How to Tailgate and Drink Responsibly at Sporting Events

We’re heading into the fall months, and that means only one thing for most Americans: football season has begun. With temperatures getting cooler, a whopping 70% of fans who plan to attend an NFL game also plan to tailgate. Food, drink, and competitive spirits are plentiful at these events.

Of course, there’s also one plentiful beverage that can make these occasions hard to navigate: alcohol. Beer, wine, and other drinks have become intertwined in American pregame rituals, and they can turn a tailgate event into a major hazard if you’re trying to cut back on alcohol.

How do you drink responsibly at an event that revolves around alcohol? Can you avoid binge drinking or even stay completely sober with such a huge spectrum of drinks up for grabs? Let’s take a look at everything you should know about responsible tailgating practices.

Know the Laws

No matter what tailgating events draw your attention this football season, it’s important to know the most important laws for responsible drinking. Keep in mind that these laws will vary by state, and different stadiums may also have their own policies.

Public Intoxication

Having a few too many drinks can make it easy to get more intoxicated than you expected. People who have had more alcohol than they can handle may get rambunctious, loud, or even destructive.

These disorderly behaviors may get you banned from the game. If you’re unlucky, they may also earn you public intoxication charges, which can result in various fines and penalties, including spending the night in jail.

Open Container

Open container laws vary a great deal, but many cities make it illegal to have open alcoholic beverages in certain public areas. While it is often legal to tailgate with open containers at certain stadiums on game day, you can’t bring these containers to unaffiliated streets or parking lots. Be aware of the local laws and your surroundings if you plan to drink alcohol!

Driving Under the Influence

There is no safe amount of alcohol consumption if you’re the one driving afterward. If caught driving drunk, you could face fines, a license suspension, or jail time. Plan to have a designated driver or use a ride-share and stay safe.

Watch Your Alcohol

On a more personal level, you can also drink responsibly by watching your alcohol intake. Avoid binge drinking with these strategies:

Set Goals in Advance

Decide your drinking limits in advance. When you go in with a plan, it’s often easier to stay in control and avoid over-consumption.

Count Your Drinks

With your upper drinking limit in place, make sure you’re counting your drinks throughout the day. It may help to understand what a “standard drink” is as you keep track.

Pace Yourself

Avoid drinking too much at once. Experts recommend drinking no more than one standard drink per hour. This gives the body enough time to metabolize the alcohol without resulting in serious intoxication which can cause blackouts.

Don’t Forget to Eat

Eat before you head to the event, and don’t forget to keep snacking while you’re there. Having food in your stomach slows your alcohol absorption, making it easier for your body to manage your intake.

However, avoid salty snacks where possible. High-sodium foods can make you thirsty, tricking you into drinking more alcohol.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Like food, water helps your body process your alcohol. It also helps you minimize some of the nasty side effects of alcohol, including things like dehydration, nausea, and headaches. Try matching one glass of water for every alcoholic drink.

Skip the Drinking Games

Drinking games normalize binge drinking, and they also create an environment where people feel comfortable pressuring each other to drink more. Avoid these games, including popular favorites like chugging contests and beer pong.

Consider Your Company

If you can, avoid going to sports events with friends who pressure you to drink. Instead, find people who support your personal goals and won’t encourage more consumption. You can also ask these people for help managing social pressure and tracking your drinks.

In either case, don’t try to keep up with others in your social circle: it’s fine to drink as little as you want!

Consider Staying Sober

More and more, researchers are finding that there’s no safe amount of alcohol to drink. These findings often fly in the face of popular tailgating traditions, but alcohol isn’t the only draw at these events.

If you’re struggling with a drinking problem or you’ve been focusing on staying sober, you will want to ditch the alcohol entirely. Navigating this decision can feel tricky in certain social circles, but it allows you to stay in total control while enjoying the day. Here are a few tips:

Volunteer to Drive

Everyone loves the designated driver. If you plan to stay sober, volunteer to drive and make sure your friends and family members get home safe. This often makes it easier to focus on staying sober, as you’ll be aware that the people around you are counting on you.

Bring Non-Alcoholic Drinks

Having non-alcoholic beverages nearby makes it easier to stay sober while tailgating. With a drink in hand, you’re less likely to get offered a beer or pressured to drink up.

There are plenty of great non-alcoholic options to choose from, including canned mocktails, non-alcoholic beer and wine, and even trendy sparkling water that won’t look out of place at a sports event. If you’re concerned about getting pressured to drink, bring a thermos or flask with you and tell your friends and family that you mixed your own drink in advance.

Focus on Fun

The best way to stay sober is to focus on what you enjoy rather than the drinks you’re avoiding. Fortunately, that’s often easy while tailgating!

Socialize with the people around you, dig into the snacks and soft drinks, pass the pigskin around, dance to the music, and engage in some family-friendly tailgate games.

Enjoy Your Tailgate Event

Tailgating is a beloved tradition, and everyone should have the chance to enjoy it! Whether you’re hoping to drink more responsibly, limit your alcohol intake, or stay sober, the tips above can help you navigate your next tailgate event.

If you’re struggling to manage an alcohol use disorder, you’re not alone. Learn about our programs, support, and customized treatment plans to jump-start your recovery.

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