I've seen about 25 Super Bowls, about a third of them at Super Bowl parties. (I'm defining "party" here as simply not being alone). The oddest was a Super Bowl party/law school study group session in 1991, when the Giants beat the Bills by a single point. We brought cases of beer and our notes on civil procedure. It was a futile endeavor, but at the time I appreciated any distraction to the fact that I was in law school.
In all those years, I don't think I've been to a single truly successful Super Bowl Party, but it takes more than a big TV, guys, and some beer. Consider all the Super Bowl party "blockers":
1) The Talker
The guy doing loud, obnoxious play-by-play and obvious analysis of every televised moment -- and I'm just talking about the commercials. You can't talk over him, hear around him, or see through him.
How to spot The Talker early: He'll be the guy watching the commercial for Paul Blart, Mall Cop, saying, "Hey, that looks pretty good." He's also the least funny guy in the room, and the only one not to know it. Don't be impressed by his sudden football stats either. Trust me, he pulled them out of his...
2) ...As for the Food
Super Bowl food is pretty hard to screw up, but some party hosts insist on the kind of gourmet cooking that requires utensils and a surface area sturdier than one's own lap. And that's a no-no. Nothing's lonelier at a true Super Bowl Party than the dining room table. And that's the way it should be.
3) The Halftime Show
Does any true Super Bowl fan really care that much about the halftime show, whether it features Bruce Springsteen, Miley Cyrus, or suddenly bare breasts? No. Halftime is the moment to get more grub, use the bathroom, and pray our personalized couch indentations aren't subject to a sudden turnover.
4) The Game
Nothing kills a Super Bowl party faster than an early blowout (with your team on the losing side of the equation, natch). With all of the free food and drinks, no one really wants to leave early, so the conversation shifts to things like American Idol, recent home appliance purchases, and the benefits of paper over plastic. After stuffing themselves, people head home early with excuses like, "You know, I taped the Inauguration, and never got the chance to see that poem..."
This year, I invited "the boys" -- my Dad and my brother -- to come over for a Super Bowl Party, and it's looking good. Neither are gratuitous talkers. We have plenty of Diet Coke on hand. Our coffee table is a mile long and the television is so big it makes Ryan Seacrest seem normal-sized. My new wife, gifted in the art of comfort cooking, will make her famous barbecue chicken nachos and homemade guacamole, a tradition so coveted it almost made it into our wedding vows.
The rest is up to the game... Eh, who's playing again? Pittsburgh and Arizona? More nachos, please. Sorry, I'm from New Jersey.