The Rule-Abiding Guide to Better Tailgating


Last year, a tragic accident led to the death of one woman and injuries of several others at the tailgate to the Yale-Harvard game. Given the ramifications of that horrific event, and the many other dangers that a bunch of drunk undergrads who are only half in it for the football game itself pose to both themselves and the general public, it’s understandable that the rules governing tailgating have become increasingly complicated. But at what point along the line did they become so indecipherable?

Harvard’s tailgating rules are especially arcane and, for those who don’t have the well-tutored legal mind of Barack Obama or Elle Woods, legitimately misleading. One misstep and you could get caught in a Crimson prison.

Luckily, you have an ace in the hole — me. I once built an Ikea chair for my common room and ended up with, at most, three leftover screws, so you could say I’m pretty good at following directions. Let’s go through this step by step:

Rule 0: This one is important enough to be separate from the rest. “Vehicles and/or fans carrying amounts of alcohol over the State Law will NOT be allowed on the complex. Unruly or visibly intoxicated behaviour will be grounds for removal.” Well, there you have it. Just, um, don’t look like you’re tailgating? Tea parties are surprisingly easy to imitate.

Rule 1: parking. “Guests who park within the athletic complex (gates 8, 14, 16 and 20) are welcome to tailgate at their vehicles. Tailgating, however, is not permitted for fans parking in the Harvard Business School parking lot.” Well, beside the fact that you can only tailgate lots that correspond to next Tuesday’s lottery numbers, this one’s pretty self-explanatory.

Rule 2: “All parking gates open two hours prior to kickoff for tailgating.” Get there early, people. Stake out that prime spot that’s far enough away from the alumni to get away with rowdiness, but close enough to set-up to steal from their spreads.

Rule 3: “Each vehicle is permitted one parking space and the area directly behind the vehicle for tailgating. You may not block aisles or other vehicles from parking.” And there goes my plan to build a blanket fort.

Rule 4: “Commercial vehicles (U-Hauls), RV’s, Winnebagos and trucks are not permitted in any parking facility.” This rule earned Harvard a reputation for being strict when it was implemented a couple years ago. To be clear, even if you paint over the fun fact about Wisconsin that’s on the side of like every U-Haul truck, it will still look like a U-Haul truck. Also, this rule goes on to mention that corporate vehicles that give away free samples should register with the proper authorities in advance. But even if you do want to register, know giving out free whiskey from your daddy’s limo does not count as promoting his hedge fund.

Rule 5: “Tailgating is limited to two hours before and one hours [sic] after each game. There will be no tailgating after night games.” If Yale loses, it’ll be more fun to mope in New Haven. If Yale wins, why on earth would you want to celebrate in Cambridge?

Rule 6: “Beer kegs and items that promote the rapid consumption of alcohol are not permitted at any University function or event. No individual or group may transport a keg to a University athletic event.” I spent a long time trying to figure out what items promote the rapid consumption of alcohol. My favorite options were: intravenous injections, those horns they drink out of in Viking legends and the existential dread that weighs upon the soul of Don Draper in “Mad Men.” Please do not bring any of these.

Rule 7: “Grills using charcoal are prohibited within the athletic complex. The maximum propane gas cylinder size will be 20 pounds.” It seems that Ryan Lochte’s grill will technically be allowed on the premises, but if I may editorialize, nobody really wants to see that after the month of August anyway.

Appended to this core set of rules is an honor code if you will, regarding sportsmanship: “Fans engaging in inappropriate behavior including using foul language or engaging in negative verbal attacks on players, officials, coaches, or other fans may be asked to leave by security personnel.” Well, this definitely gives police a wide jurisdiction, but let common sense guide you here. Remember that, while the phrase “Harvard student” is negative, it does not technically constitute a verbal attack. You are allowed to say it.

Finally, the people over at Harvard issue a reminder that yes, they do do single stream recycling, so “all cans, bottles, paper and cardboard may go in the same bag (this includes solo cups and plastics #1–7)”. This receptacle will, according to the bylaws, be blue. So, to be clear, all crushed crimson refuse must, by Harvard’s official policies, be thrown into a blue sack and summarily trashed.

Even the rules make it clear that Yale has it in the bag.