If you’re not into it, a room full of football fans watching a game can seem like a confusing rite from a strange cult. Still, there’s no reason to make everything awkward or make yourself look like a jackass on football’s biggest night of the year. If you’ve chosen to attend a Super Bowl party, here’s a guide for what not to say or do — and a few suggestions of what to say instead.
Don’t say, “I don’t like football.” (Instead: “I don’t know anything about football.”)
I don’t go to your Tony Awards party and talk about how much I hate musical theatre, so you shouldn’t come to my Super Bowl party with an anti-football attitude. Instead, approach with a sense of curiosity. People usually like to share their knowledge with respectful newbs. Saying, “What is this game all about?” will likely result in detailed explanations of the difference between an incomplete pass and intentional grounding, how fair catches work, and why the L.A. Rams are considered the “away” team when they’re playing at their home stadium.
Don’t say, “I don’t care who wins.” (Instead: “Let’s go Rams/Bengals!”)
There are times in life when you must choose a side, and the Super Bowl is one of those times. Sports fans have complicated geographic, generational, or philosophical connections to specific teams (for example, because I am a morally upstanding person, I do not root for the Dallas Cowboys), but it ultimately does’t matter why you pick one team — just that you do.
The game will be at least 85% more exciting if you desperately want “your” team to triumph, even if they are only your team for one day, because you like the colour of their helmets. If you want to make the game even more exciting, bet money on it.
Don’t say, “It’s just a bunch of brutes crashing into each other.” (Instead: “Why did they run that play?”)
Football may look like violent chaos from an uninformed perspective, but it’s actually a complex strategic drama in which brains, courage, and athletic grace matter more than brawn. Watching one game a year isn’t going to get you much closer to understanding the true nature of football, but when you watch or play a ton of football, it becomes beautiful and meaningful in a way that must be experienced but can’t be described. It’s still violent, of course, but that’s part of the savage ballet.
Don’t fake knowledge about football. (Instead: Stay quiet.)
Despite internet guides like “Fake Your Way Through the Super Bowl Without Knowing Anything About Football,” (sorry, Thorin Klosowski ) if you try to fake it, we’re going to know. Football fans have been watching at least four games a week and talking about football endlessly since they were 6 years old, so you’re not going to pass as a fan by memorising a few factoids the day before the big game. Luckily, no one expects you to have a deep knowledge of football just because you’re at a super bowl party. Relax. Eat some chips, and stick to non-committal phrases like, “Nice catch!” or “Lookit that!”
Exception: If a penalty is called on the field, you can say, “holding.” It’s usually holding.
Don’t refer to “sports ball.” (Instead: Come up with some new material.)
Maybe calling various sports “sports ball” was funny 10 years ago, but it’s not funny now. Also: It’s not funny to call the big game the “Superb Owl.” (Maybe it’s a little funny.)
Don’t say, “The commercials are better than the game.” (Instead: “Football is too corporate.”)
To many football fans, the hype that surrounds the Super Bowl is transparent, distracting, and distasteful. Yeah, the commercials are often entertaining, but they are a necessary evil that highlight the money-grabbing framework that can make major league sports so distasteful. To fans, the Super Bowl is about the game. Only paying attention to the halftime show and the commercials is disrespectful. “The commercials are better than the game” stings because Super Bowls often are lousy games. I hate that many people’s one football experience per year is glitz and hype surrounding a lacklustre game.
Don’t say, “The game is almost over” when there are five minutes left on the clock.
Football isn’t played within the timeframe of mortals. Instead, it’s played in Football Time, where the clock stops ticking for any number of reasons and a game with four 15 minute quarters routinely lasts for three hours. Just sit back, relax, and don’t try to figure it out.
You don’t have to go to a Super Bowl party in the first place
Remember: Super Bowl Sunday is football fans’ Very Special Day. It might seem dumb to you, but it means something to us. So if you’ve chosen to participate in a Super Bowl party (and there’s no rule that says you have to) you should be respectful. After all, football fans are well known for being respectful of other people’s interests.