Super Bowl parties are built on three sacred elements: football, food and beer. There’s no need to make it more complicated than that. Unless, of course, your home team is playing in the game for the first time in franchise history.
“For you guys out in Arizona, I say don’t hold back. Go for it 110 percent and make your party an extravaganza,” says Erica Boeke, co-author of the book “GameFace: The Kick-Ass Guide for Women Who Love Pro Sports” and co-creator of GoGameFace.com, an online guide to getting the most out of life as a sports fan. Her Web site includes a guide to throwing the ultimate “Big Game Bash.”
Boeke and Gilbert event designer Casey Wulfert, whose company coordinated celebrity-studded Super Bowl XLII parties in Scottsdale last year, offer their ideas for throwing a game day celebration for the record books.
“The football pool is completely necessary for any party,” insists Boeke. Also called Super Bowl Squares, the game lets viewers buy squares and win money based on the game’s score at the end of each quarter.
“It gives people a reason to be interested throughout the game, to watch the score and really cheer when something happens.”
That’s important, she says, when you have hard-core, face-painted fanatics sharing the couch with people who are just there for the nachos.
“Super Bowl parties draw a lot of people who are just sort of peripherally interested in sports. There are things you can do to draw them into the game, too,” she says.
Paint each other’s fingernails. “Some people are going to make fun of this, but when I did my book tour, we went to sports bars, and I hired manicurists to give team-color manicures. It was so fun, we even had guys doing it,” says Boeke.
Create a do-it-yourself nail-painting station away from the TV area, and stock it with team colors picked up at the drugstore.
“It becomes a way for people to be silly and show their spirit, and the gossip time it creates brings out that juicier side of sports — the drama on the field and off the field,” says Boeke.
Give a pre-game quiz, and award token prizes throughout the game. Boeke’s quiz, available at gogameface.com, lobs game-related questions (Will a kickoff or punt be returned for a TD? Will there be a successful field goal attempt over 47 yards?) and not-so-sporty ones (Will Paris Hilton star in a commercial? Will Bruce Springsteen mention Obama at halftime?)
Toss the pigskin. A flag football game is a good way to get people excited before they settle in for the game, says Wulfert.
Or, “put a net up and have a kicking or passing contest. The simplest things are usually the most fun,” he says.
Vote on commercials. Pass out score cards and let guests rate the big ones on a five-star scale, or do a simple show of thumbs (up or down) after each ad. It’ll keep people interested and spark love it/hate it debates.
“If you’re talking about throwing the Super Bowl party of your life, rent or borrow an RV and go pick everybody up,” says Wulfert, who planned parties for the San Francisco 49ers from 1983 to 1989 before moving to Gilbert to establish his party planning company, Themers.
“Drive your guests to a tailgate party right in your own driveway.”
To pull it off, he suggests moving your big-screen TV outside, rolling out the barbecue grill, and setting up seating at ground level and in the beds of pickup trucks.
But whether you celebrate indoors or out, decorations are a must, says Wulfert.
“Balloons, pom-poms and tablecloths are three elements that are simple and fairly inexpensive. You don’t have to do anything; you get instant color and mood just by using them,” he says.
Other ideas to create a party vibe:
• Ask guests to come dressed in team colors. “It’s a cheap, easy way to create instant ambience,” says Wulfert.
• If you have Steelers fans coming to the party, divide the room with masking tape and decorate the two sides in each teams’ colors.
• Use sidewalk chalk to mark football field yard lines from the curb to your front door, or take it a step further and buy several yards of low-grade astroturf at a hardware store. Mark yard lines with masking tape or white paint, and use the pieces as tablecloths, rugs or “fields” for contests and games.
• Make a sign for your mailbox and front door, dubbing your home University of Phoenix Stadium for the day.
• Put together a playlist of sports-themed songs to play before the game or during halftime. Boeke says she likes to include sports-fan anthems such as “We Are the Champions” and “Eye of the Tiger”; she often burns them onto inexpensive CDs to give away as party favors or prizes.
• Consider setting up a second TV. “People tend to congregate in the kitchen, so it’s not a bad idea to move a set from your bedroom or somewhere into the kitchen for the day. That way, people can move around the space without missing any of the action,” says Boeke.
• Provide ample seating. “It’s a long game. You need to have comfortable seats for everyone for the entire time,” Boeke says.
• Throw soft foam footballs on bad calls. It gives fans an outlet for their outrage and adds to the fun.
FOOD & DRINK
This is not the time for complicated recipes or beautifully garnished plates. At a Super Bowl bash, guests want food they can plow through with minimal attention so they can keep their eyes on the game.
Wings, sliders, brats, meat-and-cheese rolls, nuts, chips and dip are all acceptable stand-bys. You can also take a cue, says Boeke, from Arizona and Pittsburgh’s culinary scenes and do a dueling menu.
How? Put easy-to-handle Southwestern fare like nachos, guacamole, tacos, burritos and empanadas up against two things Pittsburgh is known for — peirogies (dumplings of unleavened dough filled with savory ingredients) and Primanti Bros. sandwiches.
To make one of the famous sandwiches, pile meat, cheese, eggs or sardines on a slice of inch-thick soft Italian bread, and top with hot French fries, chilled coleslaw, tomato slices and more bread.
As for dessert, stick to the un-fussy foods rule and serve cookies, brownies, cupcakes or churros.