans if they're fun, and your Smokin' Hot Next Door Neighbor if you're fortunate enough to have one and she's good friends with your wife. The food is always subordinate to the friends, and the party is always ancillary to The Game. Anyone who disrespects The Game cannot be a Big Game Hunter. The Party is but an appetizer. The Game is the entree.
But your tailgate fair should reflect that respect for both friends and football. The best offense is one that looks complicated to others, but isn't. Same thing here. Allow me to suggest a couple of "tried and true" base plays that can each be run out of a hundred different formations.
1. Boiled shrimp with homemade red sauce. Shows you care. Displays some flair and creativity, yet is deceptively easy to prepare. Hibachi. Charcoal. Boiling pot. Bottles of distilled water. A mesh sack of shrimp seasoning. An old five-iron to stir the boil. An ice chest devoted exclusively to chilling the shrimp. Lotsa paper towels. A box of wet-wipes. You're a hero, and the entire process took 30 minutes. Red Sauce. Mix it up the night before using your secret formula. Stick it in a sealed plastic bowl and keep it in the ice chest. You're promoted from hero to saint (lower case, of course). One more thing about the red sauce. Don't fake the funk. Don't spare the heat. Your buddies don't want wimp red sauce any more than they want wimp pass rushers. Stick some hot stuff in there! Or just have Smokin' Hot Next Door Neighbor look at it.
2. Smoked baby back ribs. Smoke 'em low and slow the day before the game. Cut 'em up and put them in foil-wrapped individual servings. Stick 'em in an insulated box. Then on game day, just fire up the Hibachi, lay the foil-wrapped ribs on the grill for five minutes, and the kill is on! Make sure you provide both "dry" ribs and "wet" ones for those who want bbq sauce. It's all about being a proper host.
An official NFL football is required, along with at least one woman party-goer who can command a spiral. Dr. Elaine Kimbrough leads our Big Game Hunters in pregame tailgate passing yardage.
Two final inviolable rules. Leave your tailgate site cleaner than you found it. Leave it spotless in fact. And have everything packed up in time to get inside the stadium to watch warmups. Only a rookie misses warmups.