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How to play in the Big Game: The Super Bowl is coming (almost) to town

A 49ers fan from North Beach meets his hero, Ronnie Lott; everyone else can meet him Jan. 26 in Santa Clara. photo: Mullethair

Super Bowl 50 will take place down in Santa Clara, and the 49ers are highly unlikely to be on the field for the game, unless they’re singing and dancing during the half-time show. But the festivities of the week preceding the ultimate football excess will take place here in San Francisco. Along with 5,000 journalists, there will be tens of thousands of visitors to San Francisco and the local environs, putting this golden city in high-definition across the country.

Locals, too, can take part. The local organizers have teamed up with national league officials to entertain football fans of all stripes — even ones still smarting over their football team moving to the suburbs. Here are the highlights of the month leading up to Super Bowl 50.

FREE FAMILY STUFF

Super Bowl City is a free fan village based in Justin Herman Plaza downtown. It is designed to be fun for people of all ages and family appropriate. (See Liz Farrell’s report on family-friendly Super Bowl activities on page 19.) Interactive games, food, and more will help locals and out-of-town guests celebrate the 50th Super Bowl, and NFL Network and CBS will be broadcasting live from Super Bowl City (sfbaysuperbowl.com).

NFL IMMERSION EXPERIENCE

Show me a football fan, and I’ll show you someone who probably has dreamed of playing in the NFL since he or she was a child. They can get a taste of that at the NFL Experience (Saturday, Jan. 30 through Sunday, Feb. 7, Moscone Center). For an entry fee of $25 for children and $35 for adults, fans will be able to try kicking a field goal, learn a lot of history of the game, get their photo taken with the Vince Lombardi Trophy, set the youngest loose in the Play 60 Zone, and spend even more money at the NFL shop (superbowl.com and ticketmaster.com).

For many people, football cuisine is associated with hot dogs, expensive beers, and nachos. If they’re lucky, they might have experienced some great barbecue at a tailgate party. But Michael Mina is seeking to change that by teaming up with the NFL and the NFL Foundation for On the Fifty: A Charitable Dining Experience (Monday–Sunday, Feb. 1–7, for lunch and dinner service, RN74, 301 Mission Street, San Francisco). The menu will feature RN74’s lineup, with added football touches. Guests will be able to bid on NFL memorabilia and packages, including a VIP experience at the Super Bowl itself; proceeds support NFL Foundation’s charities (415-543-7474, michaelmina.net/restaurants/san-francisco-bay-area/rn74/).

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to participate in a Super Bowl, you can hear from some University of the Pacific alums who have done just that at Presidio Dialogues (Thursday, Jan. 28, 6–7 p.m., Presideio Officers’ Club; eventbrite.com).

If you are up for a bit of a drive or Caltrain ride, former 49ers head coach George Seifert, Hall of Fame 49er cornerback Ronnie Lott, and other speakers will take part in a program of the Institute of Sports Law and Ethics (Tuesday, Jan. 26, 9 a.m., Santa Clara University, the Leavey Center, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara). They’ll talk about the contributions made by sports to leadership, life skills, ethics, and values. (sfbaysuperbowl.com).

Almost lost amid all of the hype and player storyline dramas that will fill the national media leading up to the big game is the fact that the Super Bowl is an athletic competition. So you can get into the true spirit by kicking off your involvement with the Run the Road to Super Bowl 50 (Sunday, Jan. 10, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara). This will include a 10K, 5K, and Kids Run, with registration prices of $20–$75; the earlier you sign up, the cheaper it is (runsb50.com).

Also worth the trip is Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame exhibit (Monday–Sunday, Jan. 18–Feb. 7, Triton Museum of Art, 1505 Warburton, Santa Clara). In this free exhibit, learn about the birth of the NFL and how the game evolved, famous moments from the past, great players including Joe Montana and Bart Starr, dynasties, football’s interaction with social trends in the country, and more, many in interactive features. (tritonmuseum.org)

PARTY ON, GARTH

Political commentator George Will once quipped that baseball is what America likes to think it is, and football is what it really is. Will, of course, is a well-known baseball aficionado, so he is biased. But football — and in particular the National Football League and its annual celebration of excess in February — also serves as an excuse to indulge in America’s other great pastime: partying.

Just as the Vanity Fair party is a highlight of the Academy Awards postprogram events, so have Rolling Stone and Playboy magazines made the Super Bowl their Party Central.

Music and culture magazine Rolling Stone was founded in San Francisco, before it headed off to the tempting bright lights of New York. The magazine will toast the NFL championship game with a Saturday, Feb. 6 party at the San Francisco Design Center’s The Galleria. The tickets, which start at a paltry $1,400 and rise to $23,000 for a table of 10, will get you into the party with football celebrities, performances, five-hour open bar, and more (brandedconciergeservices.com).

Playboy is known for holding a big celebrity-filled party the Friday of Super Bowl weekend. We’ve never been invited, but we know there are lots of big-name athletes, bunnies, and probably really good food and drink. If you get to go to the party, might we suggest you ask Hef to explain the influence of Martin Heidegger on philosopher Jean Paul Sartre as described in Sartre’s 1965 Playboy Interview. Then hit the buffet (Friday, Feb. 5, 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., San Francisco location TBA, supersundayhq.com).

You can of course ignore the paparazzi and the bunnies and hold your own Super Bowl party, inviting only the people you want and treating them all to the big game on your widescreen television.

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