Why to Watch and What to Eat for the Super Bowl of the Decade (At Least, For Now)

Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes, plus Amanda Gorman—what’s not to love when the biggest game also features America’s inauguration poet? Plus, you made it through January so here’s every excuse to eat wings, loaded nachos and tater tots.

 

 

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It’s been awhile since a Super Bowl has been the subject of so much anticipation. But this Sunday’s game itself is third, maybe fourth, or even fifth, on my list of reasons why.

 

First, there’s the idea of you (and your little pod, if you have one) tuning in to watch other humans huddling together in their pod. Admit it, the thought is comforting, isn’t it? Like our Stone Age ancestors used to do around their campfires. Remember what it felt like to brush shoulders with someone and not recoil in terror while fumbling for the hand sanitizer?

 

Then there are the faces. Are you ready for some faces? Because we’re going to see some faces in this Super Bowl, faces without masks. If you’ve secretly tuned in to the NBA and WNBA just to watch 10 people running around without masks, then the Super Bowl doubles your idea of fun. You’ve got 22 at a time on the field. This is going to be facial recognition heaven for some of us.

 

And then there’s the game. But before we do that, let’s talk about the true raison d’etre for the Super Bowl for many of us who splurge-eat all through the holidays only to face things like New Year’s resolutions, Dry January and bathroom scales. The Super Bowl is like a Lenten reprieve, leading into Mardi Gras, allowing us to once again loosen our belts a notch or two.

 

Don’t let COVID-19 spoil it. You don’t want to look back on your life wishing for just one more Hot Ranch Buffalo or Loaded Kālua Nacho. Ah yes, we remember those. Way back when. Darling? What were those things we ordered. Really, the most amazing things, back before COVID, of course, but …

 

 

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There may be a game for the ages this Sunday. Tom Brady may deny his haters once again. But Vegas odds say one human will surely shine: Amanda Gorman, the poet who dazzled at the presidential inauguration, will have a special incantation for the occasion. We’d tune in for that alone.

 

The last great football poetry we can recall goes something like this:

 

“Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army football team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds yesterday…”

 

Not only could Grantland Rice write, his words are prophecy. Substitute Fauci, Cuomo, Azar and Trump for those Four Horsemen and you’ve got a ticket to a Pulitzer.

 

Amanda Gorman, MVP. Go write your poem.

 

 

The Game

We’re getting the GOAT, greatest of all time, in Tom Brady. I am a Joe Montana man, but it’s indisputable; not after nine appearances in Super Bowls and six victories. After missing the playoffs with the still-hated New England Patriots, Brady bade adios to grumpy, he-likes-to-cheat coach Bill Belichick, joining perennial loser Tampa Bay, and just like any other 43-year-old playing quarterback in the NFL went out and won seven games on the road his first season, with a bunch of strangers, to get to this Super Bowl. You have to sigh and hand it to the guy.

 

Whether Brady gets that seventh Super Bowl ring depends more on his defense. That’s what really makes Tampa Bay such a fearsome contender. The Kansas City Chiefs have a better quarterback, if you go by statistics. At 25, spring chicken Patrick Mahomes is still discovering how high he can fly. Although it’s hard to top last year’s Super Bowl rally, which showed off his Spider-Man escape skills and dartlike aim

 

One nice side note to look for is the possible presence of a former University of Hawaiʻi wide receiver, Marcus Kemp. He’s currently listed on the Chiefs’ practice squad, but with two players in COVID-19 quarantine, he could get some playing time if injured star Sammie Watkins can’t go. (He probably will; it’s the Super Bowl.) Kemp was elevated stone-cold to the onside kick receiving team in the Buffalo title tilt. After another receiver lost a fumble, Kemp calmly fielded the next hot bouncing onsider and preserved the win for the Chiefs. Those are big-game nerves.

 

Who’s going to win? You are, by wearing a mask even as you shout at the TV, if you’re in a public space.

 

 

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Teamwise, it’s trending Tampa Bay by a receding hairline, Brady’s. It won’t come easy, but Mahomes is working with a threadbare line and the Buccaneers’ defensive secondary leads the NFL in takeaways. That the game is being played on Tampa Bay’s home field is almost incidental. But then, KC’s defense is as creative as its offense; it clipped Buffalo’s wings.

 

(There, I nailed it. Consider the bar raised, Amanda.)

 

Prediction? Why not. Tampa Bay 43, Kansas City 37. Ask me again and flip the team order.

 

Super Bowl LV: Sunday, 1:30 p.m. HST on KGMB. Chiefs favored by 3

 

 

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The Food

Now let’s talk about the food and entertainment options. In COVID-19 times, the mood is different, as it should be. After placing calls around to sports bars of note, the takeaway can be summed up by what one manager at the Waikīkī Brewing Co. said: “Given that this is the first Super Bowl with COVID restrictions, we can’t do the typical bells and whistles. We hope everyone can have a good time under the circumstances and constraints.”

