Six Football-Free Alternatives to the Super Bowl

superbowl-alts2January is drawing to a close, which means football season is as well. For some, this is a bittersweet time, full of Super Bowl fervor followed by a hollowness that cannot be filled until the draft starts up in May (or at least until SportsCenter begins avidly discussing new prospects later in February). But for others, myself included, the Super Bowl is a time of dread. This year, with Super Bowl XLVIII coming to my city, I cannot be less enthusiastic about a bunch of burly men rolling around on some fake grass. And with a snowy polar vortex in full swing, I think we already have enough to worry about without traffic jams, crazed fans, and the “NFL Experience” taking over the New York metropolitan area.

If you’re like me and are trying to avoid the Super Bowl as best you possibly can, look no further — I have compiled a new list of enjoyable alternatives to the Big Game that will guarantee a football-free Sunday, just like any other between March and August.

  1. The First Annual Kitten Bowl 

    The Puppy Bowl will be played for its 10th year on Animal Planet, but the Hallmark Channel (my mother’s favorite!) is one-upping it with its first ever Kitten Bowl. Like Puppy Bowl, all the furry little competitors are from rescue shelters and are up for adoption. But unlike Puppy Bowl, they are, obviously, kittens. With celebrity guests like Hoda Kotb and Regis Philbin lined up to make appearances, this event is guaranteed to bring laughs, coos and tons of love to your day. Unless you are doggedly a dog person, or hate football so much you can’t even bear to watch cute kitties bat around a mini pigskin, Kitten Bowl, beginning at noon Super Bowl Sunday, is a perfect warm-up to the rest of your football-avoiding activities.

  2. Volunteer at an Animal Shelter

    Inspired by the overload of cuteness from the Kitten Bowl? Take that abundance of love and compassion right over to your local animal shelter! Not only is cuddling puppies and kittens the most effective way to forget that football ever existed, your volunteer help is a much needed service. On a day when many people have only Broncos and Seahawks on their minds, Super Bowl Sunday is a great time to get out and do some good. Contact your local shelter ahead of time to schedule a volunteer shift and prepare for an evening of tackles from adorable, abandoned animals who will be grateful for your attention and affection.

  3. Celebrate Groundhog Day

    This year, the Super Bowl happens to coincide with Groundhog Day. Though I’m sure plenty of folks are pegging superstitions about the weather onto the outcome of the Big Game, there is no replacement for the forecasting talents of Punxsutawney Phil. If you’ve never gone to the big ceremony at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, 2014 might be the perfect year to try out this quirky celebration (or a Groundhog Day celebration closer to home). So, if you live in or around the Pittsburgh area, or even within a few hours’ drive, check it out. There’s no guarantee that you won’t get stuck living the day over and over again until you stop being a selfish jerk, but chances are that’s just a movie.

  4. Discover the Beauty of Real Football

    Though the hysteria surrounding the Super Bowl may give the impression that football is the most important sport in the world, the fact remains that soccer is by far the most popular sport in the world. While it is largely disregarded, or even actively disliked, by Americans, soccer is actually a beautiful game, played with grace, finesse and subtle skill that football, with all its brutality, can never achieve. NBC has just this season begun showing British Premier League matches, which you can view live on Saturday and Sunday mornings. This Super Bowl Sunday, watch the #1 ranked Arsenal take on newcomers Crystal Palace, or fan favorites Liverpool (ranked #4) play West Bromwich Albion. Then, after you have surely become addicted to soccer, take the afternoon to catch up on past matches online.

  5. Plan Some “Me” Time

    Super Bowl festivities are all about getting together with friends, cheering on a team, and generally hopping on board with a collective sports-centered mindset. For the football-averse, this can be the worst part — all that camaraderie over something you’d really rather ignore. So why not ignore it? Make this Super Bowl Sunday a day to focus on you and get away from all the hype. Plan a mini-retreat for the afternoon and do the bit of spiritual catching-up you’ve been putting off, with whatever suits your needs: take a hike in the woods; or plan to settle in with a book by (or about) one of the spiritual greats; go to the painting class you’ve always wanted to try; or listen to a symphony. This year, don’t let the frenzy and the parties and the noise get the best of you — let you get the best of you. Take charge of the day and turn it into something you want to experience, not something you dread.

  6. 2014 Winter Olympic Prep

    The coolest event in sports (literally) is starting next week: the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. If you’re like me and can’t get enough of the Olympics, use your free Super Bowl Sunday time to review your old favorites and learn about some of the new events. All of them are definitely more interesting than football. Even curling. And stay tuned for Busted Halo’s Spiritual Olympics — coming later in February.

What alternatives to the Super Bowl would you suggest?