It is coming. The sizzling of burgers and sausages on the grill as the grease sweats into the flame. The crack of a Tostitos chip breaking in half as you go overboard on the guacamole dip. The snap and crack of a cold can of beer opening. The licking of hot-sauced fingers layered with remnants of hot wings. The slap of high-fives as more and more jersey-clad fans enter the house. The buzz of anxious conversation about who you want to win or why you hate “such and such” player. The dim background noise of the big screen on low before kick-off.
It is coming, my people. The Super Bowl.
Before I came to college, the Super Bowl was very traditional for me. My family had a very classic American barbeque with family and friends all partaking in this classic American moment. Watch the game, cheer a little, eat a lot and take a nap after.
But that all changed when I came to college. The family aspect of the Super Bowl was gone and the day became about something more. It became about choosing a side and holding strong. It became about finding your companions to cheer with and staying close to them. It was filled with yelling, cheering, chest-bumping and cheersing. The food became low-budget and sparse and the beverage selection was the red-cup special.
My sophomore year was the first year of real celebration. I have always had a tendency to pick the team that the crowd was opposed to and that year the Chicago Bears were doomed. The Colts were America’s team with blue-chip quarterback Peyton Manning garnering the affection of everything football. He was the modern day Johnny Unitas and the Bears had the defunct Rex Grossman. So, like an idiot, I planted myself on my buddies couch and with the 30 some odd people at the party talking about the Colts, I started clapping and yelling for my death sentence; “Let’s go Bears baby!”
Three kids in the crowd stood up in unison and did the same as we all dished out high-fives to each other. It felt good going against the grain. And it paid off; well, at first anyway. Devin Hester ran back the opening kick-off 92-yards for the first touchdown of the game. We blew up. The four of us crashed together in the middle of the room with chests colliding and arms wrapping around each other like we had just been the leading blockers for Hester. The moment was short lived. Manning led his team to a 29-17 win and a long day of me being heckled by the entire party.
The next year was slightly better. It was the Giants vs. Patriots and while most of the West Coast hates both teams, most people picked the lesser of two evils, the Giants. So I did what I always did, picked the hated Patriots and started yelling from the first minute. This game was a lot more intense than last year’s. The party was 35 percent Patriots fans and the rest went for the Giants, which meant I had some support behind my obnoxious grumblings about another Manning ruining my Super Bowl Sunday.
This time, I was on the winning team for most of the game and everyone in the party knew about it. I was not making friends with the newcomers and my buddies were telling me to relax because I was making people mad. I laughed and said okay only to unleash my enthusiasm after the very next great play. The feeling of victory was setting in as the fourth quarter came to a close and I knew I was going to be able to redeem my 2007 loss.
Damn David Tyree.
When he made his behind the helmet leaping grab my heart sank and the party unloaded. It was a war zone of heckling. I put my hands on my head and took the brunt of it. I am pretty sure if my girlfriend was not sitting next to me, I would have had at least six cups of beer poured on me when the Giants won. It was an emotional day to be a sports fan and I do not think I will ever forget it for that reason.
The Super Bowl is special in that way. It brings together a huge base of sports fans. Even if you do not particularly enjoy football, if you have any tolerance for sports you will be watching the Super Bowl on Sunday and be emotionally invested. Last year’s Super Bowl was the second-most watched TV program of all time for that reason. It has the power to put everyone on a couch at the same time and take part in an American past-time. The Super Bowl is the single most important day in American sports and this year’s clash will be no different.
The only difference for me this year is that my pick may not be so against the grain. I will be going for the underdog Cardinals and with this being an East vs. West contest, I do not believe I will be alone. Maybe this year, I will make some friends at the football holiday party.