One result of trying to attend a bunch of different Super Bowl parties is that you miss a lot of the game.
But that puts you in good company, because a fair percentage of the partygoers were not watching anyway. Well, not during the early going at least.
Photographer Jesse Tinsley and I arrived at our first stop Sunday afternoon, the South Hill home of hydrologist Rick Noll and accountant Judy Lungren, as Hawaiian shirt-clad Rick kept loose tabs on a 2-gallon vat of chili.
Kickoff was still a couple of hours away, but their guests were just about to start arriving. A front porch sign on an almost life-size cutout of John Wayne, adorned for this occasion in an added-on red skirt, instructed guests to head around to the back door. And that they did, bringing treats such as chile relleno spoonbread.
Noll might have cared about the football game if the Pittsburgh Steelers had been in it. He became a fan as a kid when the Steelers coach at that time had the same name as his dad, Chuck Noll.
So his party was mostly about getting together with friends.
“I don’t know who’s playing, but I know there are brothers involved,” said one woman among the early-arriving guests.
“Come back later and we’ll all be drunk,” promised another.
At Affinity at South Hill, over near Regal and 44th, a resident at the 55-plus independent living community asked me for the Las Vegas line on the game.
Dozens of others in a bright, cheery community room sampled offerings from a buffet table. Jon Louis, 75, mentioned that he used to live near Baltimore but did not have strong feelings about the game. A woman not far away said she was for the Ravens because one of that team’s players had been the subject of a movie, “The Blind Side.”
Seeing a visitor without a plate of food, resident after resident suggested I eat something. One got the feeling it was not the first time in their lives these nice folks had assigned themselves that task.
At Mike Peterson’s eye-popping house off the Argonne Hill, a guest checking out the indoor basketball court told about getting a call from the FBI. It seems his ex-wife is the purported girlfriend of a developer with Ridpath Hotel ties who’s under federal indictment. And when that accused con man was mistakenly released from jail for a short time, the authorities thought they should contact this guy.
“They said, ‘We don’t believe you are in any danger,’ ” he said.
Members of Peterson’s extended family caught up with relatives while others looked out the panoramic windows on a foggy afternoon.
As kickoff neared, some – guys mostly – camped in front of TVs. There are 13 in the house, including an HD projector setup in a dark room with a 9-foot-wide screen.
How did he make his money?
“Technology,” said the ultra-fit Peterson.
He was not within earshot when a guest shared a story. Adam Shackleford recalled that when he was fired as head coach of the Spokane Shock football team a few years ago, the first call he got was from Peterson. “That’s the kind of friend he is.”
But when it comes to friends and Super Bowl parties, it might be tough to top Vickie Sienknecht’s crowd. A cluster of Eastern Washington University alums who went to school in the 1970s, they have been gathering along with their families on Super Bowl Sunday for 35 years. They met this year at Sienknecht’s home on 22nd Avenue in Spokane Valley.
“We used to drink more beer than we do now,” said Daryl Parsons, who lives in Davenport.
As the first half neared an end, a grandbaby was getting as much attention as the game.
Up at the home of Sheila Geraghty and Roger Glanville on North Alberta, anyone opening the front door got tackled by the inviting aromas of hot wings and other zesty party food.
Downstairs, the halftime show got mostly good reviews. Except maybe from the guy who jokingly expressed disappointment that Beyonce was wearing underwear.
“See ya! See ya!” Glanville shouted as the second-half kickoff was run back for a touchdown.
At Mark Schafer’s place off Indian Trail, the smell of crab permeated the premises.
He admitted that, of course, hosting is more stressful than simply attending a Super Bowl party. “You want everything to be right.”
But as he surveyed the scene in his basement and saw the happy faces of friends, he smiled.
A commercial came on featuring a beautiful young woman in a bikini running in slow motion.
“Deana, you used to look like that,” shouted a man to his wife across the room.
“Used to?” she harrumphed, before making a hot-babe face pretending to run in slow motion.
The game itself was about to get interesting. But for the moment, loud laughter was the play of the day.