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There was a time just before my 25th birthday where I just wanted to slow everything down. 24 is your last lap before you begin to flirt with actual responsibility outside of rent, utilities, and other things of that ilk. Going from 24 to 25 isn’t nearly as big a deal as I thought it would be. All of those cliches about hangovers becoming worse and people judging you for drinking too much are only partially true. I’ve stopped doing a lot of things that I once believed were fine.
I try not to blackout anymore (although sometimes it just happens.) I’ve tried and failed unsuccessfully to leave people and habits in the past. But one thing that I didn’t necessarily swear off – more so just sort of forgot about because it’s not a big thing for postgrads in Chicago- is tailgating. Sure, you have the Bears, but no one wants to tailgate for that sorry-ass team. And I guess in theory you could go tailgate for Northwestern but, like, why the fuck would anyone want to do that?
Now I know that in Texas professional football is huge. I’ve just never been as interested in it as I am college football. I enjoy the errors that the student athletes make. I like the pageantry that can only be understood if you went to the school you root for. College ball is just more fun than its professional counterpart. Austin, Texas does not have the luxury of having any professional sports team. The University of Texas is the only show in town, and they’ve got a biggie this weekend.
As a freshly minted 25-year-old who has been out of the tailgate scene for three years, there is one question that keeps me up at night as football season inches closer: what is the perfect time to start tailgating on a college football Saturday? UT-Notre Dame kicks off at 6:30 p.m. CST on Sunday night because of Labor Day. I’m not an idiot. I know that if I woke up at 10:00 a.m. and started pounding Miller Lites somewhere on campus I’d be back in bed asleep by 4. In previous years, this wasn’t an issue as I wasn’t shackled by my age and haunted by the thought that there are other people my age doing much more productive shit with their time than drinking cheap beer under a tent.
At the tender age of 20, 21, or 22, I would have told you that drinking begins the moment you wake up. But a 25-year-old drinker just isn’t the same as a 21-year-old boozehound. I don’t have friends with Adderall prescriptions anymore. People handed that shit out like candy in college. It might as well have been in vending machines. Waking up at 9 or 10 a.m. and shotgunning beer just isn’t in the cards for me anymore, and neither is popping amphetamines like skittles at the movie theater.
Sure I can have a Saturday morning domestic, but that is a wildly different animal we’re talking about. The Saturday morning beer is a one and done thing. You have one and then go about your day. It’s not about binging, it’s about enjoying.
So what’s the play for a wily old veteran trying to get back into the tailgating scene?
Is 2:00 p.m. safe? 3:00? I think I have a ballpark idea, but I just feel woefully unprepared as I haven’t been to a college tailgate in years. Is inviting myself to a random co-ed’s tailgate party admissible, or will my mustache scare everyone away? I honestly don’t know. One hour too early and I risk not being able to hit the bar up after the game has ended because I’ve had too much to drink. One hour too late and I’m playing catch up with the rest of the group who already has a healthy buzz.
Despite their incredibly mediocre record under Charlie Strong, UT fans are surprisingly cocky and I can only assume that tailgating is on the same level of importance as the actual football game. So for anyone above the age of 24 with a college football game looming this weekend, here is the optimal time to begin drinking for each time period that your team may have a game.
Noon games were always a bear to tailgate for in college. It meant waking up at 8:00 a.m. and trying to drink responsibly (which never happened), so getting up at that ungodly hour on a Saturday wasn’t all that hard. As a mid-20s working adult, I’d recommend skipping any tailgate for a game that starts before noon.
1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
If you can, get to the designated area where your friends are drinking by 11:00 a.m. I’d say that’s about as good a time as any to arrive for a game starting between one and 3:30. It’s still going to be difficult to really get the juices flowing that early in the morning, but I have a feeling tailgating is pretty similar to riding a bike. You’ve learned it once, you can sure as shit do it again. There might be a learning curve involved, but that’s par for the course.
5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
The dreaded night game. Even in college this was a difficult one to gauge, although eating performance enhancers (i.e. Adderall, Concerta, etc.) helped immensely. Put me on record stating that the ideal time to start drinking for a night game is three hours prior to kickoff. I’m not sure if this is too late or too early, but I’ll find out this Sunday, I guess. The hard-partying environment of a tailgate for someone on the wrong end of 25 is dangerous. I’ve got a feeling three hours is about all my body can handle if I want to make it out to the bar following what I’m assuming is going to be a beatdown of the Longhorns at the hands of the Fighting Irish. Wish me luck this weekend. I’m gonna need it. Or, you know, if you see me and have a spare Adderall, I’ll gladly take it off your hands. .