Have you ever been late to a football game, rushed through the gates and hurried to find your seat, only to discover there's about two dozen people in the stadium? You ask yourself why was no one else nervous about missing the first play? And why do the people trickling in during the first quarter seem to be having a much better time? The answers to these puzzling questions lie in the time-honored tradition of tailgating, a ritual of supreme importance to real American sports fans. When it comes to being on the field to watch pre-game warm-ups, you can certainly beat the tailgaters, but you'll find it's much more fun to join them. Here are the 10 items required for the perfect tailgate.

10. KFC 50 Cent Hot Wings

KFC may have developed the perfect complement to the tailgating experience. Their 50 Cent Hot Wings are great to have along even if you plan on preparing a feast for hundreds. They can serve as a first course, between-course snack and the perfect final bite before moseying into the stadium. Be sure to bring some along to your next pre-game fiesta—just don't be surprised if the rest of the gang had the same idea.

9. A Crew

There is no such thing as a tailgate for one. It is a communal affair. Arrive with your crew of diehard fans, and invite others to join. You're all there for the same reason, so why not let your fellow man have a bite to eat? Unless your fellow man happens to be wearing the other team's jersey. Then he can starve.

8. Games

You're there to watch a game, not participate, right? Au contraire—everyone loves a little parking lot football. Or paddle ball. Or checkers (which is less likely to have you paying to replace someone's windshield).

7. Audio Equipment

Many tailgaters choose to have local sports radio running while they eat, drink and be merry. But this is a party, after all, so a little music won't hurt. Just be sure your sound system can handle the competition, since everyone will be blasting something.

6. Fan Gear

One of the best parts of tailgating is getting decked out in your team colors. If you can pull it off, try a throwback jersey bearing the name of a childhood hero. If that's not your thing, there are limitless options for apparel and accessories bearing your team's logo, although we recommend saving the matching bow tie and cummerbund ensemble for a wedding or other formal occasion.

5. Protection From The Elements

We're not saying you need to occupy the parking lot, but you know the weather in your town. Be it a tent, pavillion, cabana or just a big umbrella, bring along whatever is necessary to prevent mother nature from spoiling the fun. No one's game experience was ever enhanced by sun-poisoning.

4. A Vehicle

Everyone has seen an RV with team logos—there are at least a couple in every stadium parking lot. But if you don't have the funds (or desire) to go that far, at least see to it there's a hatchback or SUV at the center of your pre-game party. This will be your kitchen, entertainment console and power-nap hideaway.

3. Chairs

Tailgating is fun, but it's also a chance to relax, and last we checked, asphalt isn't exactly easy on the rear end. The old fashioned lawn chair is a thing of the past—collapsible, portable seats are now more luxurious than ever, so invest in some quality equipment. Your derriere will thank you.

2. Drinks

Whether it's the Arizona desert or frozen Green Bay, keeping hydrated is extremely important. That said, we recommend not getting "over-hydrated;" if the game goes into overtime and turns into an instant classic, you'll want to have your wits about you.

1. The Grill

For hardcore tailgaters, the grill is the anchor of the whole operation. Not everyone is a grillmaster, and doing justice to a side of ribs takes time and care, so this is not for the faint of heart. Nonetheless, the grill remains an iconic emblem of the tailgate.