My family and I have been Houston Texans season ticketholders since Game 1, that celebrated and gratifying franchise opener (Texans 19, Cowboys 10), and we've always taken seriously our tailgating privileges.
Texans fans tailgate better than most, including the North Texas delusionals who do it up there at Jerry's World. We've repeatedly been honored as the NFL's best tailgating experience. I've spoken with visiting fans from all over the country who would agree; we throw an incredible block party where everyone who enjoys football is a welcomed neighbor.
At our own tailgate, we've got one head chef: my brother, Anthony. He creates the menus and then cooks up the good stuff. My youngest brother, Adrian, is our beer steward. He'll pair the cuisine with an elegant Belgian ale or just break out the Tecate for mass quaffing.
That leaves the music to me.
Sadly, music is the one area of the Texans tailgate experience that is commonly neglected. Year after year, the same stuff gets trotted out, more tired than Arian Foster after his next brilliant touchdown run. If we're going to shake off the rust like Andre Johnson shakes off foolish defenders, let's start by looking at the songs we're celebrating with on Sundays.
In the spirit of all things tailgating, here's a "This, Not That"-styled list for foods, drinks and especially music to try this season. We post up at Blue Lot Section 21 -- stop by anytime.
This: "Haunt You," The Pack a.d. Not That: "You Shook Me All Night Long," AC/DC Brian Johnson began wailing "You Shook Me" more than 20 years before the Texans even became a franchise. So I've had to hear someone playing this song at tailgates since the team's inception. I do not want to hear it again.
My choice for a newer rocker with a good hook is The Pack a.d.'s "Haunt You." For one, a lot of people have heard it on a television commercial for something I never pay attention to; and, the subtext is someone will be haunted, the way J.J. Watt plans to spook visiting QBs this season.
Brisket and Dogfish Head are perennial big rockers on the menu, but this year, give a local IPA a chance to win you over. Karbach Hopadillo paired with a sturdy slab of dry-rubbed ribs is a good start.
This: Anything by Houston Singing Phenom Danielle Bradbery Not That: "Boot Scootin' Boogie," Brooks & Dunn
Our team lines 'em up in Houston, so you're going to hear country music while waiting in long lines at the portapotties or marching into the stadium. But, the next time I hear/see "Boot Scootin' Boogie" and its associated dance, I'm going to plow through those dance lines like Ben Tate needing two yards for the first down.
If you don't know who Bradbery is you must not watch Bradbery-obsessed Channel 2 news or be aware of the NBC reality show The Voice. She's a 16-year-old contestant from right here in Houston who has advanced to the final stages of the show. Say what you will about her coach, who's got more beef with some local music writers than an Oklahoma cattle ranch, the guy picked a winner here.
Bradbery has an incredibly pure voice, put there by DNA for whatever lucky reason. She accepts advice from her coaches politely (she is from Houston, after all), but she doesn't need it. Aside from being born with talent, she's shown from the first show she knows how to skillfully use it. If she isn't bringing CMAs home by the wheelbarrow soon, it'll be a surprise bigger than the Jags winning one against the Texans this year.
Out with the old jalapeno poppers and Mexican beer, say my brothers. Make room for the new and tasty stuff, saison ales and anything -- boudin, mac and cheese, eggplant -- that can be Panko-breaded and fried into a ball.
This: "Azz Everywhere," Big Freedia Not That: "Cupid Shuffle," Cupid
"Cupid Shuffle," was fun for any dance-challenged soul to master and enjoy, but I grew tired of the song's simplicity ("to the right, to the right, the right, the right, the right,"...yes, that's a song lyric) after a few hundred plays.
I have nothing against line dancing, but, if we're really gonna dance, let's get to twerkin' already. I wanna see some hips whipping and some butts all up in the a-yer. We can leave the shuffling and scootin' for the people watching the game in the retirement-home rec room.
Refreshments: If The Queen Diva can't get you moving with this song, maybe you've already consumed too much Budweiser, which, incidentally, should be replaced with St. Bernardus Abt. 12, to get you in party mode in a much quicker, more refined manner. Also, lose the brats and cook up a big ol' pot of menudo. You may need the leftovers for remedying a hangover.
This: "Can't Hold Us," Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Not That: "Party Rock Anthem," LMFAO
LMFAO's ode to the party was a sturdy warhorse that needed to be taken out back of the stables and shot in the head at least a season ago. Trust me, tailgaters consumed that song like they gobble up fajitas. But it's also time to go fajita-less at a tailgate. My brother recommends a good quesadilla, chock-full of mushrooms, caramelized onions, applewood bacon, Gruyere cheese and an apricot or peach preserve-based dipping sauce.
As the Texans get wins and national airtime, everyone will be running up to the bandwagon. Offer a hand and pull them aboard. The more hands in the air, the less the ceiling can hold us. And, if our team falters, it can take solace in Macklemore's proclamation: "I got my city right behind me, if I fall, they got me."
Refreshments: Pair the quesadilla with the most easily affordable and available beer for mass consumption, Miller Lite, says my other brother. Cheap and tasty, it pours smoothly into the beer bong or while playing flip cup.
This: "Game Over," Lil' Flip Not That: "It's Football Time in Houston," Clay Walker Clay Walker's anthem has quickly gone the way of "Houston Oilers No. 1." It's symbolic of an era gone by where we had to celebrate "the best we could do," thing like first downs and near-wins. This team has its sites set higher and needs a song about being bad, dangerous, you-don't-want-none Houstonians.
Even if you still enjoy Walker's song, you must admit it could be incredibly intimidating to the Andrew Lucks of the world to hear Lil' Flip pouring through Reliant's P.A. Add 70,000 rabid fans bouncin' like they're in the club and it may truly be game over by the end of the first quarter.
"Tops Drop," "Southside," "H-Town Kinda Day," any of those work, too.
Refreshments: Since the subject is the home team, baby brother says Saint Arnold Christmas Ale is a good choice, once you can get it. Pair it with a good Texas hill country sausage. We better not catch you opening a package of Eckrich on our parking lot.
This: "Like a Boss," Slim Thug Not That: "We Are the Champions," Queen This year, more than ever, Texans fans are dreaming big. Other teams have enjoyed their winning moments. Let them have Queen. We're still looking for our debut Super Bowl appearance. If we do it this year, it's because we'll be running things like a boss. You can't get more Houston than that.
Refreshments: It's the year to ditch those measly buffalo wings and attempt to smoke some whole yardbird, says Anthony. It's a refined art, getting a smoked chicken exactly right. Dream big, he says.
Aim higher than the Blue Moon, Adrian says. Try brewing a batch of beer at home. Like the approaching season, it'll be fun, a challenge and ready for everyone to enjoy at playoff time.