The Super Bowl to me is something like Halloween—seems like it should be a huge event with themed food and costumes and decorations, but for a long while I never felt like I could get anyone to play along.
Partying with the Lombardi.
As a kid, I wanted the Super Bowl to be on par with Christmas morning for suspense and excitement. My parents—big football fans—entertained me by putting out bowls of potato chips and M&Ms. I drew the teams’ logos on balloons with a Sharpee. (Which is, I’m sure, the only reason I remember that Buffalo and Washington were in a Super Bowl together.) For a while (and who knows, maybe they still do it?), the Church of the Redeemer had a fund raiser selling sub sandwiches for Super Bowl Sunday—you preordered them with your desired toppings and then picked them up the day of (ostensibly while attending your pre-football church service). I so clearly remember eating one of those subs that it must be among the all-time best sandwich moments of my life. And, like, that includes hamburgers.
But still, when it came down to it, the Super Bowl was usually just me, Ma and Pa, watching TV on a Sunday night—a real exercise to see how long my 10-year-old self could pretend I was having a party when just my parents attended.
My, I was a sad, lonely little child, right?
Actually, one year in elementary school I spent the first half of the game at a friend’s house. We made little signs with pictures of a glowing Joe Montana triumphing over a John Elway outfitted with stinky lines. (Yes, I was a childhood 49ers fan. Gimme a break—I grew up in southwest Florida, and I wanted a reason to be interested in the postseason.)
Now, I knew I was sort of a precocious little sports fan as a kid, but as a grownup, I figured, I’d finally have the kind of Super Bowl experience I’d been looking for. Right?
Eh, despite all the excitement I’d see on the TV commercials leading up to the game, too few of my real-world acquaintances were at all interested in getting a little crazy on a Sunday night.
When the Bucs won the Super Bowl, Little J and I bounced around our Gillespie Park house for 10 minutes, then headed to Main Street in search of the elated crowds of Tampa fans we were sure would be spilling out of every bar.
Yeah, it was dead.
Of course, the Super Bowl isn’t really a bar-going kind of holiday, anyway. It’s a backyard barbecue event—chips and guac and people crammed onto couches in living rooms, just like they do in the commercials.
I could be wrong, but it feels like the Super Bowl is a bigger deal in general than it was 20 years ago—the commercials, of course, and the more co-ed approach to sports marketing. Now it’s more of a national holiday than it was then, when it appealed to true football fans and hardly anyone else.
And now, at long last, in my 30s, I finally get to enjoy a worthy Super Bowl celebration, thanks to the Harribles laying claim on Super Bowl Sunday as their signature party to host. It’s perfect: chili dogs and seven-layer dip, beer and a living room packed with people who are as enthusiastic about the game as they are about the commercials. (And perhaps even more so for the former this year, with all the New Englanders and New Yorkers in our midst.) It’s a football-centric, chips-and-dip, plate-on-your-lap, yell-at-the-refs, high-fiving, trash-talking, laugh-until-you-cry kind of Super Bowl party. Just what I was looking for.
Now if only we could get them to declare Super Bowl Monday as a national holiday…