 

It’s actually a good thing and we respect it. Given the dearth of ads in the sports pages for bars boasting of their widescreens, wing buckets and enormous sushi platters, we’re just going to assume most of you will be patronizing your favorite takeout for your own private watch party. Still, should hunger call:

 

 

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For its wide array of platters and pans, as well as a regular menu, Guava Smoked earns a special nod. Pans include pork, kalbi, chicken and chicken thighs, butterfish collars, fried rice, mac salad, even greens (Kahumana salad); prices vary. Multiple locations, guavasmoked.com

 

Big City Diner has its Super Bowl Pūpū Platter: 12 guava-smoked ribs, 10 guava-smoked wings, panko calamari, six panko fish and garlic bread on a pan of cabbage. Multiple locations, bigcitydinerhawaii.com

 

 

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For those more refined, may we suggest takeout from Merriman’s Street Burger and Beer Garden? You can get your burgers, hot dogs, vegan wurst, Mexican street corn, clam chowder with bacon (a salute to Mr. Brady’s former Boston-based team!) and, we heard from Rick The Manager, a few Super Bowl specials that we couldn’t confirm at press time but which made us reach for our B-52s vinyl to hear “Rock Lobster.” 1108 Auahi Street, (808) 215-0022, merrimanshawaii.com

 

Pitch Sports Bar at SALT at Our Kakaʻako is booked up for tables, but it has Super Bowl sushi platters, spicy donburi rolls and sashimi platters to go. 625 Auahi St., Suite 216/217, (808) 379-2550, pitchsportsbar.com

 

We’re addicted to Pig & The Lady’s LFC wings ($14, Laotian spicy) and Pho French Dip, which is a beef brisket banh mi ($16.95), both of which work well with one of our local beers. 83 N. King St., (808) 585-8255, thepigandthelady.com

 

 

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Speaking of beer, Waikīkī Brewing Co. is a good place to watch the game, especially if your roommates are Bayern Munich fans, or would rather watch old episodes of Downton Abbey on the communal TV or laptop. There are locations in Kakaʻako and Waikīkī. “We seat about 80, give or take, probably less,” says a Kakaʻako manager. “Since the time of the game runs along with happy hour, from 2 to 5 p.m., you have your $5 pints, $10 pies. We may do an extended happy hour if the game runs over.” Other deals include $12 growler refills, $5 house wine, $5 well pours and, since it’s Sunday brunch as well, you can start off with a $5.50 bloody mary, Michelada or mimosa. Multiple locations, waikikibrewing.com

 

The Waikīkī location of Maui Brewing Co. has a monster 18,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor dining area with game areas, stages and more, but, unfortunately, it opens at 3:30 p.m. and the game starts two hours earlier. But if you’re just coming in from surfing Queen’s, hop over for the four TVs at the bar. With 6-foot distancing, that could mean you get your own private screen. 2300 Kalākaua Ave., (808) 843-BREW, mauibrewingco.com

 

 

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A better pick is the Kailua location, which has a comfortable open-air indoor/outdoor patio. “The TV will be playing the game outside and it will be also playing over the PA system inside,” says the manager who answered the phone. “We’ll have our advertised happy hour prices as long as the game is playing.” You can get your choice of Buffalo or huli glaze wings, plus nachos, calamari and fries, as well as The Holy Kale salad. That’s if you’re into emulating Tom Brady, who’s a notorious body-as-temple kind of guy; wouldn’t you like to be able to still order a pint of beer and a bucket of wings at age 43? Otherwise, the “chicken bacon ranch sando” ($16.95) with pepper jack and crispy onion and jalapenos sounds about right for us. 573 Kailua Road, Suite 105, Kailua (808) 518-BREW, mauibrewingco.com

 

“Due to COVID we can’t do what we normally do, a buffet,” says Russ, a manager at Rivals Lounge in Waikīkī. “We do have a $25 cover, reservation only, because we’re at half capacity, which is 35 seats. The cover goes toward your bill.” To quote from the menu, besides fries there are “tots, mozza (mozzarella sticks), wings in the style of Buffalo, Spicy Hawaiian BBQ, Salt & Pepper, or Plain.” (Can we say that we love the serial comma?) Wings are available in sets of six, 10, or 18 for $12 to $22. 2211 Kūhiō Ave., Waikīkī, (808) 923-0600, rivalslounge.com

 

 

About That Amanda

Finally, if you’re looking for a poetry recommendation that might accompany Amanda Gorman, may we suggest a robust yet pensive A.E. Houseman?

 

The time you won your town the race

We chaired you through the market-place;

Man and boy stood cheering by,

And home we brought you shoulder-high.

 

Today, the road all runners come,

Shoulder-high we bring you home,

And set you at your threshold down,

Townsman of a stiller town.

 

Smart lad, to slip betimes away

From field where glory does not stay

And early though the laurel grows

It withers quicker than the rose.

 

Eyes the shady night has shut

Will not see the record cut,

Silence sounds no worse than cheers

When earth has stopped the ears…

 

(From “To An Athlete Dying Young,” 1896)