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Super Bowl etiquette

Posted by Robin Abrahams  January 29, 2009 05:45 AM

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Super Bowl night! Not quite as exciting for us Bostonians as in some years past, but after a long snowy week, we'll probably all be gasping for a chance to get out of the house and socialize a bit. So let's make sure it's an optimal experience. Some of my advice on election-night etiquette is applicable to the Super Bowl (will Arizona make up in February for their loss in November?) but there are, of course, differences.

Helping sports-illiterate me out with this is football fan, cartoonist, and all-around good egg Peaco Todd, author of "The Girl's Guide to Football," available at Now, on with the advice!

Don't assume that all men are interested in/knowledgeable about football, or that all women aren't. It's rude, makes you look like a boor, and can shut down the possibility of good conversation faster than just about anything else.

Ask a few questions to assess someone's level of knowledge/fandom before you start opining, venting, explaining, or whatever. It's a terribly embarrassing feeling to realize you've just condescended to someone who knows, in fact, more than you do. (I know because I've done this, though never in sports-related areas.) Unless a person is wearing a jersey or team colors, don't assume which team they support. And as Peaco suggests, "Be aware that people become quite invested in the outcome, even reasonable people, so keep the teasing and the taunting to a minimum."

Given the Patriots' unfortunate year, a little what-if kibbitzing is appropriate at a local party. But don't let imagining the game that could have been get in the way of enjoying the game that is.

On Sunday, I recommended that Super Bowl party hosts "provide one room for conversation and one for serious game-watching." If hard-core fans are in one room and more casual attendees are in another, find your proper room and stay in it.

Contribute food and/or bevvies. It's best to go with the traditional Super Bowl fare: there's a place and a time for unagi, and I'm not sure this is it. Peaco adds, "If you contribute food, make it something easy to eat (requiring either no utensils or only one)--no elaborate dishes that require delicate handling and lots of kitchen time and space. Don't bring stuff that needs to be cooked unless previously asked to do so."

You can contribute in other ways, too. As Peaco suggests, "If you're not a huge fan and your host or hostess is, volunteer to help out with food and drink distribution and replenishment, etc., so that the fan can watch more of the game."

Never say, "It's only a game."

Peaco points out, "Unlike most usual programs, don't talk during the commercials -- some of the most expensive and watchable commercials are shown during Super Bowl." I'd like to add that some of us are only watching the game in order to see the "Star Trek" trailer, and you will get the Vulcan Neck Pinch if you talk during it or mock our geekdom.

Enthusiasm is great, but don't yell so loud you scare the pets. If Fluffy still won't come out from under the sofa by Tuesday, you probably won't be invited back.

Peaco warns, "It's easy to overdo the food and the drink, especially if the game is close and you're partisan. So, watch your own intake (drink lots of water) and be forgiving of others who might overindulge due to anxiety/disappointment (as long as they behave themselves)." And of course, if you're hosting, don't let drinking guests back out on the road.

What advice would you add?

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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32 comments so far...
  1. If you really hate the team the host/hostess supports and can't bite your tongue, maybe find a different party. Championship games are best watched in a supportive environment and your friends will likely rather a graceful absence than you attending and talking trash all night.

    Posted by Amy R. January 29, 09 09:44 AM
  1. Along the same lines of never saying "It's only a game"... commenting on how New Englanders are really too into their athletic teams, and there's so much more to life than watching a bunch of overpaid hooligans in funny pants - in a room full of New England sports fans? I mean, really. We're all multi-dimensional people with a variety of interests - watching the Superbowl just happens to be the activity of the evening. Join in on the fun or zip it, please!

    Posted by Belle January 29, 09 10:00 AM
  1. Its only a game ... dont worry about etiquette and have some fun if your worrying about impressing people then you got your priorities off.!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted by Jim January 29, 09 10:33 AM
  1. You are an intelligent and sucessful writer, do not use the term "bevvies"! How does that made up word get your message across any clearer?

