The Garage Accessories

How to Be a March Madness Tailgating Hero

One for the mood board: the Ford Pinto car/stove.

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You don’t typically think of March Madness as an opportunity for bacchanalian tailgating because the practice doesn’t thrive during the basketball tourney like it does for professional and collegiate football games. Well, that needs to change, and it’s up to you—to all of us, really—to change it.

Need some inspiration? Check out the Buffalo, NY resident, above, using the hood of a (working!) 1980 Ford Pinto wagon as a stove, and an array of tool shed implements as both cooking vessels and kitchen utensils (seriously, props for the inspired use of a rake as a grill). These men are a testament to the ethos of the tailgate and to gastrointestinal fortitude. In other words, they’re eating bacon cooked on a damn saw. These are the heroes the NCAA tourney parking lots deserve.

You can and should be that beacon of booze, burgers and bratwurst, wisps of smoke curling up from your portable grill, beckoning fellow hoops fans. Your bracket may bust, but tales of your tarmac tailgate can live in infamy. Here, a quick guide to dominating parking lot pre-gaming.

Step One: Select your chariot

Stand out amongst the hordes of the proletariat partiers by tricking out your truck or car. (Sorry, but no one remembers the crew downing suds near their 2008 Honda Civic.) Unfurl your fan banner loudly and proudly by adorning your wheels with flags, blankets, logos and other team memorabilia. The more flair, the better. If you’ve got ample means, go custom-crazy. Grill tucked into your truck bed? Good. Steer horns affixed to the front of your FJ40? Great. Twin beer taps coming off the front of a Volkswagen Beetle that doubles as a bar? You win all the winning. Below, some examples of choice rides.

Hunter Martin/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty Images
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Cal Sport Media via AP Images

If you can’t scrounge up something spectacular, any trunk will work in a pinch—particularly if there’s a cooler and room to lounge.

AP Photo/Tony Avelar

Step Two: Set the scene

Erik Von Weber/Getty Images

No one wants to let loose with a boring backdrop. Stage your party area as you would your home for a proper blowout. Blast your music. That inflatable sex doll you were gifted as a joke for your birthday? Toss a jersey on it and display it. Bring masks or face paint; get weird. Erect a Fisher Price basketball hoop for spirited games of H.O.R.S.E. Other mainstay tailgating games (here’s looking at you cornhole, ladder toss, and dizzy bat) are equally welcome. At the very least, bring a folding table able to support flip cup and beer pong. Don’t worry about making a mess—your guests will be hammered when it comes time to clean up, and drunken cleaning always seems to go quicker.

Step Three: Bring enough booze to fell an elephant

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

You’ll want to have all of the alcohol at your disposal. For an early game, you’ll need to provide a little hair of the dog before the serious imbibing begins. A great batch bloody mary mix recipe will be your best friend here. After your eye opener, keep the hard spirits flowing in style with a watermelon keg. You’ll need a tap, a hollowed-out watermelon, and a liquor-laden punch to dump in there. Caribbean rum punch works well, as does bourbon ginger snap. If you’re feeling more like suds, make sure you have a big cooler. Pro tip for chilling warm brew in minutes: beers on the bottom, fill halfway with ice, add water so everything is submerged, then pour a ton of salt on top. Ten minutes later everything will be frosty.

There are plenty of fun drinking accessory options. Pick up a pitcher with an ice chamber to keep beer pong and flip cup reserves cold. Never waste a moment between cans with a Hops Holster 12-can ammo vest. Lastly, if you’re dying for a cooler you can drive—and you’re willing to spend $900 to indulge that urge—some geniuses made a cooler scooter with a 1000w electric motor that will go 13 mph and cruise for up to 15 miles.

Step Four: Eats

After sucking down enough hooch to fill a swimming pool everyone will be craving some grilled goodness. Most lots don’t allow charcoal or wood-fueled grills, so your best bet is a portable propane version. They range from cheap to moderately priced—though if you want to be the king of the barbecue you’ll need this six burner, double cooler and sink trailer which will set you back $12,000. As for what goes on the grates, standard fare will never do you wrong. Hot dogs, brats and sausages are easiest, with burgers coming in a close second. (If you like baconinside your burger, this recipe is for you.) For the culinarily advanced, how about a portable pizza oven? This propane number heats in 15 minutes and will crank out a crispy pie every six minutes after that. If you’ve got a generator or an electrical power source, and the time and patience for a juicy brisket or pulled pork, this smoker has your name on it. Should you opt for the latter, please make these smoked Sriracha onion rings.

Step Five: Remember to go inside

Don’t be a drunken dummy and miss the game.


Sean Evans

Entertainment Editor

A former entertainment columnist for the New York Daily News, Sean has contributed to a host of publications including Conde Nast Traveler, Gawker Media, Sports Illustrated, Entertainment Weekly, Fast Company, New York Magazine and more.