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Falcons tailgate experience from a first-timer

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Football, food and alcohol. What more do you need?

Todd Burford for GMC

I’ve been a Falcons fan since 1980, with varying degrees of investment. I’ve watched from a distance and I’ve had season tickets, including for the last season in the GA Dome. I’ve gone to games solo, with friends and family and with large crowds. However, in all my years of being a fan, I have never been to an actual game day tailgate. That changed this past Monday, when I was given the opportunity to do so - and in the famed Gulch parking lot, no less.

For those who have never been to a tailgate like myself, this write-up is to give you an idea of what I experienced and how it changed my perspective on tailgating and NFL fans in general.

Disclaimer: the tailgate and the Falcons tickets were provided by GMC. No promises for coverage or content were made. This writeup was done of my own free will. Batteries not included.

The Atmosphere

Having never been to a tailgate, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. Food, alcohol and music was a given, but the atmosphere was the big unknown. As I gravitated towards the GMC hosted tent, I passed quite a few tailgates with music blasting, drinks flowing and the smell of barbecue filling the air. I saw quite a few Giants jerseys, which was a little surprising.

As I mingled with the GMC reps - many of whom were also Giants fans - I was approached by people from other tailgates. Despite the upcoming game, there seemed to be a camaraderie no matter what jersey you were wearing. I was invited to take a shot of “woohoo,” which was a cocktail that consisted of vodka and Yoohoo. Mostly vodka. OK, like 90% vodka. Whatever - it was surprisingly good.

The entire experience was very cool. Many of the Giants fans talked some trash, but were incredibly friendly. Falcons fans got their shots in too, but southern hospitality was almost always on display. Certainly, the alcohol didn’t hurt, but it was more than just that. The tailgate had an easy-going party vibe that took some of the edge off before an important game. It provided some perspective on how important a football game really should (or shouldn’t) be.

Todd Burford for GMC

Finally, I do want to say this - at the admitted risk of sounding like an advertiser - the GMC Sierra trucks on display were gorgeous. They caught the eye of quite a few of the surrounding tailgate parties, too. That said, I’ve always been a truck guy. I’ve owned a Dakota, a Ram 1500, a Toyota Tundra and a Chevy Colorado. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to afford one of these, but I walked away genuinely impressed.

Todd Burford for GMC

The Game

While winning always helps, I noticed my own attitude and demeanor going into this game was different than before. I’ve been to quite a few games, but I went into this one with a far more relaxed and positive attitude. God knows there have been some Falcons seasons that have made that impossibly hard. There was a sense of satisfaction that I hadn’t experienced before. It was good to know that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.

One thing I didn’t expect to happen, happened. As the opening kickoff drew closer, my friend and I found ourselves at the tailgate longer than we anticipated. I know quite a few fans get upset about people rolling in late - and I definitely understand that - but I found myself making the mad scramble to try and get in at the last second.

Yes, I was not there for the kickoff.

I know some of you will light me up for it, but I can promise it was not intentional. That said, I do have a little more sympathy for fans who show up late coming off of a tailgate. The line at the security gates was insane and seemed to move at a snail’s pace. Once we got inside, getting to our seats was yet another challenge. By the time my butt was planted, I had missed the Falcons opening drive (which was admittedly short).

The game was a good one, but it felt like an epilogue to an already great day.

Final thoughts

Having now done a “proper” tailgate before the game, I’m not sure that I’d experience game day any other way. The food, drinks and relaxing atmosphere put the game in the proper perspective. For a sport that gets us so emotionally invested, the tailgate was an appropriate and needed primer.

So, the next time I head to a Falcons game, I’m going to find a tailgate to go to first. If any of you are open to me joining you, let me know - perhaps we can all have a Woohoo together.