Preparing For NFL’s Championship Sunday

If you’re looking for game predictions, you’ve come to the wrong place I’ll include them at the end of this blog. If you’re not a fan of one of the four remaining teams, today is more about food, beer, gambling and watching fans of teams you hate suffer through the agony of defeat.

Image result for buffet gif

I’m not gonna lie. I’m a little rattled by the weird start times. Here in the Eastern Timezone, we’re used to NFL games kicking off at 1pm and 4pm. Today we’re stuck watching games at 3:05 and 6:40pm EST. What is this? A fucking high school class schedule? Weird start times are for the birds and I’m not really too happy with the NFL for what it’s doing to me. If I’ve ever been traveling or on vacation during football season, the idea of starting football at different times always throws me off. I don’t hate the idea of a noon kickoff, but that’s for college. People in the Central Timezone love it, but they also have to suffer through 11am college football games just to get the noon NFL kickoffs. I also like having football on until the moment I fall asleep and starting the whole process an hour earlier into the day would put that in jeopardy. That’s probably enough about the NFL’s scheduling boner. We all know they were in the wrong, but we’ll never get them to admit it.

Championship Sunday is a very important day. As a Cincinnati fan, its not stressful because our team is playing in it with a chance for the Super Bowl. It’s stressful because you feel like you need to pack a million things into a two-game window without ruining your Monday in the cubes (if it’s even possible to ruin a Monday beyond what the cube life already does). How does one fit everything that is great about football season into one last Sunday afternoon? You could argue the Super Bowl would be your final opportunity, but we all know Super Bowl Sunday is more about the parties and an “event” rather than sitting around and watching football all day in sweatpants.

I’m not saying it’s perfect, but here’s the plan that has always worked for me.

Preparation Is Key

No good coach goes into a big game unprepared (unless your name is Marvin Lewis) and neither should you. You’re the head coach of yourself today and you’re only going to be as good as your game plan. There’s no such thing as unexpectedly over-performing on Championship Sunday, so don’t think this gonna be like the ACTs where you showed up with zero prep time and manage a score good enough to get yourself into a state school. That’s not happening today. Today is about preparation, which is why the shopping must be done on Friday or early Saturday morning. All week long you should’ve been thinking about what you wanted on Sunday’s menu. Me? I usually do the same thing every Sunday, but we’re not all blessed with lives that allow you to be a fucking bum from 1-11:30pm. Today is the day for the less-fortunate football fans. If you can’t talk your way into a lazy Sunday for the final two games of the NFL season before the Super Bowl, then maybe you don’t deserve to be watching football in the first place.

The reason you do your shopping at least a full day in advance is because things always slip through the cracks. I’ve become a well-oiled football binge watching machine over the years and I still miss stuff, so the likelihood of you leaving some items off your list are almost a guarantee. Once you’ve set your menu and made three extra trips to Kroger between Friday and Saturday night, you should be ready for anything that comes your way as soon as you wake up Sunday.

Making the Chili

Even though it’s the last thing you’ll have on your buffet for the day (errrah errrrah my rhymes is tight), you need to start the chili the second you wake up so it has time to bring out the full flavors in everything and make your house smell amazing. Plus, there’s a bonus to cooking the chili. You see, if you’re cooking anything that has alcohol in the recipe, then it’s fair game to drink some of that alcohol while you’re in the process of preparing the meal. Don’t want to be shamed for that 7am beer? Start making your chili. Everyone has their own chili recipe that is their go-to, and over the years we’ve fine tuned about a million different combinations of different recipes that we’ve tried. Here’s what I’d recommend:

  • 2lbs ground beef (or 1lb ground beef, 1lb sweet Italian pork sausage). Don’t be a moron, cook the meat before you put it in the Crock-Pot. 
  • 28oz can of Dei Fratelli Crushed Tomatoes
  • 14.5oz can of Hunt’s Diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes
  • (2) 15oz cans of tri-bean blend. If you cant find tri-beans, use one can of black beans and one can of kidney beans
  • 1 packet (1.25oz) of McCormick Chili Seasoning Mix
  • 1/2 packet of Cincinnati style chili seasoning mix
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 1 habanero pepper
  • 2-3 cloves of fresh garlic
  • 12oz Miller Lite
  • 8oz brewed black coffee

Once that is cooking and you’ve finished your breakfast beer, it’s time for you to realize you forgot something else. Good thing you haven’t had that second beer yet. Once you realize that you forgot either shredded cheese, sour cream or tortilla chips, throw on your jacket and get to Kroger before the post-church crowd fills the self checkout lines with items they can’t figure out how to scan.

While you’re there, pick up a 12-pack of your favorite pop (or soda if you wanna be weird and call it that). You might as well pick up something for your spouse/significant other and kid(s) if you have them. Both of these will come into play later.

Buying Your Freedom

When you return from the grocery store, it’s time to present your gifts.

Oh, hey honey. Look at what I grabbed while I was at the store for you and the kid. Wow, you’re right. I am really thoughtful, aren’t I?

If you’re lucky like I am and married someone who is just as into the Sunday football routine as I am, then this isn’t as big of a deal. But if you married a guy or gal that doesn’t get the importance of sports and the 24/7 cycle of heartbreak and highs that we do, then this step is more important for you to remember.

You’re going to want to pick a chore or task that isn’t that time consuming but the other person HATES doing. I’m talking stuff like loading/unloading the dishwasher, picking up dog shit in the back yard, vacuuming the stairs. Literally anything you can think of that will make you look like a person who is committed to keeping the house in order despite your plan to melt into the couch as a fat blob for the rest of the day.

