Did you watch the Super Bowl on Sunday? Last year, more than 111 million people in 53 million houses did. That’s a lot of nachos, baked ziti and 6-foot hero sandwiches.
Somehow, the Super Bowl has morphed into more of a social affair than a sporting event.
Doris and Angelo Gatto from Lindenhurst have been hosting their own Super Bowl gathering for about 15 years now. The annual assembly of friends and family has been going on since the kids were little. Now they come back every year with their significant others, their spouses and even their own kids.
Angelo, along with his brother John, comes from a long line of fisherman. He’d rather eat broken glass than miss a day of fishing. Their father Frank, an electrician by trade, had his own Super Bowl Sunday tradition, organizing an ice fishing trip upstate. He’d take his boys, along with my brother Tony and others, because there was virtually no traffic that day and they had the frozen lake to themselves. It was a family tradition they would never consider missing. Of course, Angelo also knew if he missed that trip, he’d be out of the will.
Like all New Yorkers of a certain age, Frank was eventually forced to move to Florida, where he passed away just before the turn of the century. That didn’t end the group’s annual pilgrimage upstate for ice fishing, but it just wasn’t the same. That’s when Doris, who comes from a football loving family, suggested they invite a few people over for Super Bowl Sunday. And just like that, a new tradition was born.
But what about the actual football game? You know, that championship thing-y everyone is supposed to be watching? At any Super Bowl party, you always find the die-hards stuffed into seats in front of the TV, concentrating on every play. Meanwhile, everyone else is hanging out in the kitchen or dining room swapping stories, stuffing their faces and enjoying the social aspect of the event. When did Super Bowl Sunday become Thanksgiving Part 2?
In the past, the game was the focal point. My friends and I would gather at my house every year for the penultimate event of the NFL season. I used to tell my boss that I had two personal holidays; the home opener for the Mets and the day after the Super Bowl.
I once rented a state of the art 25-inch TV to hook up with a 75-foot cable wire in my then-unfinished basement, even creating a scoreboard that used paper numbers. Although most parties are BYOB, this one was a BYOH, where everyone was encouraged to bring a portable heater since the basement had no heat source of its own.
Along the way, we’d have a few adult beverages, smoke some Philly Blunt cigars (hey, how can you go wrong at five for a dollar?), stuff ourselves with chips and finish the night off with Drake’s Cakes and cookies. Most importantly, we wanted to see a champion get crowned.
Today, the Super Bowl is becoming more well known for the commercials and the money you won in the box pool than for who won the game.
Last year, as the Patriots were driving for the winning touchdown in overtime, I glanced at my box pool and noticed that a touchdown would pay my wife $400 on the final score. I may be a New England hater, but I’m not a fool. I was as happy as any New Englander when they scored that TD to win the game. Clam Chowder for everyone!
I enjoy spending Super Bowl Sunday with the Gatto’s when I can. It’s a great mix of real football fans and longtime friends that I don’t get to see too often. As the resident degenerate in the group, they look forward to me organizing a box pool for the party. We fill in the boxes, hang the prize money on the wall with scotch tape and use a deck of cards to pick the numbers. A pleasant time is guaranteed for all.
I’m sure somewhere up there, Frank Gatto is grumbling about how they are wasting a wonderful ice fishing day to stay home and watch the Super Bowl. But I’m sure it’s because he doesn’t have any good numbers in St. Joseph’s box pool.