What Super Bowl? Alternatives to the big game

The anti-fan's TV survival guide to the most epic day in football

Topics: Super Bowl, I Like to Watch, Peyton Manning, Television,

What Super Bowl? Alternatives to the big game

Most of us will take part in any function, holiday or yearly tradition that involves melted cheese and requires sitting in one place for four to eight hours, moving only to retrieve refreshments and/or scold anyone blocking the television set.

Thankfully, even small children and needy house pets seem to have an intuitive grasp of the divine nature of the Super Bowl, during which adults reserve the right to distractedly mumble and gorge themselves all afternoon while staring at the TV.

Unfortunately, the game itself frequently sucks. But don’t let that rob you of your one big chance to shut out the world and stare, slack-jawed, at a five-hour-long televisual sporting spectacle. Why, when the game gets dull, why not flip over to …

The Puppy Bowl

Maybe the men in shiny white tights no longer seem like adequate visual eye candy to match your outsize libido, or maybe you’re so old that what really makes your heartbeat race uncontrollably at this point is the sight of a 4-month old Chihuahua-pug mix, clumsily chasing a squeaky football toy across the goal line while a 3-month-old Lab-collie mix pounces on her own tail. Does this mean you’re a sad shell of your former self, or does it simply mean that you’re finally mature enough to acknowledge that nothing can make you lose sight of your own mortality quite as quickly as the sight of baby animals cavorting?

This year the festivities (3-5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 7, on Animal Planet) include bunny cheerleaders, hamsters flying a blimp, and a kitten halftime show that’s guaranteed 100 percent clean and devoid of nipple flashing. And remember, your kids will enjoy the kittens a lot more than listening to Grandpa humming “Pinball Wizard” along with the Who, who are playing at halftime on the real Super Bowl.

The Puppy Bowl even features a human referee, who makes calls like “unnecessary ruffness.” Yes, sounds like you’d better watch with the sound off, or risk being so thoroughly polluted by Excessive Cuteness (also a personal foul) that you end up adorning your back dashboards with plush toys or take to wearing rainbow suspenders without irony for the rest of your days on earth, a style choice that’s at least as bad as singing along to “Won’t Get Fooled Again” for the 50,000,000th time in your life.

The Who?

Remember the old adage, “Those who never stop singing ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ are destined to get fooled more often than anyone else”? Still, nostalgia has a way of making fools of all of us. What else can explain why the network geniuses would turn back the clocks and break out another boomer indulgence for the halftime show this year? Let’s see, there was Springsteen, Tom Petty, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney … Apparently in the wake of nipplegate, TV execs suspect that if anyone under 65 is involved in the show, it’ll immediately devolve into a debauched, orgiastic spectacle of biblical, traditional-family-toppling proportions.

Why is it, though, that when marketing and development and publicity people want to cater to “the mainstream,” they’re always torn between peppy preteens, country-pop sensations, and guitar-solo-wielding retirees? When you turn on your TV set for some big concert, why is it always a prepubescent hottie you’ve never seen before or the classic rock radio that was playing when your high school boyfriend drove you to Hardee’s in his yellow Pinto for the first time?

News flash! Pete Townshend has revealed a part of the Who’s set list! It seems they plan to play — wait for it — “Baba O’Riley,” “Who Are You,” “Pinball Wizard” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again”! Man, I can’t wait to hear “Pinball Wizard” again, I haven’t heard that song in at least a week now. But speaking of being damned for all time, there’s always …

Faith Bowl III

It’s only natural that after several hours of watching various manly Christian hunks point toward the heavens and offer a big shout-out to the Man Upstairs in the wake of each particularly effective tackle or 5-yard gain, you’ll want to pay homage to the big boss-man in the sky yourself. Why not flip over to the Faith Bowl III on your local Catholic network, where “professional Catholic athletes” will “discuss how they live out their faith in the public arena of professional sports and what challenges to family life they face.” I can imagine a variety of challenges to family life that might come up for professional athletes, from locker room bare-ass bumps (or “moon landings” — thank you, “Modern Family”)  to the steady parade of bunny cheerleaders and assorted roving rodents in heat wandering around after every practice, anxious to snag a man with a million-dollar salary and glutes of steel.

Panelists will discuss “a sound Christian family life, and the important role of a husband and father in being a ‘true man.’” But unless the panelists are going to demonstrate their true manliness by disrobing and then killing gigantic roaches lurking in the shower or putting on some tight short-shorts and soaping up one of the luxury vehicles parked in their driveways, we’re not sure about the visual interest of this segment. The show’s producers might consider swapping out former baseball star Mike Piazza for someone who’ll look a little hotter loading up a washing machine wearing a French maid’s uniform, like, say… pretty much anyone else.

But speaking of offensive, there’s also …

The Ball Bowl

OK, fine. Comedy Central’s Super Bowl programming block is actually called “Tailgate Party 10,” but come on, it’s a ball-themed movie marathon that includes “Meatballs,” “Spaceballs,” “Balls of Fury” and “The Nutsacker.”

OK, I made that last one up. But speaking of far-fetched tie-ins, don’t forget…

The Toilet Bowl

Yes, the DIY Network just had to find the most fragile of threads to herd audiences from the big game to its third annual potty-centric festivities. Yes, thanks to the Broke But Aspirational Housewife Channel, while your resident ball-scratchers are fully engulfed in America’s yearly, fully sanctioned plunge into semi-violent homoerotica, you can sneak off to the bedroom TV set and escape into a world of dream bathrooms, bathroom makeovers and extravagant trips to Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Fascinating, really, how one’s fixation on potties seems to correspond inversely to one’s fixation on potty humor. You’re either the sort of animal who repeats a fart joke from “Spaceballs” or you’re the kind who daydreams about having a bathroom the size of a kitchen (and a kitchen the size of a living room, and a living room the size of a basketball court).

And then there’s Matt Muenster, a darling little morsel of a home contractor who’s happy to fill the Nate Berkus role in the American housewives’ extreme makeover fantasy, bathroom remodeling edition. If Mike Piazza won’t put on a bunny costume and retile our half-bath, we’re pretty sure that this smiling sweetie will. Mmm, look how he can caulk and talk at the same time! We ladies love a truly adaptive male — particularly on a day when our own captive beasts appear incapable of doing much more than grinding potato chip crumbs into the rug every time one of their boyfriends on-screen crushes one of his boyfriends on the field.

So let’s see: Puppy lovers, nostalgic boomers, homoerotic beastmasters, Christians, the testicle-obsessed and the bathroom-fixture-fixated. That pretty much covers all of us, doesn’t it?

Congratulations, TV executives! You’ve reduced the American population down to six key demographics. Just recognize that Christians don’t buy stuff, puppy lovers get distracted easily and wander off, the bathroom-fixture-fixated are prone to start cleaning their own bathrooms during the commercial breaks, and nostalgic boomers fall asleep by 9 p.m. — presumably because they’re hoping that, with a little more sleep, they won’t get fooled again tomorrow.

Not bloody likely. Either way, enjoy the nacho-cheese-and-beer-induced paralysis and have a happy Super Bowl Sunday, America!

Heather Havrilesky is a regular contributor to the New York Times Magazine, The Awl and Bookforum, and is the author of the memoir "Disaster Preparedness." You can also follow her on Twitter at @hhavrilesky.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>