I have a confession to make, right here in front of Kidoinfo and everyone. I don’t like football. Not NFL football, anyway. I don’t like it in a box, I don’t like it with a fox (though I suspect I might like it with Tom Brady). Football is a time for me to busy myself in the kitchen and cook up game foods for everyone and occasionally run in to see what the ruckus is about.
My family of origin was not a sports-watching family. The first Superbowl that I really remember was Superbowl XVI–49ers vs. the Cincinnati Bengals. I was a high school freshman in San Jose, and a new acquaintance from school invited me to her Superbowl party.Â I thought, This is odd, a girl having a football party, but I accepted.Â I remember nothing whatsoever about the game (I had to google the game to know who the opponent was just now).Â Just twelve or so freshman girls in Maria’s living room, cheering and screaming for Joe Montana (M-o-n-t-a-n-a!), her mom popping in and out to bring us snacks and watch with us.Â That acquaintance ended up being my closest friend, and I don’t remember ever watching football with her again.
Fast forward some years and my own daughter, Stretch, is a high school freshman. Her family of origin (us) is very much a sports-watching family. Her dad has attended almost every Superbowl that the Patriots have appeared in. Stretch went to her first Notre Dame game with her dad this fall. Despite being raised in a sports-rich environment and being an athlete herself, she has no use for football and has to have it re-explained to her on a regular basis. Her girlfriends will most decidedly not have a Superbowl-watching party together. She will probably be in her room, doing homework, face-timing with friends, and coming down just to see the Halftime Show and find out what there is to eat.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a teenager, and I dare say that it is more likely this will be a male teen (or a tween with a pretty good attention span) who is into the game, then mazel to you, and enjoy! You have earned, over years of entertaining and chasing them out of trouble as you try to watch the game, and trying in vain to get them interested, a good football companion–one who knows offense from defense, one who can spot a facemask offense a mile away.Â One who will get the reference when you say, “That’ll move the chains!” This is our LittleMan, the best sports-watching companion that a SportsDad or Grandfather could wish for.
However, the great majority of parents will not be having that Norman Rockwell moment of uninterrupted game-watching with their children.Â There will be all sorts of sideshows going on, and all sorts of maintenance to be performed.Â Here are a few tips for enjoying the Superbowl with younger–or just less intensely interested–kids:
- The Food. The highlight for those of us who really like to cook, but the element of the game that often goes unnoticed, as spouses and children just want to shove chicken wings into their pie-holes and watch the game.Â So if you can make something that serious spectators stop and notice and love, it’s a good thing.Â I find that the teenagers will eat anything that is piled on top of tortilla chips and called Nachos. The Lady-Teens just want something easy to shuttle off to their rooms with and pick with their fingers while having discussions of Important Matters like, Oh No She Didn’t! and Let’s See if We can Get Them to Take Us to the Trampoline Park Right Now, During the Game.Â But I digress. This year, because LittleMan has back to back soccer and basketball games during the day, It’s all pre-made and Crock Pot. Â I’m making some Guinness-braised short ribs with vegetables. It will be Duly Noted and Enjoyed by the spouse. It will go on top of some chips and have sharp cheddar and scallions added for Stretch, and she will love these killer nachos.
My Superbowl menu for this year consists of the Main Course Nachos, various chips and dips and salsas, homemade pigs in blankets, gooey cinnamon squares….and of course, plenty of wings. If your kids love helping in the kitchen and you want to whip up some football-themed goodies, here are a few ideas.
- The Amusements.Â You’ll have a much better game-watching time if you plan a few activities for younger kids to do.Â They can go out and play in traffic, or watch a Pixar movie on a separate TV…but it’s fun if they’re hanging out with the family and starting to participate. Bingo games are always fun–Bingo boards are pretty easy to create and individualize as needed, and the kids can use chips or markers to cover squares with things like “Time Out,” “Extra point” and “Touchdown!” written inside.
I found this neat bunch of math-incorporating printable activities and passed it to a friend, who will use them with her six and ten year old boys. Like the Bingo cards, these can be tailored to be more or less difficult, based on the age of the children. For younger children (and really great when you have guests with children), having football-lacing activities ready to go is another great idea (scroll down just a bit for the football template).
- The Advertisements. Let’s face it, the Amusements are going to eat up….oh, about fifteen minutes of game time. Just enough time for you to figure out how to handle the sex, beer and more sex that is the other big Superbowl attraction–the advertising (and don’t forget the Halftime Show).
This is a hilarious Bingo game for adults who are more peripherally into the actual game, but it can be content-tailored for kids. A lot of us worry about the content of the TV commercials. The truth is that we have been through fourteen Superbowls with children now, and I don’t remember any particular ad moment that made me do more than cringe a little bit. As crassly funny (or just crass) as some of the ads are, most of them go over the heads of the youngest kids and don’t faze the older kids.Â It’s the tweens who really take these things in, and yes, there will be moments when they see and hear things you’d rather they had not. And there’s no immediately redeeming factor, either–these are not teachable moments–it’s the middle of a football game!
The best you can do is react to things like Janet Jackson’s halftime wardrobe malfunction and Yoko Ono’s warbling and sex-yodeling (okay, that didn’t actually happen, but it would have been funny) and the like, with exaggerated horror, and a “Oh my, that’s TERRIBLE!” and then move on.Â Maybe even change the channel for a few minutes during the commercials.
The Patriots are finished for the year and the pressure is off. This year, it’s just about enjoying what bits of the game we do see, eating and drinking and hanging out with our kids and friends (even if only virtually!).
Have a blast, and Go ‘Niners!