Game Time

Game Time

Host a winning football party.

Even if you aren’t emotionally invested in the outcome of the Big Game, it remains a great excuse to throw a party. In fact, 65 percent of adults responding to a 2012 Nielsen survey said they prefer to watch the action at home or that of a friend (as opposed to heading out to a bar). But don’t make it a nail-biting production for you. Leave fretting for the opposing coaches (and the companies paying millions for their commercials) and kick off your big event with this foolproof game plan. 

Invite early

If you know you want to host this year, alert your proposed guests as soon as you are able to so they can all make their plans. You might not be the only show in town! An e-mail service like Evite.com makes invitations easier, but you can also have fun creating tickets for entry to your party (you can download templates from the Web or use them as inspiration for your own design). 

Plan your menu

Chicken wings and beer are perennially popular (partiers buy and/or consume nearly 50 million cases of beer and more than one billion chicken wings in the run-up to the Big Game). But you can easily sneak in more-wholesome snacks by adding grilled-vegetable pizza squares and black-bean-and-corn salsa to your buffet. Looking to elevate your event beyond the obvious? Consider a catered spread that combines balanced food options. Your local Panera Bread® associates can help you personalize your party menu. Or go hybrid, ordering some foods that are more time-consuming to prepare and making simpler items, such as dips and finger foods, yourself. (Better yet, ask for donations of go-to dishes from guests.) 

Make space!

The most important furniture in the room will be the TV, of course, followed closely by adequate seating. Just one couch? Clear out extraneous pieces and add in ottomans, chairs, and even floor pillows culled from other rooms. You might also want to roll up rugs or take away breakables, especially if you expect a tense game. 

Stock up on nonalcoholic drink options

It’s a Sunday night. Need we say more? Consider a fun signature alcohol-free drink, like a punch in team colors, and lay on sparkling water and soda, too.

Keep it clean

Spills will happen, so keep napkins and paper towels around just in case. Maintain a tidier party room by having garbage and recycling bins in view in the kitchen (that’ll help your late-night cleanup go easier as well). Another mess-reducing tip: keep food and drinks off to the side of the room or in another spot, such as a dining room or kitchen table. Having the whole spread on the coffee table just invites someone excited by a touchdown to knock that tray of nachos to the floor.

Do up decor

Team colors make an obvious and simple theme. You can be specific and hit the party superstore for items with the teams’ logos and ask guests to wear jerseys if they have them. Or just use plates, napkins, and cutlery in team colors. Take your decor up a notch by painting or taping yard lines onto a green vinyl tablecloth (available at party stores). Or pick up some chalkboard contact paper at a home-supply store, draw a few game plays on top, and use that to dress up your snack station. 

Go for extra points

Since the focus is going to be on the game, you don’t need too many other activities going on, but it’s important to carry through the theme in whatever way you can. Little details like well-designed cookies in the shape of helmets, or footballs strategically placed on a buffet table, help your guests get in the spirit. You can also use the team cities as inspiration. For example, Gumbo would be a good choice if New Orleans takes the field. With just a little bit of brainstorming, you can come up with clever-but-simple ways to help your guests feel like they’re part of the action.