This week we will come together to celebrate all things Nevada Wolf Pack with our annual homecoming festivities. Besides celebrating all of those who graduated from the university, we come together out of a familial bond we have for one another as peers, as friends and above all, as members of the Wolf Pack.
This year we celebrate Pack throwbacks with a multitude of events, including the 4th annual March from the Arch and the Nevada vs. Wyoming game. This year, I’d like to pay some extra attention to the oft-forgotten ritual known as tailgating.
I’d like to examine some science related to all things tailgating, whether it’s what the party itself does to you or the things you bring to a party, we’re going to examine it all.
This first one is not necessarily a scientific study; rather, it’s one of the building blocks of the science of sociology. Émile Durkheim was one of the first to canonize sociology as a science. A pioneer in the field, Durkheim helped explore and flesh out much of what modern sociology actually studies. Where he relates to tailgating is in his term “collective effervescence,” or the idea that when people get together for an event and think the same thing, it leads to a state of high emotional energy. The emotional energy is then projected onto something like a symbol or structure, especially in the case of religion. This idea, Durkheim argues, is one of the ways socialization is unlike solitary activity.
Although Durkheim uses the term “collective effervescence” in relation to religion, considering how much people worship football, I’m sure it applies here. This idea of getting together, getting amped up and then placing that energy on something is strikingly similar to a group of people yelling at their television when their team makes a touchdown. Applied to tailgating, it’s a different story. If you could come together before a game and get excited with other fans, who knows what kind of energy you could send your team before kickoff even occurs.
Two relatively recent studies have shown some compelling information about comfort food and why it is comforting. It’s not the taste of the food; it’s the smell of it. One of the studies has found that scent is one of the biggest factors in nostalgia, even more than music. The other study found that these nostalgia-inducing scents could be used to create a sense of belonging, something reminiscent of a better time. Comfort food, in other words, creates a sense of nostalgia because of the way it smells, usually making people feel like they belong.
What does this scent stuff mean? It means you should bring a barbecue, some meat and put the two together. Nothing is more nostalgic than smelling the smoke of barbecued meat wafting through the air. This will not only set a tone for your epic tailgating party but will also potentially leave everyone around you more happy and relaxed due to the remembrance of things past. It’s kind of poetic and it’s kind of awesome.
A study out of Australia has recently found that people who participate in musical activities are actually happier overall. This extends to musicians who play together, singers, people who attend music festivals and people who dance with other people. The study used “subjective well-being” or how happy people perceived themselves to be. People that were studied who reported to engage with music were overall happier than those who didn’t. The study took extra care to say the engagement had to be in the company of others. This highlights the interpersonal aspect that music has, something many sociologists think is one of the fundamental aspects of music.
For one, go to more music festivals, but also bring music to the tailgate. If you can’t get a boombox to bring along, then just open up your truck doors and blast whatever dance music you want to listen to. This dancing will add to the overall atmosphere of the tailgate, but will also make everyone who attends the party happier in life. This goes along with some of what Durkheim was positing: the idea that doing things together, including listening and dancing to music, is a healthy sign of a society working well. So do yourself a favor and turn the volume up.
An article posted by Trinity University describes “The Optimal Buzz” or the right amount of alcohol consumption that will allow you to have a good time and not have a hangover the next day. The article says the sweet spot is between .04 and .06 percent blood alcohol level. The issue here is that everybody’s digestion of alcohol is different, so you have to pace yourself, about one drink an hour, and use a BAC calculator to know how much it would take to get you to the optimal buzz.
A few caveats here before we get into the awesome parts about alcohol: I am not advocating for underage drinking by any means — drinking while underage has been shown to cause health risks earlier for those who drink. Also, college students are hurting themselves more and more while under the influence of alcohol. Drinking and driving is a public health issue and by no means should any person drive while under the influence of alcohol.
Now that we got all of the dour parts out of the way, we can all collectively agree that alcohol is a wonderful stimulant that is great for parties, tailgates included. So you should bring a cooler filled with alcohol, probably something like beer because it is the easiest to pace yourself with. The ideal state is the optimal buzz; you’re trying to have a good time, not puke while heading into the stadium, so just relax, drink some water and have a beer once an hour. By doing this you’ll have a great time and you’ll be able to remember most of the game.
So take what you want from this exploration of tailgating. I’m by no means saying that there is a best way to tailgate, but science is. Play your music, drink your beer, burn some meat and above all, get pumped.
Blake Nelson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @b_e_nelson.