I’ve been playing a concurrent game to the Super Bowl for about 15 years: I try to see how long I can go without learning who won. It started as an experiment, then became more of an active quest, a challenge to the information landscape and the disproportionate coverage given to sports. The longer I can go without learning who won, the better I’ve gotten at tuning it all out.
With Minneapolis as the host city, this year will be particularly challenging. Will I have to avoid local news indefinitely? Will it be silent in every Lyft ride home from now on? Preparations have dominated local news coverage these past few months in a media market that prizes sports above all else. (How many local news broadcasts have high school hockey championships as the lead story of the night? Many.)
Over the seasons, I’ve noticed that the ease of staying in the dark goes up and down, and I adapt my information intake using this timeline.
During the game
No TV, no internet, no social media. An early blowout will affect my perception of who won, and the purest expression of this quest is complete ignorance. I don’t even watch the halftime show. If Beyonce performed, I’ll check out clips after I’ve lost for the year.
No social media of any kind. Odds are that a high school classmate lives in the winning or losing city, and despite not hearing any news from them in years, tonight might be the night that they grace us with their particular hot take on the outcome. I also don’t check my email or texts; one year a college friend drunkenly blasted all of his contacts with “New Orleans won, motherfuckers” despite him knowing about my annual experiment. Rookie mistake on my part.
The day after the game is the most dangerous of all days. The outcome will be on newspaper headlines, the nightly news, and public radio. However, it will have mostly dropped off social media, thankfully. The largest hurdle will be co-workers, especially in an office environment where weather and sports are the small-talk currency of the land. Back when I worked in a traditional office setting, I had it spoiled in elevators, during meetings, and in the restroom. There were a few years when I contemplated calling in sick.
Surprisingly, this is one of the easiest days of the whole process. Everyone has chimed in on social media and IRL. The game is no longer “news.” Unless something scandalous happened during game play or onstage at half time it has exhausted all of its narrative energy. I usually ease off from my vigilance and resume checking social media and other sources. Every year, I’m shocked at how quickly no one cares who won the game.
This is the second-most dangerous day, because it contains coverage of the winning city’s celebration parade from the day before. Photos of said parade will reveal the outcome, so I avoid newspaper websites and avoid physical newspapers at bus stops or on the street.
Thursday and Friday
Now we're over the most difficult part. I can resume my usual news and social media habits, though I remain careful not to auto-download any news podcasts that might contain mention of the Super Bowl. If I’m listening to a comedy or interview podcast, I have to gauge the likelihood that their guest cares about sports, even in a joking, offhand reference.
Difficult day, for a very silly reason: I remain a lifelong, unapologetic fan of Saturday Night Live. And usually the first show after the game will feature jokes about it as well as awkward appearances by the winning players. If I haven’t been spoiled on the game’s outcome by Saturday, I either skip it completely or ask my husband to watch it first then help me skip over any references.
Another easy day: All I have to do is pass on watching the political talk shows and CBS Sunday Morning, which are all great and helpful, but I can afford to miss them for one week a year.
Weeks after the game
I can relax almost completely. The biggest danger is if there was a scandal during the game, it might pop up as a joke/reference on Colbert, Meyers, Bee, or other late-night shows.
Months after the game
This is usually pretty easy to navigate. The biggest problem is reruns of SNL or other topical shows. One year, in late August, I wasn’t paying attention and a re-posted Daily Show video snuck up out of nowhere and ruined me.
After that point, I’m in the clear... until the next year’s game when it all begins again.