The enthusiasm gap between football fanatics and those who can't tell a Raven from a Falcon can widen into a chasm come Super Bowl Sunday.
It's hard to resist a nationwide party, so you'll find the clueless mingling with the season ticket holders, which can lead to bitterness from both quarters when apathy meets with bone-crushing enthusiasm.
As a colleague wrote in an email upon discovering that a friend who doesn't care for football was hosting a Super Bowl party, "I think it's totally annoying and now I have to find a reason to tell you to keep your chips and dip to yourself because I don't want to constantly listen to you ramble on while I'm trying to watch the game. Wanna have a party? Then have one. Just don't hijack my Super Bowl. I'm about to go into mourning about football season being over."
Plenty of non-fans are perfectly comfortable taking a pass and indulging in an alternate activity on game day. Many hosts are warm and welcoming to guests who don't know a blitz from a drop kick (so long as they bring a sufficiently chilled six-pack or a semi-competent guacamole). But the occasional "Shush! I'm trying to hear Jerome Boger's call!" is bound to happen.
Granted, any thematic gathering stands a chance of widening the gulf between devotees and dilettantes. There's always the blowhard at the Oscars party rolling his eyes, delivering a dull indictment of celebrity culture and yammering on about not having seen any of the films (all while hogging the artichoke dip).
That's a pretty serious fumble in the decency department. So how about a little teamwork this Sunday?
Here are tips on how not to ruin a Super Bowl party for those disinterested in the game yet game for a celebration.
For the non-fan:
Keep off the field of play
If you go to the beach and you spend the whole time crabbing about sand between your toes while the rest of your friends are frolicking, perhaps you're meant for the museum or the mall instead. It's not fair to bring everyone else down just because football isn't your bag. Have a "me" day, indulge in something you love ("Law & Order" marathon? Puppy Bowl perhaps?) and console or celebrate with the gang after the game.
Perform some drills
Dig the company, but know you'll be bored stiff even before kickoff? Assign yourself a labor-intensive task that will benefit everyone. Assemble a 47-layer dip, serve up freshly made guacamole to order or squeeze a few dozen limes to ensure everyone's margaritas stay replenished. Just clear it with the host beforehand, and everybody wins.
Consult your bookie
Not into the game, but want to get your share of chicken wings and halftime hijinks? While it would be terribly rude in most other social circumstances, feel free to retreat to a quiet corner with a book or the (quiet) communication device of your choice. Just remember to look up and smile every once in a while (especially if you've been dragged there as someone's plus one) so you aren't just remembered as that party pooper who spent the whole time scowling.
Rally an ally
Around bowl time, the Internet abounds with articles about how to sound like you know what you're talking about at a Super Bowl party. That seems exhausting. While the assembled masses might not have time or patience for your questions about what's happening on the gridiron, there's bound to be at least one person dying to take you under his or her wing. Keep that person's nacho plate topped off and he/she will be your No. 1 fan.
Hut or shut up
Perhaps you think football is dull, barbaric or hopelessly unsophisticated. There's an awesome place where you can go and yelp about that to your heart's content: It's called the Internet, and it's right there in your pocket. Feel free to tweet, comment or text your heckling to the sympathetic masses -- which might be rather passive-aggressive, but at least you're not out-loud harshing the buzz of the folks who were kind enough to let you take up couch space.
For the host:
Kick it off properly
Are casual or non-fans welcome? If your aim is to party down with only the die-hards, (politely) make that clear in the invitation so less-fanatical friends can make alternate plans.
Make room on the sidelines
If your gathering is going to be split between die-hard football fans and folks who are just in it for the dip and halftime nip slips, consider drawing some clear lines on the field of play. This might mean you'll have to clean up your bedroom or den, but that's a small price to pay for peace.
Draft backup hosts
ou might be the best host in the history of the game, and have all your bases covered (apologies for the mixed sports metaphor), but accept offers of help if you can. The guest might simply be at a loss for something to do. Consider tasking them with beer runs, cheese grating or dish duty and consider it a victory for your mad hospitality skills.