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BDesotelle1

Photo courtesy Bruce Desotelle

I love this time of year, when every weekend, stadium parking lots come alive with a sea of tailgaters. For example, Kansas City Chiefs’ fans are known to get the party started a few days early. Each football town has its own way to boost team spirit. As healthcare travelers, you have the opportunity to witness first-hand how different fans in different cities honor their teams’ tailgating traditions.

Regardless of where you attend the party while on assignment, there is a certain etiquette expected of all tailgaters. Here are a few of the basics for beginners.

• Fanfare: Unless you’re a diehard fan for your own team, invest in some local spirit gear, such as a cap or T-shirt, so you fit in with the crowd.

• Car show: Once on the scene, stroll the grounds to see how vehicles have been decked out and customized to display their owners’ over-the-top team loyalty. Most people will be happy to explain how they converted an old school bus into a football lounge on wheels.

• Personal chef: One of the best parts of tailgating is tasting regional favorites prepared on portable grills or creatively constructed cook tops. If you’re in Boston on assignment, you’ll find kettles of New England clam chowder at Gillette Stadium. Every grill at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisc., will be loaded with brats. Even if you’re not hosting the football fiesta, offer to contribute to the menu, maybe a side dish or dessert. Extra ice and drinks are always appreciated, too.

• Dress code: Better to be over-prepared than get caught in the rain or snow. Bring an umbrella, or gloves, scarf, and hat if you are on contract in a northern town. Here’s a thought: battery operated portable heater.

• Keep cool: Sure, the majority of people will be cheering for the local pigskin players, but there could be visiting fans, too. Good-natured teasing might be okay, but keep the “game talk” G-rated so everyone has a good time.

• Clean-up service: No matter if you’re attending the big game or watching the gridiron showdown on TVs set up in the parking lot (yes, that happens), don’t leave a mess behind. Bring along extra trash bags to pick up after your neighbors if necessary.

Whatever the final score, everyone wins when tailgating is done right.

Anne Baye Ericksen is a professional writer who has contributed to Healthcare Traveler since 1996. She resides with her family in Simi Valley, Calif.

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