Marc Horton and his wife Alicia pose in this 2020 handout photo. Marc Horton’s annual Super Bowl parties are usually epic, day-long events, garnering so much attention, the host says, that he had to create a waitlist for those eager to enjoy the festivities in the future. This year’s soiree in Keswick, Ont., will be exclusive to Horton and his wife Alicia however, as wild winter spread of COVID-19 meant cancelling the big bash. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Marc Horton

Marc Horton and his wife Alicia pose in this 2020 handout photo. Marc Horton’s annual Super Bowl parties are usually epic, day-long events, garnering so much attention, the host says, that he had to create a waitlist for those eager to enjoy the festivities in the future. This year’s soiree in Keswick, Ont., will be exclusive to Horton and his wife Alicia however, as wild winter spread of COVID-19 meant cancelling the big bash. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Marc Horton

Solo Bowl: Canadians ditching NFL championship parties amid COVID spread

Some are moving their get-togethers to virtual platforms, while others will simply watch alone

Marc Horton’s annual Super Bowl parties are usually epic, day-long events, garnering so much attention, the host says, that he had to create a waitlist for those eager to enjoy the festivities in the future.

This year’s soiree in Keswick, Ont., will be exclusive to Horton and his wife Alicia however, as wild winter spread of COVID-19 meant cancelling the big bash.

In years past, Horton’s hoopla — nicknamed the “Stuper Bowl” — included as many as 50 invitees.

The day would begin with a series of football games played at a nearby field, complete with a trophy presentation to the winning team, followed by a poker tournament at Horton’s house. Guests would then flop down in front of several TV’s and a championship-calibre food spread to watch the big game.

Horton’s parties marked a day of competition and greasy culinary indulgence like no other in the calendar year, but it was also an opportunity to catch up with old friends.

“A lot of them I went to high school with, and we see each other once a year at this event,” he said. “So it’s pretty depressing that it can’t happen this year.”

Indoor gatherings are banned across much of the country in efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, which has accelerated in recent months.

Horton, who’ll be cheering for the Kansas City Chiefs over the host Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, is one of many football fans altering Super Bowl traditions as Canada deals with a dire second wave.

Some are moving their get-togethers to virtual platforms, while others will simply watch alone.

Catherine Sabiston, a kinesiology professor at the University of Toronto and a Canada Research Chair in physical activity and mental health, says it can be hard to infuse authenticity into an online event, and it’s normal to feel something’s missing when experiencing a big game solo.

Whether it’s watching sports at a bar with close friends or in a stadium with thousands of strangers, Sabiston says the “sense of collective identity” we get from fandom has been largely lacking over the last 11 months.

“Sports make you feel like you’re a member of something, and tied to that are emotions specific to togetherness,” she said. “You think like others, you feel like others, there’s others around you in that collective environment.

“But the social element is gone, or at least very limited these days.”

That feeling can hit harder now almost a year into the pandemic, Sabiston says, especially for an event like the Super Bowl. And that can ring true whether they’re football fans or not.

Horton estimates 40 per cent of his usual guests don’t care about touchdowns or field goals, but they attend his shindigs for the social aspect, including friendly wagers on random outcomes from the coin flip to the final score.

The food, including Super Bowl staples like chili, nachos and chicken wings, is also a big draw.

Brenda Andress, an expert in sports and business leadership, says food has become an integral part of the Super Bowl by design, as the NFL has marketed its championship game in a way that mimics holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Bars and restaurants get on board too, she added. While closed to indoor dining, some establishments are tweaking their takeout menus to offer football-themed packages.

The Super Bowl itself is appealing for a number of reasons too, Andress says, including its strategic placement on the calendar — in the dead of winter when nothing is going on, and when people are itching to escape cold-weather doldrums with a social affair.

The simplicity and excitement of a one-and-done title game, rather than a stretched-out series, entices many non-sports fans. And elaborate halftime shows, which this year will feature Canadian artist The Weeknd, draw in others.

“The NFL has created this niche where their entertainment rocket can accelerate,” said Andress, who’s also the president and founder of the SheIS organization aiming to bring more attention to women’s sports.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

“They’ve done an excellent job building around the game — the halftime show, tailgate parties, home parties, bar parties. They’ve created a marketing machine that everybody can buy into.”

While Andress says the collective social experience of sport fandom can be important for our mental health, a Super Bowl in lockdown might not be all bad.

It offers some an opportunity to start new game-day traditions by connecting with their own households in new ways.

“In some instances you’re creating a greater bond instead of just leaving the house to watch the game with other people,” she said.

Horton, who’s happy to hunker down with his wife and a few pounds of wings for an intimate game experience, is still disappointed to miss a crucial aspect of what Sunday night is supposed to be.

“Half the fun is experiencing it with a lot of people,” he said. “There’s that aspect of group camaraderie that just isn’t there this year.”

Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press

CoronavirusNFL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 80+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

Police have identified the vehicle involved in the Feb. 14 hit-and-run in Chemainus and are continuing to investigate. (Black Press Media files)
Police seize and identify suspect vehicle in fatal Chemainus hit-and-run

Investigation expected to be lengthy and involved

The Cowichan Women Against Violence Society is planning on opening a child and youth advocacy centre. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Child and youth advocacy centre eyed for Cowichan

Cowichan Women Against Violence Society hopes to open centre later this year

CVRD to apply for a grant to improve a 4.85-kilometre section of the Cowichan Valley Trail near Shawnigan Lake. (File photo)
CVRD looks to improve section of Cowichan Valley Trail

District applies for $250,000 grant to widen, upgrade 4.8-kilometre section in Shawnigan Lake

Cowichan Valley writer Jennifer Manuel will headlining YakFest on March 1. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Cowichan Valley writer to headline next YakFest on March 1

YakFest is a B.C.-based monthly women’s event held online via Zoom

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Churches, including Langley’s Riverside Calvary Church, are challenging the regulations barring them from holding in-person worship services during COVID-19. (Langley Advance Times file)
Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hills using a homemade trip camera. Vancouver Island is home to approximately 800 cougars, which makes up about a quarter of the total population in B.C. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hill using a homemade trip camera. Schroyen presents Animal Signs: The Essence of Animal Communication on Nov. 30. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Declining Vancouver Island cougar populations linked to wolves

Large carnivore specialist says human development still plays biggest role on cougar numbers

(Black Press file photo)
Child in critical condition, homicide investigators probe incident near Agassiz

The child was transported to hospital but is not expected to survive

Sewage plant in Lower Mainland, operated by Metro Vancouver. (Metro Vancouver screenshot)
‘Poop tracker’ launches as researchers test Lower Mainland sewage water for COVID-19

‘Studying the virus in wastewater allows researchers to look at an entire population…’

This poster, spreading misinformation regarding COVID-19 restrictions, has been popping up in communities across Vancouver Island.
UPDATED: Poster popping up in Island communities falsely claiming COVID restrictions are over

Unattributed poster claims COVID restrictions ended March 1; Island Health responds

(Pxhere)
Compensation fund opens for B.C. students negatively affected by incorrect exam marks

Marks for 2019 provincial exams were incorrectly tabulated

Most Read