No sooner had the Baltimore Ravens’ place kicker blown his team’s last-minute chance to tie the AFC championship game than the strategizing for the Super Bowl began. Among party-seeking fans, that is.
“I e-mailed everyone within driving distance asking what they’re doing for the game,’’ said Mike Toomey, a stay-at-home dad from Melrose. Like Tom Brady, he said, he needs to assess his options before choosing a receiver - or, in his case, a host.
If Toomey, 37, accepts the first invite, he might miss out on better offers. But if he waits, he fears he could end up watching the game alone, some fans’ equivalent of a dateless New Year’s Eve.
“These are moments in your life you remember,’’ he said. “I don’t want to screw it up.’’
The Retail Advertising and Marketing Association predicts that 36 million people will throw Super Bowl parties this Sunday. A survey by Visa found that hosts plan to spend $118.80 on food, drinks, and related items.
Super Bowl Sunday - it has its own day of the week, in the way other sports championships do not - has become such a national bacchanal that almost 6 million Americans may go to work late or not at all the next day, according to a 2008 Harris Interactive poll. There are even calls to make “Super Bowl Monday’’ a federal holiday.
But as large as they are, the statistics barely hint at the psychological importance of the day, supercharged in Greater Boston this year with the Patriots not just in the Super Bowl but playing the Giants, the team that robbed them of the NFL title and an undefeated season in their 2008 matchup.
Technically the players are the ones under pressure to win on Sunday. But as Frank Shorr, director of the Sports Institute at Boston University, points out, the day also represents the “culmination of months of work for fans. People are emotionally invested.’’
Ken Spalasso, president of SuperSundayhq.com, a website that previews and reviews parties in the Super Bowl host city, goes one step further. “I think of parties as your own personal Super Bowl,’’ he said, adding that social media has upped the pressure to experience the ultimate Super Bowl Sunday, or at least seem like you are. “You get one shot at soaking up the experience.’’
That’s why Dedric Polite, 30, an account executive at HubSpot, a Cambridge marketing software company, cast a worldwide net in his hunt for the best party. “Wondering who’s throwing the biggest/baddest Super Bowl party in Boston this year?’’ he tweeted.
As he awaited invites, he offered a window into his thinking. “Say your best friend invites you to a party but he only has a 32-inch TV and you get a better offer from someone who has a bigger TV, better house, or better accoutrements. Hopefully [your pal] will understand.’’
In Norwood, Tim Doherty, 35, also believes that friendship goes only so far when it comes to something as important as the Super Bowl. “I said to my wife, ‘I will predict right now that one of your friends will have a Super Bowl party, and I’m not sure I’m going to go to it.’ ’’
“I need the game to be the first priority,’’ said Doherty, the real estate director of the Asian Community Development Corporation. “If it’s literally a party, there are going to be people talking. I don’t mean that I’m some kind of Gestapo football watcher, but it’s that the Super Bowl is a big event, and it attracts people that don’t necessarily care that much about the game.’’
What’s so bad about watching with a novice? (Unless you are a novice, that is, in which case the fans are the problem, with their disinterest in mingling and their insistence on being able to see the television.)
‘I think of parties as your own personal Super Bowl.’Ken Spalasso President, SuperSundayhq.com
Jason Uzzell, 36, an information technology salesman from Medfield, drew a comparison with airplane travel. “It’s the difference between taking the shuttle from Boston to New York, where business travelers know how to board,’’ he said, “and flying to Florida during school vacation time when you have all these families on board.’’
As tennis players and runners know, choosing the right partner is all about finding someone at your own level. The same goes for watching the Super Bowl. “I like being around people who have a fair level of knowledge and interest in the game,’’ said Jonas Bromberg, 48, a longtime Pats season ticket holder from West Roxbury, “but who aren’t screaming and banging things.’’
Guests, it should be noted, are not the only ones desperate to maximize their experience. Hosting carries its own set of tensions. Even as Toomey is planning to wait until the very last minute to commit to a Super Bowl party, he recalls what the other side looks like.
“When I invited everyone over for the Denver [Broncos] game, I said, ‘This offer ends Thursday at noon.’ I didn’t want everyone waiting to find out what else is going on, and I’m sitting there eating 10 pizzas by myself.’’
For some fans, watching the game alone is the best party (minus the surplus pizzas).
“I don’t want to have to worry about what I’m eating or what I’m drinking or offending anyone,’’ said Shorr. “To me and a lot of people I know, this is not a party experience. It’s work.’’Beth Teitell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @bethteitell.