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Hungry for Super Sunday? 6 Chicagoans dig in to their traditions

By Gwendolyn Purdom

For RedEye

11:30 AM CST, January 30, 2014

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Maybe it's your brother-in-law's spicy seven-layer dip or the intricate drinking game your friends concocted for whenever a commercial comes on-screen.

No matter which teams are involved, Super Bowl Sunday (or Friday or Monday this year if the weather keeps up) is steeped in tradition. And in this city, tradition means everything—especially for the Chicagoans who shared their Super rituals with us.

 

Stephen Bardo

Big Ten Network basketball analyst

Football may not be his sport, but former college hoops star Stephen Bardo makes watching the big game a priority—even when he and his Big Ten Network colleagues are on the road.

"I'm usually traveling so what we try to do is get a hotel room reserved," he said. "We've been in California, we've been in Michigan, we've been all over for the Super Bowl."

This year, Bardo and his colleagues likely will spend the day in Lincoln, Neb., where they plan to maintain their tradition of sporting the colors of the team they're cheering for (Bardo says he's leaning toward Seattle), ordering pizza and drinking Red Stripe.

"For guys like me who've been involved with sports my whole life, whether it was playing or on TV broadcasting, I'm a sports fan just like everybody else," he said. "We lose so much tradition as we get older, I always want to maintain that because it's fun."

 

Dionne Miller

Fox Chicago sports reporter

Super Bowl Sunday has always been a holiday at Dionne Miller's house.

"Not having plans on Super Bowl Sunday is like not having plans on Christmas," she said.

So Miller fills her home with friends and family for the game each year she doesn't have to work. On the menu? Anything Mexican.

"Something about chips and guac just says Super Bowl to me," she said.

But even a laid-back day of eating and socializing can't keep her reporter instincts from kicking in.

"After a big game like that I always think, 'what would I have done in that situation?' " Miller said. "What questions would I want to ask after?"

 

David Kaplan

WGN Radio and Comcast SportsNet host

The annual Super Bowl party David Kaplan and his wife throw started as a way to celebrate their oldest son's February birthday. But in the 15 years since, the bash has evolved to include about 20 guests, squares wagering, turkey chili, plenty of Lou Malnati's pizza and an indulgent spread of home-baked desserts.

"My wife's an insanely good cook," Kaplan said.

After the game, his guests often create a matchup of their own outside.

"Before we moved, there was a huge empty lot next to the house where we'd play football, so we'd pull three or four cars up to the edge and turn the headlights on so we could play in the dark," he said.

 

Marley Bellwood

Revel Global Events planner

How do you plan a party for a group of party planners? With their annual Super Bowl soiree, Marley Bellwood and her team at Revel Global Events are keenly aware of the pressure.

"It's a very industry-heavy party," she said. "You kind of have to bring the heat when you're entertaining the experts."

Since hosting their first Super Bowl party in 2008 when the company was composed of just a handful of event managers and clients, Revel has upped its game to an affair that drew more than 500 guests last year.

The party's theme traditionally reflects the city in which the game is played. Last year, when Baltimore defeated San Francisco in New Orleans, the company's event was voodoo-themed. This year, with a New York game, they'll celebrate Studio 54-style.

As for Bellwood's team of choice?

"I talk the entire party with all of our clients there," she said. "I never even know who's playing."

 

Howard Griffith

Big Ten Network football analyst

With two Super Bowl rings of his own, Howard Griffith knows a thing or two about the biggest game of the year. The former Denver fullback might switch up his routine this year to be there to watch his old team play in New York, but for the past five or six years, Griffith has celebrated the weekend in Las Vegas.

The group, made up of athletes and others with sports backgrounds, partakes in table games and clubs, Griffith says, but for him, spending time with friends and actually watching the game is the best part.

"The biggest thing is seeing who's going to be able to take advantage of the opportunity," he said. "It's never guaranteed that [a team will] be back so it's always fun to see who's able to accomplish the ultimate goal in that sport."

Even so, Griffith admits Sin City isn't always the best environment for watching every play.

"I like to keep an eye on what's happening [in the game], but it's tough to do in Vegas," he said. "I always seem to get distracted."

 

Jason Erkes

President, Chicago Sport & Social Club

Mixing a passion for sports and a passion for socializing is what Chicago Sport & Social Club and its thousands of young professional players are all about, so it's fitting that the company's president, Jason Erkes, applies a similar mentality to Super Bowl Sunday.

For the past six or seven years, Erkes said he's spent the day splitting his time between his company's annual bash for the first half and a party at a friend's place for the second.

"It's the game that matters," he said. "All the little games get you there, but this is the one that really counts."

This year, Chicago Sport & Social will celebrate at Fairways in Lincoln Park, where Erkes said he always expects an enthusiastic group.

"Typically people who play sports watch sports," he says. "And our people are big sports fans. It's usually a very energetic and passionate crowd."

His own passion is dedicated as much to the food as the football.

"The food that goes along with watching the Super Bowl is my favorite of the year, because when else can you be engulfed in chicken wings and mozzarella cheese sticks and pizza and all the dips that go with every kind of chip you can imagine without thinking about it?" he said.

Gwen Purdom is a RedEye special contributor.

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