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Oklahoma Sooners Football: Why we love tailgating in Norman

There’s nothing like a fall Saturday in Norman, Oklahoma.

Tulsa  v Oklahoma Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images

I love college football more than most things. If you’re reading this post, you probably feel the same way. But why is it so important to us? What makes it so special?

It’s fun to watch great athletes representing the university you love, and it’s fun to be in a stadium full of tens of thousands of rambunctious fans. But nostalgia has a lot to do with it, as well. Many of us have been going to watch the Oklahoma Sooners since our parents and grandparents took us to them as small children (and perhaps even as infants).

I grew up attending games at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. The number of home games I’ve missed in the 21st century is in the single digits, and that’s only because I lived outside of Oklahoma for three-plus years. Some of my greatest memories are from inside that stadium. However, I think I’ve made more memories on the plots of grass or concrete outside of it.

In the hours (and sometimes days) leading up to the games in Norman, time is spent eating great food, having some cold beers and meeting up with old friends. I can sincerely say that it doesn’t get much better than that. We all have our own tailgating traditions, but they’re all great if they’re dear to your heart. Here’s what makes tailgating special for some of us:

Jack Shields

What makes tailgating in Norman so special?

People who come to Norman from elsewhere (with the exception of Stillwater) rave about how friendly the folks are at the tailgates. If you walk by a tailgate in Norman with attire that represents opposing school, people will welcome you to Norman and offer you what they have. In 2004, by dad and his friend were so hospitable to some Oregon fans that they were actually invited up to Eugene and given tickets to the 2006 game. That kind of thing (maybe not to that extent) happens all the time in Norman. Opposing fans come by my dad’s tailgate ever year, eat food, drink beer and talk about how nice OU fans are.

Also, the anything-goes attitude folks have on Saturdays is awfully nice. That kind of thing isn’t exactly the norm in a state like Oklahoma, which doesn’t have anything like Bourbon Street or Beale Street. I once heard someone say that a 10-year-old girl could shotgun a beer in the middle of Lindsey Street without anyone batting an eye. That isn’t true at all, but I think you get the point.

What’s your favorite tailgating tradition?

There’s a game I like to play called “sticks”. Find two long, thin pieces of wood that can be planted into the ground and stand just above your waist. You then balance two beer bottles on top of the sticks and try to knock the other team’s off with a frisbee. First to 11 wins.

What’s the best food or beverage for a tailgate?

I make very good Bloody Mary for early games. It obviously requires the two primary ingredients — vodka and mix (I prefer Zing-Zang). What makes my Bloody Mary unique, however, is an ingredient that you wouldn’t suspect. What is it? Just a little bit of Guinness (maybe half an inch) at the bottom of the cup before adding the other ingredients. That sounds nasty, but just trust me. I actually learned it at a sports bar called The Tomahawk in Tallahassee. Need something to stir your Bloody Mary? We use Slim Jims! We then finish this thing of with some steak seasoning and a squeeze of Sriracha. It’s delicious.

As far as food is concerned, look no further than pork. Pulled pork or pork belly is probably the best way to go on a game day because it’s good on a sandwich (which means you can take it on the go). Douse it with some Head Country BBQ Sauce, which is made right here in the great state of Oklahoma!

Clay Vaughan

What’s your favorite tailgating tradition?

Having a beer in the middle of the street. It's one of the most liberating feelings in America. In Norman *most* of the alcohol laws go out the window on Saturdays in the fall — similar to the "no rules in a blizzard" concept.

What’s the best food or beverage for a tailgate?

Chili is probably my go-to tailgating food. It's cheap, serves a lot of people, and is excellent on cold days. I would give you my dad's chili recipe, but then I'd have to kill you. Instead, I'll offer a drink recipe for Club Specials, a proud Oklahoma tradition. Take a good pour of vodka and add sweet and sour (I prefer Lasco's powder Lime mix with water but that can be difficult to find). Ratio should be a little more than half sweet and sour to the vodka. Top off with a splash of sprite and a splash of club soda. Squeeze a lemon and a lime in there and serve on ice in a STYROFOAM cup. Trust me, the styrofoam is the secret. Boomer Sooner, everyone! Happy tailgating!

Austin Brown

What makes tailgating in Norman so special?

Tailgating in Norman is unlike anything else in the country. I've been to campuses where they throw great tailgates, but the football team sucks (Kansas). I've also been to campuses where the football team is good, but the tailgating sucks (Baylor), and I can tell you that there's only one Oklahoma. Most of the people you see walking around campus have followed the Sooners for decades and are extremely knowledgable about the team. There's nothing worse than watching a game with someone who either doesn't understand football or just flat doesn't care. You don't get much of that in Norman. We’re like and SEC fanbase minus the weird bangs.

What’s your favorite tailgating tradition?

Growing up, some friends of ours owned a house on Lindsey Street where we went for every tailgate since I was eight years old. We'd grill some buffalo wings, tap some kegs (in more recent years, of course) and watch whatever other games were on at the time. I still love doing that kind of thing.

What’s the best food or beverage for a tailgate?

I start every tailgating experience with the same special beverage. It's a combination of water, barley malt, rice, yeast and hops. It's Bud Light. I'm a simple man.

Austin Chandler

What makes tailgating in Norman so special?

It might be an easy answer, but tailgating in Norman is special because of the fans and general mood of the community on game days. Norman has been lauded by visitors as well as first-time home fans for their excitement, kindness and hospitality. Obviously I want OU to win, but it’s great knowing that overall, everyone just wants to have a good time together.

What’s your favorite tailgating tradition?

My personal favorite tradition is actually walking through the crowds of tents and people, saying hi to friends and strangers and getting to see peoples’ setups — from simple to outrageous — and sometimes getting some free food.

Corn dip is a must-have at tailgates. It’s basically just sour cream, mayonnaise, and cumin mixed together, then you add corn, cheese, chiles, onion, and salt and pepper, and let it chill overnight. It rocks.


What are your favorite tailgating memories, traditions, foods and beverages? Share them with us in the comments!

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