The Tailgate Regulars
The current members of the Big 12 have got a pretty good thing going. Football is reasonably competitive for most of the teams in the conference and the basketball round-robin makes for an exciting lead up to March. What do each of these teams bring to the metaphorical Big 12 Tailgate?
Perfectly cooked beef brisket. It's delicious and the Longhorns have brought it to every game for as long as anyone can remember. It's expected to be there and be amazing, so it makes people irrationally angry when they don't show up. Though it does provide a great opportunity to knock them down a couple of pegs by pointing out how consistent the Horned Frogs have become.
Burgers, brats, and dogs. The Horned Frogs have recently been added to the tailgate and have quickly become a favored member of the group. They still feel like they should try to win the rest of the tailgaters over by becoming the fallback when Texas drops the ball with the brisket. They bring the must-haves of the tailgate, cook them in a way that everyone enjoys, and are a genuinely pleasant addition to the festivities.
The Bears bring something that is always wildly successful at tailgates—potato salad. Unfortunately, the recent "Potato Salad Incident" has left the other tailgate regulars wary of what Baylor is bringing this season. You can't leave potato salad in the sun all day and expect people won't find out about the salmonella eventually! Playing it off like you didn't know about basic food safety doesn't help your case either, guys.
While generally more interested in basketball season (it's all they talk about at the tailgate), the Jayhawks are still an enjoyable contributor. They bring something that's important to have as an option and everyone enjoys having around, but isn't particularly good. Potato chips.
The Cyclones bring something different each week, and it's usually some weird new recipe they found on Pinterest. The dishes are very hit or miss, but the effort and continued appearances are appreciated. There was tension the week that the Cyclones brought homemade potato chips that everyone enjoyed way more than Kansas's grocery store brand chips. The animosity definitely carried over into basketball season.
The Wildcats brought something that has no business being as good as it is, but everyone loves it. It's as if the dip has been made with magic that keeps the other tailgaters coming back to eat more, surrendering to the mysterious purple powers that be. Just when everyone thinks they couldn't possibly eat more, they're idly stuffing their faces full of tortilla chips loaded with Mexican Corn Dip, a.k.a. "Crack Dip".
Bring the same thing every single week and it's always something no one likes or wants to eat...except the Sooners. It's steeped in tradition that is foreign to most of the attendees and is definitely a subtle jab Texas. Calf fries.
Significantly less stodgy than their Sooner counterparts, the Cowboys are looking to contribute while still being well liked by the rest of the tailgaters. They bring jello shots and have generally maintained a good rapport with the group, with the exception of the time they only brought lemon jello shots. There's still some lingering tension with the Cyclones after an unexpected table flip during a particularly heated game of flip cup, that ended with the shots scattered around the parking lot.
The Red Raiders show up wildly inconsistently and everyone is disappointed when they actually do. They roll up to the tailgate like a B-list celebrity who can't stop telling everyone how attractive they are, chug a beer that they've snatched out of someone else's hand, smash the can on their forehead and toss it into the lot, then greet the group with a "Whazzuuuuuuuup!!!" The other tailgaters have started referring to them by codename "Taco". They bring a bucket of KFC chicken (original recipe because why go above and beyond and get extra crispy?) and eat all the biscuits in the car on the way over.
Beer, and lots of it. The 'Eers are a recent addition that aren't big on cooking, but still want to be remembered as an important contributor to the tailgate. They're a little out there, but they can strike up a conversation with anyone. The other attendees may make this event a tailgate, but WVU makes it a party.
The Fresh Meat
The Big 12 has the staples of a great tailgate covered. Any teams contending as expansion hopefuls will have to make sure they're filling any gaps and that their contributions improve the overall success of the tailgate. What do some of these expansion hopefuls have to offer?
Funeral potatoes. An expected dish from an institution that relies heavily on its churchiness as part of its identity. The potatoes go over well with most of those already at the tailgate. The regulars are all secretly hoping the name of the dish isn't metaphorical for what the Cougars will do on the field.
Skyline Chili. Seen as an incredibly weird thing to bring to a tailgate in August, it's very much appreciated as the season wears on.
The Tigers bring a pack of Nabisco Chips Ahoy! Original Chocolate Chip Cookies. They refer to them exclusively as Nabisco Chips Ahoy! Original Chocolate Chip Cookies and make sure all the guests know that they are name brand. The addition of their cookies fills a gap in the menu (dessert), but it becomes irritating when they only want to talk about the brand name of their cookie instead of their other contributions to the tailgate.
The Cougars show up to the tailgate with cheesy jalapeño grits. Everyone at the tailgate is generally in favor once they've given them a try, even if inviting them feels a bit too much like Texas making a move to solidify dominion over the grill.
Condiments. Lots of people like them, a few people have a seemingly irrational hatred of them, and the rest are fairly indifferent toward them. Once the Rams have been invited, the regulars would quickly come to appreciate their value. They'd become a favorite attendee and would be seen as a fantastic addition to the tailgate—they just need to convince the group they're worthy of the invite in the first place.