The Final Grocery Store Trip

Now that you’re done putting away the dishes, it’s time to run back to the store. Your fat brain decided you were craving something else you didn’t already buy in your 17 previous trips. Mine is usually a bag of Skittles or Reese’s Cups. Sometimes cereal (Froot Loops with marshmallows). My fatness knows no bounds when it comes to random cravings. I’ve had pregnancy cravings for 10 years now and I don’t see an ending in sight. Maybe someday when they start removing toes I’ll find a way to have a little self control.

It’s very important to have tunnel vision when making this final trip. You are there for one thing and one thing only. Maybe two, three or four things if your cravings are all over the place. You need to get in and get out. By this point Kroger is roaring with everyone trying to do their grocery shopping for the week. That’s why you went once on Friday after work, three times on Saturday and twice again today. I hate waiting in grocery lines, especially when I’m a big self checkout guy. I don’t mean to take this thing off the rails, but shouldn’t we have to pass an IQ test before we’re given clearance to operate a self checkout kiosk? When you sign up for your Kroger Plus Card, why not have a series of questions or test run to prove you’re capable of scanning items, hitting “pay” and swiping your credit card? It’s not a hard process, but somehow people still manage to fuck it up every single day.

Once you’ve paid for your Skittles after watching a lady in her mid-60s get tangled in a web of scanning items while making sure every price rang up correctly for 19 minutes, say goodbye to the Kroger staff. This is the last time you’ll see them until next Friday.

The Drive Home

It’s already a little after lunch time, but not quite game time. This is actually my personal hell. I hate breaking into the chili and other football foods during the pregame. Lucky for us, there’s a Skyline Chili, Taco Bell, Wendy’s and McDonald’s along the drive home. You can take your pick, but I know which one I’m going with. Four cheese coneys, please. 

This is where a tough decision comes. You’d think the decision on which of the four drive-thrus to hit was the tough decision, but it wasn’t. Now you have to decide if you’re going to have the shame of walking back into a house full of food with a bag of fast food or if you’re going to eat your food on the way home. There’s really no wrong answer here. I’ve done them both and have found success each way. Just remember to get a drink if you’re planning on eating on the way home. There’s no point in choking just so you don’t look like a total fat ass in front of your family.

It’s Game Time

This is what the entire weekend has been about. We’ve been building to this moment, and despite the odds and dozens of trips to the grocery store, we’re finally here. Now it’s time to eat.

The first bowl of chili is always the best. Not only because you’ve been smelling it all day, but because it’s also accompanied by your second (first that the family knows about) beer of the day. Is there a better feeling than cracking open a fresh Miller Lite as soon as you dip your spoon into a massive bowl of chili topped with cheese and sour cream? There actually might be, but I have a very short memory and when food is in play, it’s hard to get me to think that in depth. Now that you’re giving your body the nutrients it needs, your brain can spend the next hour overreacting to the first half and deeming any bet you made or predictions you had the worst decision of your life.

The Rest of the Day

For the remainder of the day, you can do as you please. You’ve earned the right to eat and drink at the pace of your choosing. Personally, I can tell you what I do.

Remember that grocery trip? Not that one. The other one where you went back for the thing you forgot on the one prior. Yeah, that one. Well on that trip, you picked up some more game day essentials. We’re talking chips and dip. I am a very big fan of french onion dip. I could eat it all day long if I didn’t mind becoming best friends with a cardiologist some day. You’re gonna be so happy with yourself for forgetting one of the peppers on your earlier trip when you come home with chips and dip. Chili is amazing, but sometimes you need to switch things up throughout the early game. The chili will still be there for you in the late game. There’s no sense in burning yourself out during the first game of the afternoon.

One of the keys to making this day successful is staying awake. Naps are fine during the regular season when you’re sitting through multiple games on throughout the day, but this is the final weekend of the season with more than one game. A nap might sound good in the moment, but you’re gonna hate yourself in July when you think about the football you missed in January. That’s why I had you pick up a 12-pack of pop earlier. I usually go with the gold standard, Coca-Cola but I’ve been known to shake it up a time or two with Mountain Dew or Wild Cherry Pepsi. You’re gonna want to keep these cold and ready to be cracked open at a moment’s notice. Non-stop beer throughout the day could lead to a nap, and we can’t have that today. A change of pace back is needed for every well-oiled offense, and that’s what you have in your cans of Coke.

Postgame

Since you stayed caffeinated and never got too drunk, it’s time to bask in all of your glory. Not only did you make it, but now you get to see two fan bases completely meltdown on Twitter. This is even better if you’re watching the fan base of a hated rival go down in flames right before your very eyes. Unfortunately for me, I don’t have that aspect of the equation today, but I’m still thinking with a few of the teams in play, the evening could be an eventful one if the right franchises get sent home. Throw back a few more Cokes or Mountain Dews and mix in a water. Tomorrow you will thank today you for that. If you decide to end the night on a few beers, you’re still not going to get drunk but the collective hangover from a day’s worth of junk food and beer might kill you. The worst thing on earth is being hungover without the prior joy of being drunk. At least when you’re hungover you can look back on the good times. In this instance, you’ll just be hungover and continuously ask yourself why you didn’t get drunker.

So there you have it. That’s the best way to handle NFL’s Championship Sunday. Its pretty much exactly how I handle every football Sunday, which probably explains why I’ve never gone through an entire season without packing on a few pounds.

If you have any suggestions or tricks of the trade that you use and would like to share, let me know on Twitter.

Predictions

New Orleans Saints 31, Los Angeles Rams 27

Kansas City Chiefs 28, New England Patriots 23

Holy shit, I just realized all four remaining teams have two-word city names. I wonder if that’s ever happened before.

 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to run to the store before kickoff. I just realized I forgot something.

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