1. It is only fitting that the Redskins open up on Monday--a work day. Tonight, we all go to work for the first time of the season. Anyone who is heading to the game today needs to know that the gates open at 2 PM, so don't be afraid to get there early. There is nothing worse than having a ticket to get inside the stadium, but being forced to enjoy the game on the radio from the seat of your car. Beat the traffic and relax at FedEx before the game, and if you feel like it, come and check us out at the F31 pole in the orange/green lot.
2. I thought I would detail a few of my own gameday traditions, in the hopes you might respond with some of your stories. Having prepared my lists the night before, the morning of the game is all about making sure important tailgate ingredients are not forgotten. Music, food and alcohol are the keys, but don't sleep on the importance of setting reminders on tickets and parking passes. I don't know that I am OCD about anything more than I am about preparing for a tailgate, which is an insult to OCD people everywhere since I regularly forget things. The worst thing I forgot was something I didn't actually forget--I had planned to buy beer on Sunday morning way back when I first became a season ticket holder. That was when I became aware of the liquor laws in that part of the state, and that is when I was also first initiated into the "kindness of other tailgaters" society. To this day, if someone asks me for a beer in the parking lot, I give them one. We had to insert legal drinking age language into this policy after some guy's 5-year old got his hands on a full bottle of beer--I was able to get to the kid in time to keep him from taking a swig, only to learn that his father (a Cleveland Browns fan) had told him he could have a sip.
3. I have the great fortune to spend an hour or so outside of the gates with a great group of fans before entering the lot and tailgating inside the gates. By and large, it has been the same group of folks for over ten years. We gather outside of the gates on Arena Drive and enjoy the last calm before the storms that are the tailgates we are about to set up. It is my pre-tailgate tailgate, otherwise known as my "Zoolander Tailgate." The most interesting thing about this particular group is that we have ONLY ever hung out before Redskins games. These are people who drive from Charlotte, the outskirts of Virginia and all parts of Maryland. Our tailgates are scattered on the inside, but before games, we all gather together outside the gates. As a result, we enjoy some of the most positive relationships imaginable. Think about it: whenever we're together, we are on the front side of a potential victory. We are at our most optimistic in that moment. We are hopeful and excited about a potential victory. It is a great group of fans, and I hope to be able to bring some of those people into the conversation this year.
4. When the parking lot attendants begin to remove the barricades, there is a sudden scramble for our cars. Horns are honked. Engines are revved. And then...we sit. Hahaha...in 100% of previous instances, there is always a "pre-freak out" where everyone gets ready to enter the lot, thinking it is time. This leads to a bunch of cars full of people who have already cracked a few beers (on Sunday mornings, we are talking about some early shifters) inching up on each other and very much simulating what it must be like right near the dam before it breaks. It can be one of the most dangerous 35 seconds of driving in the DMV, and is as close as most of us will ever get to that feeling when professional drivers are told to start their engines.
5. For me, I need the right song ready to go when I make the final push from the pre-tailgate to the main taligate. After all, I have been drinking coffee, conversing with friends and generally relaxing in that manner in which people mill around after church. The frenzy before the final ascent from basecamp outside the gates to the top of the mountain inside needs the appropriate soundtrack. I need some quick energy, because I am about to unpack a party from my truck and I am going to do it at a speed that defies every teamster union code (both written and unwritten). Today, I am readying both Motley Crue and A Tribe Called Quest. I still don't know which way it will end up going, but have no fear--the moment will be accompanied by the perfect song.
6. We can discuss inside the gates routines at a later date. There is one other issue that needs to be addressed today, and that is the probable infestation of Steelers fans. Make no mistake--they will be out in force tonight. They always are. After that debacle on Monday Night Football in November of 2008 (was it that long ago??), we all understand how Pittsburgh fans travel. I would love it if our guys didn't have to use a silent count on their own field this time. I would love it if Steelers defenders aren't audibly rewarded when they incite noise from the crowd. Most of all though, I would just love it if there were no fights. I'll leave you the way I do before home divisional matchups, when fans of the opposing teams regularly attend. When the game is over, and the Redskins are victorious, I will be glad they traveled all this way to bear witness. Tonight is week one of our national campaign to reintroduce the world to quality, competent, WINNING Redskins football.
Let's light this candle.