In 1983, 106 million viewers tuned in for the M*A*S*H* finale. Fifteen years later, 76 million people watched the final Seinfeld episode.
Today, our choices are endless, so it’s rare to share a story with so many people at the same time. There are hundreds of shows to appeal to all interests and demographics. Even the ones that seem to capture our collective attention — like Stranger Things or The Mandalorian — are enjoyed at different paces.
Our experience of culture today is certainly fragmented, but no matter our Netflix queue, our #SpotifyWrapped results, our team allegiances, or our political affiliations, one event brings us together unlike any other: the Super Bowl.
With north of 100 million viewers annually, Super Bowl Sunday is one of the few times when it seems that nearly everyone stops to enjoy the same moment at the same time. In our fast-paced and ever-connected world, the Super Bowl is a rare shared experience, no matter if you are in New York, Los Angeles, or somewhere in between.
Whether you’re looking forward to the showdown on the field, or intrigued by the halftime act, or just tuning in to see the new commercials and movie trailers, Super Bowl Sunday is one of the most highly-anticipated events of the year, and an evening that diehard and casual sports fans alike can enjoy.
Of course, the game, the halftime show, and commercials are important, but the festivities with friends are a big part of the experience too. When I was growing up, my parents threw a Super Bowl party nearly every year. My wife and I love hosting, and in the years since we got married, a Super Bowl party has become one of our own traditions — an easy excuse to gather our friends and welcome them to our home.
With game day just around the corner, here are a few suggestions to take your Super Bowl party to the next level.
Mix up the menu
One of the most important things about any Super Bowl party is the food. While chips and salsa are an essential snack for any game watch, a Super Bowl spread requires a bit more effort. You need to put some preparation into the menu. For a fun challenge, look at the game itself for some inspiration.
With Super Bowl LIV being played at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, you could try making these Cuban sliders, a party variation on the popular South Florida sandwich.
With Kansas City representing the AFC, barbecue is a natural choice. Whether you go with ribs, pulled pork, chicken, brisket, or burnt ends, a KC favorite, there are several delicious options. The differentiator, however, is the sauce. Kansas City BBQ is known for its thick, sweet sauce, where tomatoes, brown sugar, and molasses are some of the essential ingredients.
You could pay homage to San Franciscans by making Mission-style burritos, popularized by taquerias in the city’s Mission District long before Chipotle’s nearly football-sized specialties became a staple of the American diet. San Francisco has an incredibly vibrant and diverse culture, so your culinary possibilities are nearly endless.
Food prep can be a lot of work and trips to the grocery store can add up quickly, so don’t be afraid to lean on your friends if they offer to bring something to share.
Keep it interesting
The first year that we hosted a Super Bowl party, one of our friends brought “prop sheets.”
Prop sheets usually include 15-20 questions, cover all aspects of the game, such as: Which player will score the first touchdown? What’s the over/under time for Demi Lovato’s rendition of our national anthem? What color will the Gatorade bath be for the winning coach?
The concept may be rooted in gambling, but there is no need to open your wallet to partake in this entertaining Super Bowl competition. It’s a good way to keep everyone engaged in the game, regardless of their rooting interest.
You can play for bragging rights or you can pick up a small prize to be awarded to the person who gets the most questions correct. A gift card to a local coffee shop or a six-pack of a favorite beer make great, inexpensive prizes.
Since the game begins at 6:30 pm ET, make sure your party starts by 5 or 5:30 so your friends have plenty of time to settle in and make their predictions before kickoff.
It’s all about community
You’ll want to make sure your volume is up and your TV is well-positioned, but remember that Super Bowl parties are about more than football. Even as a dedicated fan, most of the time I don’t recall much from the game itself.
Super Bowl parties are one of the unique occasions where friends from work, friends from church, and friends from your neighborhood might all be in the same room, cheering, laughing, sharing a meal, and enjoying good company.
There are other major sporting events that draw us together. The Olympics are a good example when they roll around. There is always an extra buzz in the air when the United States men’s and women’s national teams compete in the World Cup. And every March, the NCAA basketball tournament lends itself to lots of water-cooler conversations about brackets, madness, and Cinderella stories.
But there’s nothing quite like the shared excitement of Super Bowl Sunday. Savor the evening and enjoy the game as an opportunity to deepen friendship.