So even though I’m in the business of walking up to strangers and talking to them, it turns out I’m much better at doing it for business than I am when it comes to social stuff. Which meant that I spent last season meekly walking past the party in the Blackbaud parking lot by the entrance to the East Stands thinking “Man, I wish I knew somebody over there.”
This year I’m a member of The Regiment, and I’m waaaaay over being shy about stopping by the group’s tent before a Battery match and warming up for the event with a few 12-ounce curls.
But look, I know how tough that first step can be. Which is why we’re here to help. We wrote about this same topic back in February, but now that it’s the home opener (7:30, Blackbaud Stadium), we figure it’s time for a refresher.
The first thing to know is that The Regiment wants members, but doesn’t expect anyone to join. Which means that Regiment members view their tailgates as a way to meet new fans and make going to matches a more enjoyable for everyone. Not everyone who stops by to have a beer and nosh on a grilled sausage is going to wind up paying their dues and joining the group, and the leadership understands that. But the more connected Battery fans become, the better the fan experience gets.
But you’re worried about etiquette. It’s Charleston. We understand. Manners matter here. So how do you approach the people having fun at the Regiment tent when you don’t know any of them? Here’s what you need to know:
YOU ARE WELCOME: Walk up and introduce yourself. Very few Regiment members are known to bite new people. You will likely be engaged in conversation and pointed toward goodies.
THE COMMUNITY COOLER: Beer at Regiment functions is segregated into two categories: Beer that individual members bring for themselves or to share as they wish, and the community cooler, which is stocked with a variety of beers that anyone of legal drinking age is free to consume.
I will confess that, even knowing this, at my first tailgate I misjudged which of the many coolers was the community cooler. Nobody cared, but to avoid repeating my harmless party foul, look for the big (55-gallon, much larger than a standard family picnic cooler) ice chest. It’s white, and usually located on the ground near the tent and the cooking area. Or better yet, say, “I hear y’all have a community cooler. May I have a beer?”
THE FOOD: The Regiment is blessed with several good cooks, and its tailgates typically feature hot dogs plus more or more “proteins.” These are available to anyone. Plus, members who aren’t involved in the tailgate set-up and grilling often arrive bearing side dishes, which get set out potluck-style. Get in line and have at it.
Grilled pork tenderloin is on the menu today, and it’s becoming something of a Regiment specialty. There’s also group lore about how when the English members bring curry, that means it’s going to rain.
PITCHING IN: Want to score some extra Brownie points? Bring something to the party. Side dishes? Sure. Paper plates, napkins, that sort of thing? Even if the organizers don’t use them immediately, they’ll go into the stash. And if you REALLY want to get in good with this crowd, bring some beer as a contribution to the community cooler. You can bring your own cooler, too, if you’ve got beer you want to drink but keep separate.
SUGGESTED CONVERSATIONAL TOPICS: “Hey, how about that Charleston Battery?” or “So, do you follow any other soccer leagues?” or “What’s your favorite beer?” Variations on these three themes typically do well. Mix and match.
THROW YOUR OWN PARTY: If you’d rather have your own tailgate, but you’d like to socialize, plan on getting to the stadium early to look for a spot in the first couple of rows of spaces beside the East Stands. This is traditionally Ground Zero for Battery tailgates, and sometimes you’ll find the groups of traveling fans set up near the Regiment, with a lot of back-and-forth socializing. Today’s Regiment tailgate should be underway around 5 p.m.
JOIN THE REGIMENT… LATER: When you drop in at a Regiment tailgate, nobody is going to hassle you about joining the Battery’s official supporter’s group. Just enjoy the tailgate and the conversation. But if you’re inclined to join (membership comes with schwag and a discount at Pro Shop), stop by the Regimental Recruiting Table under the West Stands during the match. The volunteers there will take your money and sign you up.