Ever heard of the old military adage, the seven Ps? There a few wording variations of it, but the sentiment behind the phrase highlights the importance of always being prepared for any given scenario to achieve optimal results. The version that's embedded into my memory reads:
Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
This catchy phrase can be used in a plethora of different instances, but for today's purposes, I'll be highlighting how it relates to having the best possible experience when attending a Chicago White Sox game.
When it comes to organization, I have an extremely Type A personality. I like to plan things out ahead of time, and I do just that when I attend Chicago White Sox games. As a 40-game season ticket holder, I spend a lot of time at Guaranteed Rate Field. Anyone who has attended games with me knows that I always bring a backpack into the stadium that's filled with various items to increase the enjoyment of my ballpark experience. That's where the motivation for this piece came about, but we need to walk it back a little bit to encompass the whole gameday preparation guide.
One of the best things about Guaranteed Rate Field is that there are plenty of parking lots in which you tailgate. I prefer Lot B because of its location in relation to my seats in Section 149 down the third-base line, but no matter where you're setting up shop, you need to bring a number of items for it to be a successful tailgate.
First and foremost, the cooler is the star of the show when it comes to tailgating. Find a brand you like and get a cooler that's an ideal fit for your vehicle. I have a decent amount of trunk space, so I roll with an RTIC 45.
Now to load this thing up. The contents of your cooler may vary depending on how many people you're catering to, if you plan on grilling out, and how long you plan on staying in the parking lot. No matter what, throw your beers in that bad boy first. Cans are ideal because of stackability, but if you have bottles, putting them in first will allow you to shape-shift around them.
Next comes water bottles or Gatorade because hydration is key, especially during the dog days of summer. After my rectangle of beer cans is in place, I line the outside of it with containers of the aforementioned hydration liquids.
After that, it's time for the first layer of ice. The beverages need to be cold, so dump out an amount of ice that surrounds the containers of liquid but doesn't completely pile over them.
If food is in the plans, packages of burgers, brats, hot dogs, etc. and condiments should lay nicely across the top of your beer/hydration base. Add in the rest of the ice, and your cooler is good to go.
Now it's onto food that doesn't need to be on ice and clean-up supplies. Early on in every season, the White Sox have a tote bag promotional giveaway. I've collected a few from years past, so if you don't have one, get out to the game on April 17th and pick up this tailgate essential.
Any reusable grocery bag can work here too, but I just figured I'd give you the most White Sox-themed details as possible. Whichever style you decide to use, fill up this bag with burger/hot dog buns, whatever snacks you want to munch on, paper plates, plastic utensils if necessary, a roll of paper towels, and a garbage bag.
If you're out in the parking lot for an extended period of time, you'll want some chairs and a table to sit around. A few folding chairs and a simple card table with foldable legs can do the trick, though there are longer foldable tailgate tables available if you have a bigger spread.
There are a couple of additional accessories you can bring, such as a portable flag pole and a flag. Get all these items and your grill (if necessary) loaded up in the car and the tailgate hardware preparation is done.
As I mentioned earlier, the backpack is an essential part of my ballpark experience. After your tailgate gear is loaded up, grab a backpack and fill it up with the following items:
- Sunflower seeds
- Mini bottle of hand sanitizer
- Portable charger and cable
- Ziplock bag
- Bluetooth speaker
- Hand towel (if there's a chance of precipitation)
- Weather-appropriate layers of clothing (rain jacket, windbreaker, hoodie, winter hat, etc.)
- Sunblock (depending on the weather)
- Sunglasses and case (depending on the weather)
Now, if that seems like overkill, first refer back to the seven Ps. If that's not enough, I'll explain why each item belongs in the backpack.
- Peanuts: They're one of the best baseball snacks. Bringing your own will help you avoid paying ballpark prices for a smaller quantity.
- Sunflower seeds: Another great baseball snack. Maybe I haven't looked in the right places, but I haven't seen sunflower seeds for sale at The Rate. Regardless, the same reasoning behind bringing peanuts applies here.
- Koozies: Keep your beer cold and your hand warm.
- Mini bottle of hand sanitizer: Maybe I'm just a germophobe, but using a little bit of hand sanitizer after that half-ass rinse you call "washing your hands" in a public space is just better for everybody's health.
- Portable charger and cable: Don't miss out on capturing a photo or video because you forgot to charge your phone before the game.
- Ziplock bag: Keep your phone dry if it's raining or snowing.
- Bluetooth speaker: Gotta have some tailgate tunes. This item gets left in the car when you enter the game.
- Hand towel: You'll want to wipe off your seat if there's precipitation. Grabbing 13 napkins won't get the job done, just bring the damn towel.
- Weather-appropriate layers of clothing: Be prepared to brave the elements.
- Sunblock: Avoid looking like a tomato for a week after you attend a game.
- Sunglasses and case: Keep from squinting while attempting to watch the game if the sun is shining. If clouds roll in, throw the shades in the case and leave them in the backpack.
- Water bottles: Right before you head into the game from the tailgate, grab a couple of unopened water bottles from the cooler and throw them in the backpack. Avoid overpaying for them during the game and stay hydrated.
In addition to having everything you need for a day at the ballpark at your disposal, bringing a backpack into the stadium is also ideal for the accumulation of various items throughout the game. Gameday giveaway as you go through the gate? Toss it in the backpack. Redeem a check-in offer at the Sox Social Lounge? You got a place for that. Buy some new merch but don't plan on wearing it at the game? The backpack will hold it for you.
End rant on practicality; resume where we left off in the preparation phase. Take that backpack full of essentials out with you to your already loaded up car, and you're all set for a day at Guaranteed Rate Field. Just plan out which lot you want to park in and you're on your way.
Hopefully this guide can be a helpful resource for the South Side faithful as they venture out to see their new-look White Sox in action throughout the 2020 season.