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The Essentials for NFL tailgating

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When it comes to football, it's all about having the right equipment. If you're thinking of going tailgating this year, here are the five indispensable things you'll need.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

It's power rankings time! No, not for teams. Nobody cares about that any more. We're here to rank the top five items you'll need to have on hand if you're planning on showing up early to the stadium and partaking in the true national pastime: tailgating.

1. Meat

To keep the masses happy, you'll need meat. Whole pallets of meat. Pickup beds full of meat. The more the better. (And yes, for our football-loving vegan and vegetarian friends, feel free to include "meat substitute" in this slot. Soy dogs, Boca burgers, marinated hunks of tofu for grilling. If it can go on or between a bun and slathered with condiments, it belongs in this bucket.) (Note to self: bring a bucket. Filled with meat.)

2. Grill

Now that you've filled a cement mixer with glorious meat or meat-type foods, you're going to need something to cook it all on. Trust us: you don't want to have to cook your ribs on your engine block. I mean, if you gotta, you gotta, but the alternative is exponentially better. They make really small grills that transport easily. Heck, even a hibachi. No one will make fun of you. And if they do, they don't get delicious, parking-lot-fired meats!

3. Beer

We're just being honest. No one likes spending between seven and 15 dollars on a cup of beer, much less waiting in line to pay for the privilege, so bring your own and enjoy it at your tailgate party. And bring a designated driver. He or she can have extra meats. Two meats to one beer seems like a fine tradeoff, no?

4. Seating

I don't know where your tickets are. You might have really nice seats! You might be in a luxury box! But you're about to spend about four hours or so in a huge, loud, stadium with who knows how many things may go wrong or how uncomfortable you may be for the duration. So while you're tailgating, may as well take a load off and make yourself comfortable on your own terms while you can. Bring your favorite beach chair. Really stretch out. You've earned it.

5. Friends

Tailgating alone? That's fun, sure (all the meats AND the beers for yourself!), but all sports -- and by extension, all sports-related activities -- are more fun when your favorite people are around. So bring all your buddies, chums, besties, or family members whose company you enjoy and carry on together before the big game. Tailgating is the best possible time to spend with like-minded fans. There's nothing but hope in the air. And delicious grilling smells. So bask in that hope together. There's more than enough fun to go around.