Column: The best play for Super Bowl Sunday is taking a safety at home, but there are other options

Super Bowl LV—or 55, for those who don’t speak Latin—is shaping up to be a dud, and not just because it’s being held in Florida, or because Tom Brady is in it. It’s just that it’s the big game’s first clash with COVID, having barely evaded the coronavirus-related restrictions last year.

This year, fans who like a crowd on Super Sunday won’t safely find one anywhere except in your own home.

Sure you can flout the advice of health officers or Long Beach’s own restrictions. Or, for that matter, you can attempt suicide by heading down to lawless Orange County and do whatever you want.

But, let’s pretend you’re treating the coronavirus seriously and are willing to make the necessary sacrifices to remain considerate of others as well as yourself and you intend to follow advice and orders and play by the rules for Super Bowl LV, which airs Feb. 7 at 3:30 p.m.

LA County public health Director Barbara Ferrer offers pretty blunt buzz-killing advice: “Don’t organize a party at home, don’t go to a Super Bowl party.”

Ferrer added, “It will be tragic if the Super Bowl becomes a super-spreader of coronavirus.”

So you can count on the game celebrations being yet another COVID cancellation of sorts. It’s like (2020) Christmas in (2021) February.

And that limits things fairly severely and means that you’re likely to just sit at home and watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the Kansas City Chiefs with your three or four fellow pod-mates.

The once-dependable sports bars, such as Legends on Second Street, will be not be the madhouses they usually are, though Legends co-owner Eric Johnson plans to make the most out of what’s currently allowed, which means he’s limited to hosting between 40 and 50 patrons at his parklet, where staff will be setting up outdoor TVs for the game (LA County on Friday ordered TVs to be turned off at outdoor dining spots in an effort to forestall gatherings of sports fans, so that’s a problem Long Beach sports bars may have to face as we get closer to kickoff).

Lord knows what time you’ll need to get to Legends to score one of the cherished spots. Johnson said that historically people have begun showing up at the bar/restaurant for Super Bowl Sunday at around 11:30 a.m. or noon, but that was in past years when the entire two-story place was open. If you want a spot there for this year’s game you should probably be there now.

Either way, Johnson expects to do booming business with take-out on game day, particularly Legends’ chicken wings and nachos.

Chicken wings in general are expected to fly off the shelves on Super Sunday according to no less a source than the  National Chicken Council. The council estimates that Americans will devour a record 1.42 billion wings while watching the game.

Turning to barbecue, Dave Ursini, owner of Naples Rib Co., also expects a big day for take-out.

“It’s such a crazy time,” said Ursini. “It’s hard to predict how many orders we’ll get, because everybody waits until the last minute. Three days before New Year’s Eve, I had three orders. The next day I had 85. I’m sure Super Bowl Sunday we’ll be super busy.”

The Rib Co.’s biggest sellers are the “Hog Pack,” which feeds nine to 13 people, followed by the “Pig Pack,” which feeds six to nine.

“I’m fairly certain we’ll do north of 240 orders on game day,” Ursini said.

COVID-19 has also had an impact on the second-biggest attraction of the Super Bowl: the commercials. Though CBS, which is airing the game, sold out of 30-second spots at $5.5 million a copy, some of the annual favorites have decided to stay out of the game this year, according to Marketwatch. Those include the popular Budweiser ads as well as Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Ford and Facebook.

Some longtime ad buyers are grabbing some pine this year because they are facing their own financial uncertainties, while others are concerned about the optics of spending millions of dollars when so many people are experiencing difficulties with COVID as well as the country dealing with racial, political and social unrest, according to Marketwatch.

One way to watch the Super Bowl with few restrictions—unless you count spending an obscene amount of money a restriction—is by buying a couple of tickets and hopping on a plane and enjoying the game in person at Tampa Bay’s home field, Raymond James Stadium.

With seating limited to just 22,000 people—about one-third of Ray-Jay’s 65,890 capacity—you and your game buddy (tickets are sold only in pairs) can watch live and socially distanced, with further protection provided by complementary safety kits containing an N95 mask, bacterial wipes and hand sanitizers that will be given to every attendee and stadium worker. It’s like Bobblehead Night except with coronavirus protection items.

The safety kit is the only thing you’ll be getting free, and even that is probably buried, barely noticeably, in the price of a ticket which on the secondary market is going to cost you at the very minimum, about $6,000, for a seat you’re going to need a Sherpa to help you get to, or at the more decadent end, a seat in a luxury suite (just one seat, not the whole suite) for anywhere from $218,768 to $374,000 from StubHub.

Because some 7,500 vaccinated healthcare workers will be getting in free, that leaves the general public’s attendance at 14,500, about 50,000 fewer than the number of people who usually are in the seats at a Super Bowl.

If you somehow manage to attend the game, you’ll find you’ll have more to worry about than mere COVID or covering the spread. Super Bowl LV is classified as a SEAR-1 event by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which means it receives the top level of federal resources, such as air security, cyber-attack assessments and teams of bomb-sniffing canines, all meant to defend against who-knows-what these days, though the chief concerns are hometown hooliganism (this is the first Super Bowl with a team playing on its home field) either madly celebrating a victory or storming the gates in anger over the limited capacity, and then there’s the ever-present danger these days of domestic terrorism that’s still freshly at the forefront of most people’s minds.

One way to attend the game both safely and relatively inexpensively, and yet somehow pretty unsatisfactorily, is by purchasing a cardboard cutout of yourself wearing your team’s colors or logos. These cutouts will be placed in the otherwise empty seats. They cost $100 each. To order your cutout for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, click here, For Kansas City Chief cutouts, click here.

There’s no guarantee that you’ll even get to see yourself at the game, and the cutouts will be painlessly disposed of after the game. Sad to say, you’ll never see yourself again.

You want a professional’s opinion: Stay home and watch the game with whoever you live with. That’s more chicken wings for you.

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.
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