Tailgate stages every UMass student goes through
From a washed up senior
Like a gallon of milk, the nuance and excitement of UMass tailgates quickly expires. I've been around the block a few years now, and tailgating just isn't what it used to be. Sure, shotgunning a beer can be fun, but not when you get a drinking ticket.
Not to burst your bubble, but by the fourth rodeo tailgating gets stale. Enjoy the first two phases when you actually want to see the football team play and you feel invincible binge drinking under the hot sun. Because before you know it, you'll be a washed up senior who'd rather take a nap than shotgun a beer.
Stage 1: School spirit
As a freshman, your peers will tell you that a UMass tailgate is something you can't miss. People will say that a college tailgate will definitely be a daytime rager, and that you better stack up your backpack to the top with beer. Most of the rumors you will hear are true, and the large mobs of people in the McGuirk parking lot will definitely get you excited. Of course if you don't attend a tailgate your freshman year then you will be given a huge dose of FOMO, so you better be there or be square.
When you're a freshman, there's a good chance you might actually be interested in going to the games (as I was), since you haven't yet experienced a typical UMass football season. Of course half the student section will be empty and sleeping off their tailgate booze, but hey, nobody said this was Alabama or Clemson.
Stage 2: The peak
Sophomore year is typically the year students feel like they're the shit, and with a year of experience under their belt, who's to blame them?
Consequently, sophomore year is when you feel like you can do anything at a tailgate, and as long as you're with your squad, you got nothing to worry about, not even the surrounding cops who gain notoriety for ruining the fun (more to come on that).
As a sophomore, tailgates might be your liveliest experience, and at this point your interest in going to the game will be a lot less than during your freshman phase. Your chances of blacking out during a sophomore year tailgate have doubled since the last year, and odds are you will definitely be trying to pull off many tailgate shenanigans (i.e. stealing beers off someone else's flip cup table when nobody's looking).
Not to mention, when that spring tailgate in April approaches at the end of your sophomore year, you might not realize it, but that's probably when the tailgate fun has reached its peak.
Stage 3: Year of the veteran
By the time your junior year starts coming around, you've already been accustomed to all sorts of tailgate horseplay, so you're really just there to hang with your friends.
At the same time, the tailgate experience slowly seems to be getting old, because you've been here before a number of times. However, this time you're faced with the challenge of looking out over your younger friends, who are still in that reckless, consequence-free phase.
For me, the tailgate experience became sour during the spring tailgate of my junior year, when my roommate was arrested for the most minor thing you could think of: dropping a half-empty beer can onto the parking lot concrete. It is for this particular experience that I saw firsthand how notorious those tailgate cops can be. Not only did they give my buddy a court date, but they proceeded to ask for my ID, and when I gave it to them (I was already 21 by the time), this certain UMass officer proclaimed it was a fake (which I proceeded to laugh at).
As a result, you start to become aware of the dark side of the tailgate life your junior year. All that reckless behavior from the underclassmen will eventually draw the attention of an officer hoping to get that bonus for arresting an unsuspecting freshman. So protect your underclassmen friends, and don't let them get stung by the police bug.
Stage 4: The washed up senior
Alright, by this point, nobody gives a damn about you anymore. You've been through it all and seen it all as a senior, so it might be time to try to relive your glory tailgate days for all you care. You're practically a senior citizen in tailgate years, and with only a few tailgates left until graduation, there's only so much you can do to forget that you're gonna be kicked out into the real world soon.
So savor the tailgates as much as you can your senior year, overfill your Snapchat stories for the final time, and maybe even try to grab a selfie with a state trooper. After that, you won't be seeing a tailgate again until possibly coming back as an alum for Homecoming, and by then you're ancient history.