This year, more than any before, people are kvetching over their upcoming Super Bowl Parties; whether they are throwing one or attending one (or thinking of either). Perhaps it’s because a team wildly popular throughout our main geographic reason is in the Super Bowl, or perhaps it’s just an ongoing commentary on our society’s sickening need to worry about other peoples’ feelings to a level where our own happiness gets shoved aside.
For those that don’t understand what the issue is, allow me a brief explanation…one that will make no sense to you if you’re not a sports fan, which is where we begin. For many, Super Bowl Sunday is nothing more than a quasi-national holiday designed to get people together over snacks, alcohol, and funny commercials on TV. To football fans, and in particular fans of the two teams in the game on any given year, this is a day that matters deeply to them for a variety of reasons. And the ability to enjoy the game while being distracted by socializing, other peoples’ opinions, loud conversations, and more, is simply nil.
Many years ago, I wrote a series of holiday Soapboxes designed to help people navigate their way through decisions related to entertaining, family, and obligations in general. It seems that it’s time for a refresher course. These rules and guidelines apply to all involved, but are heightened greatly in the event that you are a Niners or Chiefs fan (thus increasing the importance of the game to you personally greatly):
YOU HAVE NONE: Past is not prologue when it comes to personal happiness. Just because you’ve hosted or attended a Super Bowl party for years, does not, in any way, mandate that you do the same this year. In fact, now might be a great time to take some of your friendships out for a spin. Let the people close to you know that you won’t be attending and why, and see how they react. If they mock you, demean your motivations, and apply guilt trips, that’s someone you need to start extricating from your life immediately. If they react as an adult should, understanding your decision and showing support, if not a bit of disappointment, you’ve got a keeper.
THE COMPROMISE: There are situations where the above doesn’t cut it. Most notably, when a party intersects with work obligations. For example, if your boss or an important colleague has been the host (or is hosting for the first time), there is an implied obligation to maintain a positive working environment (or maybe even advance upwards within the company). Similarly, perhaps you and your significant other have the same quandary as it relates to family. Its not worth it to create havoc by not attending Uncle Jim’s terrible party, no mater how much you want to bail. Fair enough.
The compromise still demands a certain amount of personal courage and boundary drawing; You inform the host that you’ll be attending up until game time. All Super Bowl parties tend to begin around Noon-1pm Pacific time (kickoff is just after 3:30)…so, simply explain that because you want to truly be able to watch and enjoy the game, yet you still enjoy the party and/or respect the host so much, you’ll be arriving early and leaving however long before the kickoff is necessary to get home in time to enjoy the game. This will not insulate you from the ridicule of other guests, but it will ensure that you enjoy the game and that you at least “made an appearance.”
YOURSELF: My wish for all is that at some point in their life (sooner rather than later) they will truly start living for themselves, and putting other peoples’ happiness on the back burner. You are not responsible for anyone else’s contentment beyond your own (save the obvious commitment you have perhaps made to a significant other to bring your hearts together and thus demanding you work as a team to ensure mutual contentment). If you express to someone what you have identified it is that you need to be happy, content, or enjoy an event, and their reaction is to make you feel bad for that, you need to recognize the toxicity that person is bringing to your life and demand better.
RULES: If you’re trying to split the baby, you will still face a challenge of courage on your part. Throwing a party and then demanding that guests act a certain way is fraught with the implication of a consequence if they don’t. So if you create the “no talking in the TV room during the broadcast,” rule, what are you going to do when people react to the game, a bad call, a funny commercial, or anything else that suddenly makes it impossible to hear and/or enjoy the game? Are you going to ask them to leave the room? Leave the house? Are you prepared to spend the day as a bouncer (thus also ruining your ability to enjoy the game)?
THE COMPROMISE: Multiple viewing rooms is your only hope, and it still comes with no guarantees. If you have the space and ability, a room for “fans only,” and a separate one for those there to socialize is your only shot, but still comes with rule enforcement the first time your drunk cousin decides the “game only” room is the place for him to loudly share his thoughts on Instant Replay. Good luck.
GUEST LIST: See obligations above. And just know and own this; if you choose to invite someone that you know is likely to disrupt your day or lessen your ability to enjoy yourself, that is on you. This usually occurs under the guise of “I like Person A but their significant other sucks.” Fine. If you are incapable of not inviting Person A, or telling them that their significant other is garbage (I’ve done both in my life, BTW), then you, and you alone, are the one responsible for whatever the S.O. does to ruin your day. Own it…and, when you get some alone time, ask yourself why you think so little of yourself.
FAMILY: See obligations above.
My final and greatest wish for all remains the ability to redefine family. Family is not simply legal or blood relation. Having a brother, mother, cousin, uncle or any other blood relative in your life who makes you feel badly over and over again is not family, it’s toxic and abusive. Allowing someone part of the family as a result of being married to a blood relative to treat you in the same way is equally as detestable and disgusting.
Family is what you make it. It’s the people most close to you who love and accept you for you. They will, when necessary, tell you when you’re wrong or when they disagree, knowing that when the conversation is over, regardless of any resolution, the outcome will remain a solid union between the two of you. True family has your back and cheers you on, even if they think that things you love are a silly waste of time and resources, and you feel the same about them.
Family is not forced. Find your voice and your happiness. And go Niners.