    Posted by Disgruntled Female January 29, 09 10:40 AM
  1. Never touch the remote control unless you live in the house. I had someone do this at one of my superbowl parties so he could control volume/rewinds/etc. It really irked me.

    Posted by PMFan January 29, 09 10:50 AM
  1. The truth be told if you are a woman who is attractive you can still say whatever you want whatever you want, and the guys will accept you throughout the night. Another strong point, don't be the first one to ask if you can bring your girlfriend if you know that no one else is. If it wasn't originally mentioned she probably isn't wanted. If I tell my girlfriend she can't come, then you better man up and do the same.

    Posted by Ben Fongtorres January 29, 09 10:53 AM
  1. I think it is depressing to think people need to be told that when going to a party they should make polite conversation, offer to help the hostess, and not get drunk. Aren't those rules the same for any event?

    Posted by Ginger January 29, 09 11:11 AM
  1. I would recommend not reading this article Seriously, a Super Bowl etiquette column? How desperate is for subject matter?

    Posted by brian January 29, 09 11:40 AM
  1. The "two rooms" advice is the best, especially since some non-sports folks may not realize how much fun these big events are. It's interesting to see who switches rooms as the game wears on.

    Best advice (always) is never to mock a sports fan. Hope everyone enjoys the game and the parties.

    Posted by floridagirl25 January 29, 09 11:47 AM
  1. And remember that yelling profanities at the television (at either the team you hope to beat or the one you support when they don't do what you want them to do) is probably something best saved for the privavcy of your own home. I've sworn off one friend's annual superbowl party because of the constant stream of loud homophobic insults hurled at both teams by one of the guests -- which could still be heard in the "casual attendees" part of the house.

    Posted by JP Gal January 29, 09 11:55 AM
  1. "The truth be told if you are a woman who is attractive you can still say whatever you want whatever you want, and the guys will accept you throughout the night."

    This couldn't be further from the truth. Zip your lip or don't bother showing.

    Posted by Phil January 29, 09 12:01 PM
  1. More worthless advice.

    Posted by jm January 29, 09 12:17 PM
  1. Does anyone know about what time the Star Trek trailer is going to be on?

    Posted by Red-Mama January 29, 09 12:25 PM
  1. Don't hog more than one seat -- I had someone take up an entire couch by himself while others were stuck standing to watch the game!!

    Posted by forheaven'ssake January 29, 09 12:40 PM
  1. if you're bringing beer or wine or other beverages to share, do exactly that: share. don't be a drink pig and consume all the drinks you brought to "help out " the host/hostess. this is really rude party-goer behaviour that I noticed in a group of 30 something educated people once. not nice and really not "helpful" either.

    Posted by Steelers fan January 29, 09 01:08 PM
  1. It's preferable to bring your own "Terrible Towel" rather than ask your host for one.

    Posted by Sam the Stiller January 29, 09 01:15 PM
  1. Men need to realize that (a) we women are fans and just as knowledgeable, some more so, (b) the host of your ALL MALE party may be a hostess and may want to have some female companions, why not make it co-ed that way she can have some fun too (c) if the hostess as been gracious enough to cook and supply the goodies and then even leave her home for the men, recognize this when she returns and gentleman seriously pick up as much as you can (this goes for the husband too) that way when she returns she is not left to then pick up after all of you; especially after supplying goods and leaving her home to superbowl partiers.

    Posted by RayRay01 January 29, 09 01:26 PM
  1. I have to second Amy R's comment -- if you aren't a sports fan, don't attend a serious Super Bowl party. There are always other parties with a serious fan/non-fan mix. I say that from a non-fan perspective. I may be completely willing to give my mother grief about her Packers obsession when it's not game time, but even I am respectful enough to just butt out when the game is on. It's not considerate or respectful. And yes, people DO need to be told that.

    I, too, would love to know what time the Trek trailer is on.

