As you’re no doubt well aware, there’s a big game coming up. You might say it’s super. You might say it’ll be played in a stadium shaped like a bowl. In fact, that’s why we call it the … Big Game. (Wink wink, and hat tip to our legal department.)
And by now, we know who will be playing in the Big Game on February 13. We know that around 100 million Americans will be watching it. We know that, depending on your risk tolerance and vaccination status, there are ways to gather that are reasonably safe. (Safer than last year, but less safe than the Before Times.)
What we don’t know is … what kind of gathering you’re planning. That’s why we broke down how you should approach the logistics — from viewing to dealing with kids — so you can have people over and also enjoy the game yourself. Here’s what you need to know, helpfully broken down into a few key categories.
Whether you’re cooking for your friends, ordering in or hiring a caterer, you should have a snack station of finger foods in case people arrive early or food happens late. (Snacks are also useful if the game goes into overtime and your guests’ hunger does the same.) Certain snacks are pretty much obligatory on game day, so be sure to include guacamole and some salsa among your dips. Also, if people ask what to bring, encourage snacks instead of more substantial fare that may crowd the kitchen. (Do you want someone who’s never used your kitchen before figuring out how to deep fry 10 pounds of wings while drinking? No, you do not.)
The role players
Think of these as the special teams of your party:
Ice: Even though it’s cold outside, people still want it in their drinks and there’s no way your freezer can make or hold enough of it. Buy a few bags, leave them in the bathtub or a thematically appropriate bucket in the kitchen.
Napkins: Will people be eating wings? Then you will need a lot of these.
Plates and glasses: You will ask everyone to hold onto theirs, but they won’t. And you don’t want to be washing dishes during the fourth quarter when the game is on the line. If you can, avoid disposable plates. If you happen to have camping plates or outdoor eating receptacles, use them here. (Pro tip: Mix and match glassware so everyone has a unique drinking vessel, all the easier to keep track of. Or just hand out sharpies and Solo cups and call it a day.)
Bottle openers: During the game these will get moved and mislaid, so get some extras and hide them friends until you see forlorn looking people wandering your halls with unopened beers.
The main event: To cook…
If you enjoy cooking, the Big Game is a fun opportunity to make new things. Traditional Buffalo wings involve three ingredients and are remarkably simple to make, but if you want to experiment, game day is a good excuse to make wings that are smoked, Thai, herbed, Korean or some combination thereof. Nachos and chili can also be undertaken simply or treated as a blank canvas for wild self-expression. Think of it as your own personal end zone celebration.
…Or not to cook
If you don’t much care for cooking, or you’d just prefer to watch the TV than the stove, be sure to order your food well ahead of time. All across America there will be people ordering wings at the same time; your attempt to beat them to a convenient delivery slot will be a Hail Mary at best.
Also: As you may know, the Big Game takes place during Black History Month, which makes it an excellent opportunity to support Black-owned food businesses, be they caterers or restaurants. Here are several handy ways of finding Black-owned food businesses in your community.
Do you have enough? This isn’t a fancy affair, so literally any chair will do, including outdoor furniture if it’s clean and non-bulky enough to bring inside. If you’re short of seats, consider renting extras or, if you’re using a caterer, having them bring some.
If you can position your TV so all your guests can see it, then you’re good to go. But if the number of guests means that’s not possible, or you’d rather space them out (because Covid), then take a page from your local sports bar and set up multiple screens if you have them. If you don’t have a sound bar, consider plugging one of the screens into your hi-fi: Things may get loud and you’ll want to be able to hear the commentary and crowd noise. Depending on how many screens you have, consider putting one in the kitchen, so guests can freely get refills (and, if you’re lucky, freely clear their own plates) without missing anything. And for those in a warmer climate, bringing the TV outside (weather permitting) remains a safe, and potentially more fun, option as well.
What about the commercials?
There are only so many trucks and snacks a person can buy, so during the regular season, when the commercials seem dedicated to those products, the ad breaks during games are mostly good for freshening up your drink or texting friends. But the Big Game is different. That’s because Big Game ads provide genuine water cooler moments. Even though the water cooler may have been replaced by your kitchen faucet and office chit chat now takes place over Zoom, it’s still nice to have a shared experience with people, especially since so many of us now watch different TV and listen to different music than each other. So yes — watch the ads. You don’t have to like them, but you’ll want to have an informed opinion.
Think of the children
If you have kids or your friends are bringing theirs (or both), set up a separate space for them to hang out. Watching a football game requires an extended period of concentration (or yelling at the screen), and that’s not every child’s idea of a good time. Plus not everybody likes football, but those who do would rather not have to entertain their kids during the Big Game. Instead, find a space, set up the children with some age-appropriate viewing and snacks, and trade shifts keeping an eye on them with another grown-up if you have to. (You can always keep tabs on the game on your phone.)
The Aftermath (or, rather, avoiding one)
We’re not saying your friends are untidy, but their mood and behavior on game day might be particular. People will be glued to the TV while drinking beer and eating messy food, and they may leap spontaneously. Therefore, remove anything delicate from the viewing room (now is not the time to show off your Ming vase collection), and cover tables with something disposable or easily washed. Game day table covers are fun and reusable, or you could use craft paper and tape, which can be rolled up and tossed once your guests roll out and you roll into bed.