Break out the foam fingers and face paint: Super Bowl XXXVII is on Jan. 26. Most of the 132 million people expected to watch the game will do so with friends. Indeed, Super Bowl parties are the top at-home party event of the year, according to Hallmark Cards, which sells football-themed plates and cups. The secrets to hosting a successful gridiron gathering are clear television reception and a casual atmosphere.
"Caviar on toast points won't work," says Phyllis Cambria, a professional event planner in North Miami Beach, Fla., and co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Throwing A Great Party. Indeed, Super Bowl fans expect hot dogs, chili, and six-foot hero sandwiches. This menu might not thrill low-fat diet guru Dean Ornish, but it's tradition, and it's once a year.
TV, TV EVERYWHERE. Whatever you serve, Cambria says, "make sure it's something you can eat with your fingers," because fans will want to keep their eyes on the game and not have to mind utensils. If you want an NFL-themed buffet, consider covering the table with a swath of artificial turf and scattering NFL trading cards around. You can even get certain players' recipes from the NFL Web site, such as San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young's chocolate-chip cookies and Baltimore Ravens QB Jeff Blake's stuffed mushroom caps (nfl.com/fans/forher/recipes_jblake.html).
Set up an additional TV near the food and drinks so no one misses any of the action when getting up to graze. In fact, you might want to have several TVs around the house--as well as one outside for the smokers, says Martin Power, former managing director of the now-defunct energy trading division of El Paso Corp. "We've even set up TVs in the bathroom," says Power, whose guests bring along extra TVs for his annual Super Bowl bash in Houston.
Renting a giant-screen or projection TV is another option: The cost is $500 to $1,000 a day. The players look as if they're crashing and gnashing in your living room, says Wilbert Tatum, publisher emeritus of The Amsterdam News, who invites some 100 guests to view the game every year on a 6-ft.-by-14-ft. projection TV in his New York apartment.
To get guests in the spirit, make them feel as if they're at a tailgate party by using folding beach chairs for extra seating and draping football flags from the ceiling. Pass out whistles and horns as well as foam footballs to toss at the television set after a bad play. Sherri Foxman, party adviser and founder of Party411.com, a party-supply e-tailer, recommends having face paint for avid fans and the kids. "You want everyone involved," she says.
IT'S ALL A GAME. Create pools to bet on the score at every quarter, on who will be the most valuable player, and on the number of fumbles. To engage nonfans, create scorecards for the best and worst commercials or best end-zone prance.
Another way to make your Super Bowl party festive is to have paper plates and napkins in the rival teams' colors. You might also want to have T-shirts, ball caps, or plastic cups printed to give as favors. A fun idea is to use white tape or chalk to mark out yard lines from the curb to your front door. Maybe wear a striped referee's shirt to show you're in charge.
Think about filling a pi?ata with chocolate footballs for disappointed fans to release their frustration. Above all, make sure your television sets are working and get clear reception on the ABC network, which will broadcast the game. Kickoff is 6:25 p.m. EST, Super Bowl Sunday. By Kate Murphy