    Posted by bluemoose January 29, 09 01:40 PM
  1. if you need to talk about something other than the game that is going on, stay home, invite the talkers over, and watch gossip girl or ghost whisperer reruns.

    Posted by watch_the_game January 29, 09 01:51 PM
  1. Please don't talk or change the station during the commercials. For some of us, that's the best part of the game.

    Posted by Liz January 29, 09 01:53 PM
  1. After reading a few of these comments, it seems as though hosts and hostesses need to be encouraged to "man up" themselves. You watched your guests stand while one hogged the couch? And it didn't occur to you that as the host of the party, you could simply invite the standers to sit down? Remote Hog was being a clueless boor, but you could've politely taken his toy away. It's your house, people, and your guests - don't let one rude jerk spoil things for everyone else you're hosting!

    Posted by MelissaJane January 29, 09 02:38 PM
  1. Put the kids to bed early.

    Posted by Jason January 29, 09 02:43 PM
  1. I would never want to attend a super bowl party with Miss Conduct.

    Posted by Mank January 29, 09 05:18 PM
  1. Ignore the contents of this article

    Posted by Bob January 29, 09 06:09 PM
  1. Good advice from Peaco. That's the Superbowl party I want to be at!

    Posted by Dmajor January 29, 09 09:47 PM
  1. Stay sober. If you must over-indulge, arrange ahead of time for a ride home. Most important, thank your hostess/host on your way out the door.

    Posted by Penny R January 29, 09 09:57 PM
  1. Go to to find out when the trailer is airing instead of posting about it on a football article.

    Posted by Joe January 29, 09 11:35 PM
  1. I can see why you turned off comments.

    Posted by Markel January 30, 09 01:23 AM
  1. Have an anti-superbowl party with your friends. Rent lots of Kurosawa, spaghetti westerns, film noirs or kung-fu movies and do not, I repeat, do not look forward to multi-million dollar advertisments.

    Posted by Noel January 30, 09 10:16 AM
  1. Wow....never before have I seen so much snarkiness in the comments on Miss Conduct's blog.

    As for Game Day advice: Eat, drink, and be merry. Yell at the TV as long as other people are yelling at it. Also keep in mind that people may want to watch the show that follows the Super Bowl, this year it's The Office. If you're hosting the party PLEASE inform your guests if you will or won't be watching The Office so they have enough time to scramble home.

    Posted by Veronica January 30, 09 10:26 AM
  1. I know it's a little late to be commenting on this, but as a someone who is not from here, the one thing about New England fans that really stands out is their constant taunting & insulting of non-New England fans. Wear a Yankees hat or shirt, and some idiot is yelling "Yankees suck!" at you on the street, in a store, and even in school. Although your article touched briefly on the subject of not teasing or taunting fans of other teams, as well as not assuming everyone is a fan of the same team, this is something totally foreign here in New England. Everyone assumes that everyone is a Sox/Pats/Celtics/Bruins fan, and are shocked & puzzled if you tell them that you're a fan of a "foreign" (i.e. non-New England) team. In other parts of the country, people realize that not everyone are fans of the same teams, sometimes even within families -- my own husband and his mother are fans of rival baseball teams. However around here there is no such thing as a "friendly rivalry". We've stopped having people over for Super Bowl because of this, and find ourselves guarding our sports loyalties like a dirty little secret. Maybe in the future Miss Conduct could blog about the rudeness of sports fans in Boston?

    Posted by Marie February 3, 09 10:10 AM
  1. I love the Superbowl! What I don't love is a Superbowl party where people talk during the game!!! WTF is that? I'm there to actually watch the game not as an excuse to run my mouth. Maybe it's the introvert in me, but I really like to watch the game. It's cool to socialize before, and even after, but for the love of all things holy STFU during the actual game cause I want to see and hear every play and every commentary and every statistic because that's the point right?

    Posted by Introvertgal January 29, 10 01:31 PM
About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at

Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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