Once again, the Super Bowl is right around the corner — and once again, the Denver Broncos are in it to win it. That's great news for football fans, but it's no so great if football isn't your thing and everyone around you cannot shut up about the big game for fifteen seconds. So what to do if you're a Denver geek (or Carolina geek, I suppose) and really don't care about the game, but football is everywhere and you kind of want to join in on some level, as long as it doesn't require you to actually watch any football? I've got you covered, because although I am a fan, there was a stretch of years when I wasn't, and I remember the pain. So here are five great, geeky ways to spend time Sunday doing footbally stuff with almost no actual football, while the rest of us are screaming at our televisions.
5. Blood Bowl
I think it's fair to say that many geeks' interest in football would be magnified if elves, orcs and trolls were out there duking it out on the gridiron. If that's you, guess what? You are not alone. The venerable Blood Bowl realized this concept for tabletop gamers almost thirty years ago, and while the game no longer looks to be in print or available for retail sale, there are plenty of resources online (start with this extensive wikipedia article), and if you prefer your gaming electronic rather than tabletop, there's even a recent Blood Bowl version you can play on anything from your Xbox to your tablet. That's fantasy football we can all believe in.
4. Mutant League Football
If you prefer to stick to a game that was conceived and executed solely in the electronic realm — or you just prefer science fiction to fantasy, despite the fact that it ruins all the good "fantasy football" jokes — there's always the classic Mutant League Football. This classic Sega Genesis game was built on the same game engine that powered Madden back in the day, so the football bits are pretty legit. On top of that, they layered in a few twists like land mines, electric shocks and murdering the refs (something all football fans can appreciate), while teams are made up of aliens, robots, skeletons and other suitably out-there competitors. You can dig out the ol' Genesis for this one, or if you have a PSP, you can play the relatively recent (circa 2006) port of it they released via EA Replay.
3. Any of these archaic handheld "football" games from the '70s and early '80s
If you were too old for Sega but still want some sweet, sweet video gaming nostalgia tied to football — but not tied too closely, right? — how about picking up one of these really, really old-school "video" games? Video's a stretch, since we're talking about a couple of LEDs and a hell of a lot of imagination, but for plenty of us old-timers, this was our introduction to portable gaming. You don't need to give a shit about football, any more than you have to follow tennis to enjoy Pong, since the game you're playing here has only a passing resemblance to anything you'd see on TV if you were to flip on the big game for some reason. It does help if you love rudimentary electronic bleeps and staring intently at flickering LEDs, though.
2. A little science-fiction football
Science fiction and football go together like ... uh, two things that aren't really related in any way, but people occasionally force together in some sort of unholy union. Ice cream and pickles, maybe? Anyway, it doesn't matter. What does matter is that science fiction has occasionally delved into the game, for better or for worse. It doesn't happen often and it doesn't always pay dividends, but if you wanted to do a football-themed sci-fi day, you could manage. I'd start with a viewing of Starship Troopers, for the scene above and because it is awesome. Then when you need to kill time for the rest of the game, read a few sci-fi short stories on the topic. My own favorite is Norman Spinrad's "The National Pastime" about a TV exec who comes up with an uber violent variation on the game that becomes a runaway hit. You Game of Thrones superfans could track down some of George R.R. Martin's work on the subject, I guess — this blog post outlines a couple of stories he wrote, one of which predicts that the last Super Bowl will take place in January 2016. Timely! Beyond that there's ... well, there's probably something else out there. You have a few days to seek it out. Let me know what you find.
1. Dungeons & Dragons
We've all heard it said: Fantasy football is just Dungeons & Dragons for jocks. I've gone on record disagreeing with that concept, but there's something to be said for fulfilling expectations, so screw it — why not roll up a few characters, grab your local Dungeon Master and spend the three or four hours of the Super Bowl delving into a dungeon for loot and XP? Yeah, it has basically nothing to do with football, apart from the dumb joke about fantasy football, but I'm sure your DM will put one of the goblins in a Manning jersey if it makes you happy. I mean, I would.