So we finally decided to bring him, and actually it turned out pretty well.
I googled around for some tips, and the Internet suggested:
-We packed his favorite 'sure thing' snacks (for us, that meant bananas, goldfish, steamed carrots, string cheese, cereal bars, cheerios, applesauce...) and lots of them.
-We brought bottled water and milk.
-We applied and re-applied sunscreen.
-We picked up some chalk to draw on the paved area around the tailgate.
-We toted our belongings from where we parked to the tailgate spot via the stroller, and wore the toddler in a carrier.
We finally made our final tailgate destination around 11AM. M was thrilled to get to run around once we made it to our spot. He wanted to 'throw' the football with the guys, who obliged him. He played the bean bag toss game by himself, and used the boards as his personal slide. He stacked washers in and out of the cups (another tailgating game). We offered him snacks regularly (at a higher frequency then he'd normally get, since he never did really sit down to a meal). We offered the milk and water (drinking out of a water bottle was such a treat!).
DH and I took turns entertaining him and socializing ourselves. Of course, we each wished our socializing stretches could go a little longer, but it really wasn't all that torturous. I think its a more poignant experience when in mixed company, and by 'mixed' I mean, those who have kids and those who don't (or maybe its more those who planned on kids being there, and those who didn't?) because it certainly highlights for me the difference between tailgating in college and tailgating as a parent. I have to be responsible for more than just myself!
We had thought he might nap in the 'way back' of someone's SUV, but we didn't end up with one at our tailgate spot. We rigged the backseat of a truck (meaning we filled in the foot area so he couldn't roll off the edge, and topped it with a soft blanket), but when it came to laying him down the interior was way too interesting, so eventually we just took a walk with the stroller until he passed out (just before 1PM). We reclined the stroller and he got in a good hour and a half nap. Normally he'd go a little longer, but we were OK with it, and hoped it would lead to some subdued behavior once inside the game.
M had woken up just in time to socialize a little more, then we packed up, and headed into the game for the 3:30 kickoff. He used some of that chalk but another toddler, about a year older, seemed to enjoy it more.
Inside the game, he was a little wiggly at first. However as soon as the crowd started to cheer (which was loud and often, since our team got crushed) M started to smile and cheer and clap along with them. He sat pretty still. Thankfully we sat next to friends so stray kicks were tolerated. We did take a break at halftime to get some 'dinner' (I repeat, we used the concept of meals loosely for the day) in the concourse and let him climb on a pedestal and stretch out a little. About the fourth quarter he was snuggling in and nearly falling asleep (and this was only about 6:30).
What are your toddler tailgating tips?
(Also, this does bring up another interesting topic for a future post: how to travel with cloth diapers?)