It's well known that the Houston Texans have one of the greatest tailgating traditions in the country, a fact made more impressive by the team's relative youth. On Thursdays during football season, we're spotlighting groups that make Texans tailgating the pride of Houston.
I was surprised that no one had told me just how great the Texan tailgate is. Maybe it is because they are the newest team in the NFL. The Houston Oilers played here until 1997 when they moved to Tennessee, and the Houston faithful had to wait until 2002 to get a pro team back. Either way, this Texans tailgate has to be in the top three tailgates across the league, and their fans have been continually supportive, bending over backwards for me to return there.
Adam Goldstein, Tailgate to Heaven: A British NFL Fan Tackles America
The quote above from Adam Goldstein was supplied to me by Steph Stradley, known to NFL fans as "Texans Chick" for her popular football blog at the Houston Chronicle. Stradley also belongs to a weekly tailgating crew called the Lone Spot Tailgaters, which was one of the crews to be featured in Goldstein's book on American tailgating traditions, Tailgate to Heaven.
The Lone Spot Tailgaters are a small but fierce crew, tailgating from the Platinum lot and being neighborly to their fellow tailgaters. That generosity often extends to taking people into their own tailgate -- Stradley estimates that, at certain points, the amount of Lone Spot Tailgaters has numbered near 100 -- but the core group remains, formed a few years ago from fellow "tailgate nomads" who were without a group of their own. And that was the beginning of Lone Spot.
On getting your own crew together:
Starting a tailgate group in Houston is easy because the Texans very much encourage tailgating. In some cities, there are very few spots around stadiums, and some teams ban real tailgating. For the Texans, you need at least one parking pass, or as my tailgate calls it, a lone spot. You can make your tailgate as basic or as elaborate as you want. I've done it both ways and have learned that tailgating is much more about the company than it is the setup.
The Texans have their tailgating guidelines on their website, and they are among the most friendly ones in the NFL. The Texans have been ranked as some of the best tailgating in the league.
On thinking ahead when naming your lots as a sports team:
The Texans started the Platinum Lot as a reserved lot in front of the Blue Lot. (Originally it was going to be called Silver, but Blue next to Silver was way too Cowboy-ish.)
On the importance of planning and packing essentials:
Typically, before game day, we send out emails to the main people in our group figuring out what the menu is going to be and who is going to bring what. Sometimes we have theme menus, like fried turkey before a Thanksgiving game or gumbo before a Saints game. We show up early, set up the pop-up tents (essential for Texas blacktop tailgating), grill, trashbags, chairs, music and just have a party. The guys that bring the big items actually put together a spreadsheet checklist of the things they need to pack each game.
On beer for breakfast, Johnny Cash-style:
I've found that with all the Texans noon starts, you get pretty accustomed to early morning beer and BBQ.
On being a "tailgate nomad" and how to make friends on game days:
A lot of folks don't have a tailgate. I started out not having a home one. Usually if you are decked out in a Texans jersey, and bring your own beverages, there's plenty of welcoming public tailgates near the front of lots. Texans tailgating tends to be fairly neighborly. A good place to find particularly welcoming tailgates near your particular lot is to go to the TexansTalk.com Tailgating sub-forum. (It's also a good place to go if you want to meet up with Texans fans going to road games).
On making the kind of guacamole that's so good, it'll elicit a Pavlovian response:
This is Josh Hudson's Guacamole Recipe. It's a total dude recipe. He always brings it to the tailgate, and now I associate home games with fresh guac:
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- 2 small vine ripened tomatoes - diced and drained
- 1 small red onion - diced
- 1 bunch cilantro - diced
- 1 fresh jalapeno - seeded and diced
- 2 ripe large Haas avocados
- 1 packet extra spicy guacamole mix
- 1 lime
Make pico de gallo by combining diced tomatoes, onion, cilantro and jalapeno and set aside. Cut avocados in half, remove pit and remove fruit and place into a medium sized mixing bowl. Squeeze juice of lime, just enough to prevent browning. Mash avocados with a large fork or potato mashing utensil. Stir in guacamole mix. Mix in pico de gallo with a ratio of 3:2 avocado:pico. Stir well to combine into a smooth consistency. Add additional lime juice to taste and for additional preservation.