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How to Enjoy Super Bowl LIII


If you don’t like football, you can look at Sunday two ways—with dread that the majority of the nation will temporarily take leave of its senses to cheer or mourn the performance of men dressed up like Transformers or with vast relief that this one gluttonous immersion in football will bring a temporary surcease from the season.

Football has become ubiquitous—it has expanded from its original weekend excess to Monday nights and then Thursday nights and now it is available on demand seemingly at any hour or any day in reruns. During the holiday season a plethora of college bowl games produces a mind-numbing collage of noise and choreographed violence.

Now Super Bowl Sunday is upon us and the hype is already beginning. It is a bittersweet moment for football fans, the apogee of a six-month season when the best of the best go head-to-head—oops, they better not be caught doing that or they will get a 15-yard penalty. But it also signals the beginning of true fans’ time wandering in the desert, half a year without a game.

For others, those who find football a bone-crunching, noisy expression of mayhem, the annual Super Bowl parties are a dreaded rite of passage. So, what do you do if your other half loves the game and you are inexorably being drawn into the festivities? How do you survive a roomful of cheering (or lamenting) diehard fans when you really don’t care a fig.

Ironically, your best bet may be to throw the party. It is the perfect excuse not to sit and watch the game as you tend to your guests’ needs, topping off the bowls of chips and dips, preparing the wings and chatting in the kitchen with similarly disaffected party-goers. Conversely, if the party is at a friend’s house, you can gain surcease from the game by offering to help.

This also allows you to easily identify other guests with an at-best tepid appreciation of the game. By observing those hanging out by the refreshment table or surreptitiously checking their phones, you can form a bond and discreetly retreat to another room to solve the problems of the universe while the rabid fans explode with passion or disgust in front of the TV.

But say you are trapped. There is no way out of attending a friend’s party and there are not likely to be other non-fans present. Or you are in a newly minted relationship with a football nut who is eager to have you share the experience. Then it is wise to develop a few strategies before you walk into the room.

First: try to care. Pick a team to root for and it will be far more interesting. Personally, I have cultivated an interest in the Patriots because of their regional identification. Fortunately, this year they have again prevailed, but if the worst had happened and the Kansas City Chiefs had vanquished my team, I would have chosen the Super Bowl underdog. Unless the game is a total rout (unfortunately the best of the best playing does not ensure the best game), cheering for the underdog can provide an emotional valence that draws you into the game.

A second strategy is to pick an individual player to root for early in the game. You can have any reason you want for the choice. It could be the sob story the commentators reveal about his impoverished childhood and his steadfast mom; maybe he played for your college; or maybe you are impressed with a fantastic play he has made. Rooting for him automatically gives you a team to cheer on.

Third: Do a little homework. It’s good to know the basics—that teams score touchdowns by marching down the field and into the end zones. To do that, they must make a series of first downs by advancing at least 10 yards in four plays or they lose the ball. If the offense fails to make a first down, possession of the ball goes to its opponent and the offense punts the ball down the field to be returned by the other team.

If the offense is lucky enough to make a touchdown, however, it can add another point to its score by kicking a field goal through the goal posts.

One should know that the defensive team tries to block the offense’s progress, tries to force fumbles or to intercept passes. Beyond that, the game has become so arcane, it cannot be described simply, but the constant challenges and the commentators’ endless, often irritating, chatter should help explain the finer points.

Especially if you are in a new relationship and want to demonstrate your flexibility in trying new things, ask questions of your beau. Just make sure you do not interfere with his (or others) enjoyment of the game. Better to ask for clarification on the way home than to divert him at the exact same moment a monumental play unfolds.

Football is a fast game when the action is underway but fouls, challenges, time outs and medical interventions mean there is a lot of down time (a Super Bowl can last about four hours), so that provides many opportunities to escape to the refreshments table. While the commentators are busy discussing the complexities of the game and endlessly rerunning the contested play, you'll have a lot of time to destroy your diet with forbidden, calorie-laden food and drink.

Go for the wings, burgers, hot dogs and big sub sandwiches, graze among the bowls of appetizers—the food will help your body absorb the alcohol that fuels the party. But please, be smart. Arrange for someone—perhaps another non-fan—to drive you home.

Part of the down time will be devoted to commercials. Unlike most televiewing, this is not the time to vacate the living room. Frequently the commercials, which, mercifully, are many, are more entertaining than the game. At about $5 million for a 30-second ad, advertisers have a vested interest in keeping you glued to your seat. The ads may be funny, quirky, heart-tuggers or politically motivated but they are almost never dull.

And then, if you are still barely hanging on to your sanity as the first half stutters to a close, there is the reprieve known has half-time. The teams trot off the field to lick their wounds and hone their strategies while top-flight entertainers take center stage to strut their stuff. This year, Maroon 5 will be the halftime performers, accepting the unpaid billing but finding itself caught in a web of political intrigue.

Maroon 5, known for its liberal bias, finds itself enmeshed in the controversy over former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to take a knee during the National Anthem as a sign of protest. Kaepernick has not played since the 2016 season and his contract has not been picked up by another team, largely due to the controversy.

A number of A-list performers have turned down the invitation to perform at the Super Bowl to show solidarity with Kaepernick. Armed with this knowledge, it adds interest to the performance to see how Maroon 5 navigates these treacherous waters.

Finally, don’t be a downer. This is only four hours out of your life. Don’t display “unsportsmanlike behavior” by whining or griping. Either prepare yourself to be a good guest or make a reasonable excuse and stay away. Indulge in something you love and let others have their time in the sun.