Cheap cigars? Check.

Five bucks for the pool? Check.

Adult beverage of choice? Check.

Exaggerated tales of fishing/offspring/winning poker hands/stickin’ it to the man with which to regale the fellas? Check.

I’m ready for Super Bowl XL. More importantly, I’m ready for the annual assault on my senses, stomach, kidneys and liver known as the Super Bowl Party.

For the last decade or so, I’ve been invited to parties hosted by two old high school friends. It’s a mini-reunion of sorts, one of two or maybe three times a year that I get together with my old cronies, and even though it’s become more like a family get-together than a full-blown shindig recently, I’ll take a Super Bowl party over going to a bar to catch the game any day. You might as well watch the Super Bowl in a Laundromat or the electronics section at Wal-Mart if you’re going to a bar tonight.

Over the years, my friends’ party has moved from a small apartment in Windham to a two-story home in Durham to, for the first time this year, a Colonial in a gated subdivision in Gray. The guest list has expanded, from high school pals and their girlfriends or boyfriends to families of three and four, with kids ranging in age from 10 to toddler. The point of the party has evolved, too, from getting wasted and watching the game to reminiscing about old times and watching the commercials.

Yet the hosts, my friends Heather and Tony, always put together a great celebration. Having hosted one myself (Super Bowl XXIX, 49ers 49, Chargers 26, an absolute disaster), I can tell you it ain’t easy to do once, let alone 10 years in a row. I’d rather have the whole family over for Thanksgiving every November than have to put together one more Super Bowl party.

Being an unofficial holiday and all, Super Bowl Sunday is rich with the essential holiday traditions. My holiday begins on Super Bowl Eve, with me lying on the couch, trailing off to sleep to the authoritative baritone of John Facenda during ESPN’s Super Bowl marathon. I wake up by 5 a.m., usually to Facenda’s dramatic narration of Super Bowl XIII, the second Cowboys-Steelers Super Bowl (and still the best one, for my money). Christmas morning and Super Bowl morning are the only days I voluntarily get up before sunrise.

I pick up the morning paper and scan it, not for latest previews of the big game, but for the requisite story where they interview a bunch of nutritionists with tips on how to avoid overeating at the party. They always suggest eating a light meal before you go. With that in mind, I cut the article out, crumple it up, and eat it. Newsprint is high in fiber and part of a balanced breakfast.

Those stories always talk about how every good Super Bowl spread includes a veggie plate, and our dutiful hostess Heather puts one out every year. The calorie-counting wives dig into it often, the husbands only when their wives are watching them. Me, I try to convince Heather that nachos are a vegetable.

Aw, who needs nachos, anyway? The dining room table is packed plenty of chips and dips, an assortment of cheese and crackers, homemade chili and lasagna, plus some sort of sinful caramel/chocolate chip/brownie-type dessert I always ask the name of and forget. Many a New Year’s dieting resolution has met a delicious demise at that same dining room table, and it will again this year.

There are things that aren’t necessarily traditions that everyone can still count on happening every Thanksgiving and Christmas, and a lot of them are bad, like your mother-in-law taking over the kitchen or your Uncle Ned asking everyone to pull his finger.

There are things I can count on happening every Super Bowl Sunday, too, except most of them are good. There will be waves of uproarious laughter and few awkward silences.

Someone will say “I can’t believe how much your boy has grown.” Someone else will say they found some more gray hairs the other day. Someone will immediately change the subject to less depressing topics.

Everyone will talk over the game and shut up for the commercials. One of the wives will comment about Troy Polamalu’s hair (last year, and the year before that, it was Tom Brady’s butt). One of the husbands will ask Tony if he still keeps a bottle of tequila in the cupboard. One of the kids will ask why that guy is throwing the football through the tire swing during a Cialis commercial. The kid’s parents will ask Tony if he still keeps a bottle of tequila in the cupboard.

At halftime, the guys will go outside, chomp on stogies and toss a football around in the driveway. The women will stay inside, ignore the halftime show and swap stories that would cause their husbands to die of embarrassment, if they only knew what their wives talk about when they’re alone together. The guys will go back inside, the wives will giggle, and the guys won’t know why.

If the game’s not close, people will start to filter out (always with a designated driver, okay?). If it is close, everyone will choose up sides. Most of the guys will pick the Seahawks because they’re Patriot fans and hate the Steelers. Most of the women will pick whichever team’s uniforms they like better.

At the end of the night, someone who knows nothing about football will win the pool. Everyone will tell Heather and Tony they had a great time, then leave a sweater, hat, sunglasses or purse behind.

When I get home, my mouth will taste like a disgusting mix of Swisher Sweets, sour cream, chili and beer. My arm will be sore from flingin’ the pigskin. My voice will be raspy and my face will hurt from smiling so much over the previous six hours.

Try putting all that on a bar tab.

Randy Whitehouse is a Sun Journal staff writer. He may be reached by e-mail at [email protected]


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