How to Have A Safe Super Bowl Sunday

Go team! Even if your watch party is small or on Zoom, there are games and other activities to get even the most casual fan involved and engaged.

For many Americans, Super Bowl Sunday isn’t about defensive strategy, how the quarterbacks throw or the tantalizing prospect of your favorite team winning a championship ring.

It’s about the parties. Snacks and games and shouts and large gatherings around big televisions where everyone is having fun, even if only a handful are truly focusing on the big game.

But thanks to the pandemic, everything this year is different, including pro football. To start, the game on Feb. 7 between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs will have only 22,000 in-person spectators, roughly 30 percent capacity of Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. Fans will be given hand sanitizer and masks. Rah.

And at home, the watch parties will be different, too. Your celebrations of years past might have included jockeying around a coffee table full of appetizers with new friends; this year might consist of jockeying around a coffee table full of appetizers with the people you live with. (Yes, the jockeying may be more extreme.)

This may mean looking for new ways to keep everyone, from the casual fan to the avid, involved and engaged, even if the watch party is small or held over Zoom.

Here are a few games, activities and other suggestions to liven up your game day.

Good party planners know their audience. And you’ve undoubtedly spent an ungodly amount of time with your quarantine audience.

Does your Super Bowl watch party include kids under 8? Or a 65-year-old unimpressed by football? They will surely need different things to stay engaged. The children could be interested in creating decorations, the 65-year-old in your pod could be more interested in playing bartender. Both, however, could get equally into paper football — you can easily find instructions easily online.

Check in with yourself, too. It’s OK to admit that even the most rabid football fans among us may be feeling awfully meh about the game this year.

Make Super Bowl Sunday an excuse to decorate your living room. Start with the colors of each team (red and gold for the Chiefs; pewter, red and orange for the Buccaneers) or by drawing football illustrations and hanging them around the house.

Then get dressed up. What would you wear to a Super Bowl party? The colors of the team you’re rooting for? Your favorite jersey? Put on your Sunday best, or if you are on the East Coast, follow the kids’ lead by donning pajamas. (The Super Bowl does run past bedtime, after all.)

Everyone can agree on the real star of the show: Snacks.

For ideas on how to downsize your party menu this year, check out the recipes on the left side of this page.

After you have the basics covered, you can get everyone involved (at home and on Zoom) ahead of kickoff by sprucing up the food lineup with an “Iron Chef”-like challenge: Everyone should create a unique appetizer in 30 minutes or less.

Start with a few items that scream Super Bowl — perhaps pulled pork, chips, or hummus. Then add a few wild-card ingredients to the mix, be it a new spice, vegetable or cheese. Participants can select one that they must use in their dish. Set a timer and start your engines. (Remember, the game starts at 6:30 p.m. Eastern, so plan ahead.)

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Regardless of how much you know or care about football, there are a few game-time activities that can engage everyone, like squares. We gave you a head start by printing a template above.

To start, take an 8-by-11 sheet of paper (or bigger) and set up a grid like the template, assigning the Buccaneers to the rows and the Chiefs to the columns. You should have 121 squares in the 11-by-11 grid.

Now ignore the left-side row and top column, and fill in the remaining 100 boxes with the names (or initials) of the party attendees. There are a variety of ways to assign and barter on squares, but we’d recommend keeping it simple by randomly assigning an equal number of squares to each participant. Remember, you can include the folks watching the game with you on Zoom.

Now go back to the squares you left blank in the top column and left-side row. Write in a number from zero to nine in each square at random, using each number only once and leaving the top-left square empty. Now each square has a corresponding number for both Tampa Bay and Kansas City. (You can use the order in the template, but participants might deliberately choose certain numbers, like 7 and 4. It’s more fair to do this step after players have their assigned squares.)

The game starts when the Game starts. At the end of the first quarter, first half, third quarter and entire game, look to see which square corresponds with the current score, based on the last digit. For example, if the Buccaneers are up, 14-7, after the first quarter, look for the box where the corresponding row is 4 for the Buccaneers and the corresponding column is 7 for the Chiefs. The person whose name or initials is in that box wins that round.

Repeat the process at the end of each quarter so that there are four winners by the end of the game. Prizes after each quarter can include a hug, selecting a dessert or the next film for movie night, performing someone else’s daily chores or whatever gets the game competitive. Kids could help choose the categories.

Create a Super Bowl bingo board filled with terms or sights you expect to see on the big day. But instead of creating one bingo board, create three for each part of the day.

First, focus on the football field. What do you expect to see when the Buccaneers take on the Chiefs? Entries can be as simple as “a touchdown dance” or as specific as “a Tom Brady interception.”

Here are some suggestions that span the gamut: a quarterback getting sacked, a flag on a play, a touchdown pass of more than 30 yards, a fumble, a coach yelling at a referee, a review on the play, or a shot of the crowd going wild after an unexpected play.

Second, create a board focused on the halftime show. This year’s performer is the Weeknd. Here are some examples of what you could include on this bingo board: the song “Can’t Feel My Face,” fireworks, a surprise collaborator emerging onstage, backup dancers (wearing masks?) running on the field, soft-drink logos, a huge “Blinding Lights” number, a costume change, or a shot of fans in the stadium dancing.

And finally, the commercials. Advertisers are going to try to hit the right tone this year, and some, including Budweiser and Coca-Cola, have decided to opt out entirely. But you can still expect some classic Super Bowl advertiser pageantry, even if it’s a bit less boisterous than usual.

Some examples for your commercial bingo board: a car driving down a winding road, a diverse array of Americans raising their glasses together, the word “together,” celebrity cameos, tributes to emergency medical workers and essential workers, shots of people wearing face masks or the sun rising.

Now you have three more chances to win, so select your prizes carefully.

That’s right. Nothing is normal, so lean in. You aren’t an N.F.L. commentator with expertise on each player. Pretend you are.

Grab a karaoke microphone, or fashion your own (a hairbrush or a spatula should do the trick) and take turns calling the game. Avid fans get to show off their expertise while uninterested ones will have plenty of fun making up what they think is happening on field.

Go sports!

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