By now, most people are at least vaguely aware that something culturally monumental is happening Sunday that will compel Americans to gather around television sets.
It's nothing important; just a football game. However, watching the Super Bowl does give viewers the chance to participate in several specific, unique human interactions usually not possible at the same time. Depriving yourself of the Super Bowl experience because of, say, a distaste for violence or an aversion to French onion sour cream dip also deprives you of these byproduct interactions.
Good thing I'm here to share with all of you football haters and agnostics a rundown of some of those experiences, and explain how you might replicate them without subjecting yourself to Sunday's Neanderthal spectacle pitting a collection of Boston-area millionaire athletes against another group from Los Angeles.
Here are 10 examples of what nonfans might miss by skipping the Super Bowl and how they might compensate.
1. TRIBAL IDENTIFICATION
Football fans: Something makes people want to align themselves with sports teams they have no real connection with — unless you count the team-licensed merchandise they're wearing. Yet, fans feel such a sense of belonging that many refer to their chosen team as "we."
Thirty of the National Football League's 32 teams are not playing in this game, but fans of the noncombatants typically make do and align themselves with one of the two participants, just for this occasion. In effect, they rent a tribe.
Indifferent others: Nonfans will, of course, have no interest in any of this cheering-for-your-team business, but many embrace some other sort of tribal affiliation in real life. Maybe it's a church, maybe it's an alma mater, maybe it's the Cactus and Succulent Society — each of which will surely have known better than to schedule a meeting on this particular Sunday afternoon. But that doesn't mean nonfans can't celebrate their non-football tribes with other nonfans. You tell me about the local chapter of HO-Gauge Train Buffs of America and I'll tell you about the Kern County Republican/Democratic Central Committee.
Or maybe we shouldn't go there today.
2. OPPORTUNTIES TO DEBATE
Football fans: What's more important to success? A high-motor edge rusher or an immovable nose tackle? Athleticism or game savvy? Bulk or speed? Football fans can and do argue about anything and everything pertaining to football in general and this game specifically. That's why sports talk radio exists.
Indifferent others: Nonfans can debate a much broader range of topics than football fans will be inclined to bother with. Does Robert Mueller really have anything substantive on President Trump? Could Scandinavian-style health care work here effectively? Is olive oil a suitable replacement for butter in red velvet cake? The possibilities are endless.
3. RAMPANT SPECULATION
Football fans: A close cousin to debate, speculation can involve anything from predicting the type of play Tom Brady will run next to forecasting the likelihood he will still be playing pro football at age 45. Nonfans couldn't care less how much longer Tom Brady plays or what he might choose to do on this third-and-4 from the Rams' 28-yard-line, but for real fans that kind of discussion puts the fun in the group football-watching experience.
Indifferent others: Nonfans might prefer to speculate on the possible consequences of another interest rate hike, the strength of the U.S. dollar internationally, the ramifications of unchecked climate change or the ingredients in Debbie's chicken enchiladas.
Football fans: Super Bowl Sunday gives Americans license to stuff themselves to the point of discomfort, chew a couple of antacids before bed, and wake up full of gas and regret. And many will.
Indifferent others: Nonfans have the option of overeating with better food in more civilized settings. Instead of jalapeño poppers and those cold-cut-and-cream-cheese roll-up things self-served on paper plates and balanced on laps, nonfans might want to enjoy a nice, rich lobster Alfredo somewhere with white tablecloths. Followed the next day by gas and regret.
Football fans: For those who still have functioning hamstrings and don't care about Maroon 5 or Big Boi, touch football in the street at halftime is a great tradition. Just have ice and antiseptic on hand in case someone hits the asphalt. Someone usually does.
Indifferent others: Nonfans might rather swim (heated) laps, walk the dog or yoga some chaturangas. Prefer doubles tennis? You should have your pick of the courts Sunday. Any of those pursuits should help you burn off that lobster Alfredo.
Football fans: The Super Bowl of football is also the Super Bowl of advertising. At some point a 2019 Dodge Ram will come rumbling across the screen like an M4 Sherman tank taking back North Africa, and some of us will imagine ourselves in the driver's seat. Do not undervalue this experience: Some years the ads are more entertaining than the game.
Indifferent others: Nonfans, untethered by rooting interests or gambling investments, are free to hit stores for actual consuming. Some retail stores may be offering Super Bowl specials — but then someone is having a sale every weekend, aren't they? If the big game weren't today, we'd be hearing about a Groundhog Day weekend sale somewhere.
7. ART APPRECIATION
Football fans: The art in this case is filmmaking within a 30-second framework. At some point, fans will informally nominate candidates for the title of best Super Bowl TV commercial. And since this is art, in a broad sense, the opinion of the guy in the wrinkled Vince Ferragamo jersey slumped near the keg is as valid as yours.
Indifferent others: How about some real art? The Bakersfield Museum of Art is closed Sundays, but the Kern County Museum is open till 4 and, for those a tad more adventurous, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is open until 7. While everyone back at the party is scoring car-insurance commercials for artistic merit, nonfans can be admiring the LACMA's ongoing exhibit, "West of Modernism: California Graphic Design, 1975-1995."
Football fans: People who gamble once a year, and once only, gamble on this day. The most popular game is "squares," in which players purchase unlabeled spaces drawn on a sheet of paper; later those spaces are assigned numbers that correspond to points scored in the actual football game. Brainless, inexpensive and 100 percent luck. Then there's the real gambling, which is a whole nother ballgame.
Indifferent others: Nonfans can go one of two ways here. They can cite principled opposition to wagering on coarse exhibitions of brutality and opt instead for a gambling-lite diversion like gin rummy. Or they can embrace the spirit of the day and participate in peripheral, non-football propositions along with everyone else: How long will it take Gladys Knight to sing the national anthem? What color Gatorade will players dump on the winning coach? How many times will Gisele Bundchen (Mrs. Tom Brady) appear in her luxury box during the broadcast?
Football fans: Whether casual fan or armchair general manager, we mortals are always fascinated with the girth of the front-line combatants. Wide shots that show the entire field of play don't really tell the story. It's when New England offensive tackle Trent Brown (6-foot-8, 380 pounds) is standing on the sideline next to a 160-pound news photographer that the reality sinks in: These are not normal men.
Indifferent others: Nonfans with no interest in gawking at 25-year-old behemoths covered in sweat, blood and yard-line chalk but still appreciative of the extremes of mammalian diversity might prefer this option: The California Living Museum on Alfred Harrell Highway. Visit CALM to see Cinnamon and Louie, the zoo's black bears — a species that can check in at upward of 550 pounds in the wild. Or visit the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, whose juvenile giraffe, Tsavo, is said to be adorable — and nearly 10 feet tall. Both zoos are open Sunday till 4.
Football fans: Beer is the beverage of choice for fans who are so inclined, case closed. The Super Bowl might inspire some to ratchet things up a notch with a boutique microbrew, but beer-drinkers' brand loyalty is strong. Plus, who doesn't love that new Bud Light ad campaign?
Indifferent others: Nonfans, I'll claim without evidence, are less likely to be beer drinkers than wine drinkers. February is more a red-wine month than a white-wine month, but, as that flyover of Air Force Thunderbirds should remind us, this is America, so choose your own grape. Find a quiet spot far from the yelling and grunting to properly savor it.
Imbibing fans and nonfans alike will want to make sure they have that ride-for-hire app on their phones or, better yet, a reliable designated driver.