Here are some essentials to make sure you enjoy every second of the game itself.
For TV-Viewing Fans
Figure out who's showing the game: Cheering on your team is more fun when you're surrounded by other fans … especially when you're winning. And that's why, when it's football or basketball season, people switch from not really knowing or caring whether a F&B venue even has TVs, to calling ahead of time to ask: how many TVs that venue has, exactly what they plan on showing on a certain day, and whether the bartender will change channels or turn off the music if necessary. Truly sports-minded bars and lounges will accommodate superfan requests with a smile.
If you're hosting, feed your guests: People expect to be fed when they're invited over to watch the game. Even if it is BYOB, you absolutely need to stock up on snacks and a no-forks-required meal (which can include pizza or wings delivery, if you don't want to tear yourself away from the screen to cook). Otherwise, it's time for DIY deli sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, chips, and places like WingStop that exist to feed fan appetites on the cheap and convenient.
Go bigger in the backyard: There are those of you who love to grill on the back porch or put together full-on themed buffets, complete with team color-themed desserts. When your plans get too ambitious for the grocery store or Target to accommodate, check out the tailgating section at your local hardware store. There, you'll find everything from folding tables to grills to artificial turf.
Show team spirit: Of course you've got hats and T-shirts with your team logo, but you can do much better than that. Sporting goods retailers have "Fan Shops" with canvas chairs, banners, coolers, and various other essentials with official pro team or university league logos and branding. Dick's Sporting Goods is partnered with ESPN, and was the sponsor of Team USA in the Olympics, so this is a good first place to look for everything from major league logo wear to training camp official logo wear to Team USA-branded gear.
Be comfortable in any surrounding: Tailgating superfans are famed -- and perhaps a bit feared -- for their ability to show up, settle in, party hard, and support their team in any condition. One does not simply arrive at a tailgate party empty-handed — they require a lot of planning and provisioning, especially in extreme weather. There is also a need for coolers and portable grills, team pennants and warm blankets, hand-warmers and canvas chairs. Some even include propane heaters, canopies, and folding tables.
Splash out on "white glove" tailgating: Got team spirit and a big budget? People who love to attend games and mingle with other fans, but want a more upmarket experience than the typical parking lot party, have created a market for VIP or "white glove" tailgate parties. At these extravagant affairs, you can expect full-bar service, comfortably furnished outdoor setups complete with fake turf and space heaters, chauffeured transportation, and gourmet catering.
Get uniforms and gear: This is often more expensive and planning-intensive than parents realize it's going to be. Schools typically have preferred or partner suppliers for athletic uniforms. Ask the coach or parent volunteers for their go-to spots. While you can get some things, like baseball mitts and track shoes, at your local sporting goods store, more niche sports team apparel (swimming, field hockey, cheerleader wear, etc.) might need to be ordered elsewhere.
Sideline spirit: Whether you plan on showing up just for the big games or for every practice, you probably should keep a few things in your trunk for comfort and convenience: Extra sweatshirts and blankets; a clean warm-up suit for when someone's coming off a muddy field; hand warmers, hats and spare socks; and bottled water, sports drinks, and plenty of snacks. Also grab a couple folding canvas chairs and big umbrellas, because you will be out there come sun, rain, sleet or snow, and your goal is to make sure everyone's having a good time.
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