The Carolina Panthers' home opener is Sunday, Sept. 14, against the Chicago Bears.
The game begins at 1 p.m. The tailgating? That'll start earlier.
To help you score a hit with your spread, we consulted Joe Cahn. The self-proclaimed Commissioner of Tailgating – who runs tailgating.com – has been picnicking with fans at sporting events around the country since 1996. In May, he tailgated at Lowe's Motor Speedway before the NASCAR All-Star Challenge.
Cahn talked with us about the psychology of the pregame feeding frenzy :
WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT: Tailgating is really about social connections. Usually when a total stranger approaches us and says hello, we wonder why they're talking to us and what they want. But in the parking lot, that's all they want just to say hello. It's a throwback to what America used to be. We live in a world where we send e-mails and text messages. In the parking lot, we stand around together and communicate. It's about the game, and it's not about the game.
TIP NO. 1: The most important thing is to have a checklist. (There's a printable version on his Web site.) That way there's not that moment where you realize you forgot the plates and ice.
TIP NO. 2: Find a good spot to park. Not all parking spaces are created equal. Park next to a grassy area or at the end of the parking row this gives you more room for serious tailgating.
TIP NO. 3: Food should be ready one and a half hours before the game starts. This is plenty of time for those going to the game to eat, clean up and extinguish fires. Share food with neighbors. Swap recipes.
TIP NO. 4: Remember, everyone is going to have a beverage in one hand and food in the other, so keep the food small and manageable. I make small hamburgers that can fit on a dinner roll. And I always have hot dogs because kids love them.
CAN'T-MISS RECIPE: Buy a bag of already cooked meatballs. Transfer them into a plastic Ziploc bag and put something on it that says Mom's Meatballs, like she made them. Throw in barbecue sauce and chunks of fresh or canned pineapple. Heat them up in a pot on the grill and have bamboo skewers instead of toothpicks so everyone can get several in one shot. They'll think you're the best chef in the world.
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