Super Bowl not so super this year

Season's biggest game can still turn a local buck

Sure, everybody wishes the Denver Broncos were playing in Sunday's Super Bowl, but that won't keep local fans from celebrating the season's biggest match.

Even with next week's match-up of far-flung teams -- the New England Patriots versus the Carolina Panthers -- the big game invariably means larger profits for area food and drink distributors, say local merchants.

In fact, it doesn't have to be Super Bowl Sunday for football fans to storm Craig's City Market in search of snacks, said store cashier Candeas Verplanck.

"If the Broncos are playing period, there's a crowd in here before the game," she said. "And (customers) let us know if they win."

During the season's football games and especially Bronco games, however, the store clears out, she said.

What do people buy?

"We sell lots of chips and dip," Verplanck said. "Deli shrimp ... everything goes for a Super Bowl party."

Store officials estimated deli sales increase by about a fourth in preparation for the big game day. That includes five-foot-long sub sandwiches and meat trays.

According to some rough estimates, Americans spend more than $50 million annually stocking up on Super Bowl weekend snack food. The Super Bowl is No. 1 in snack food consumption. Two years ago, more than 130 million Americans tuned into the game. They ate almost 15,000 tons of potato chips.

But those who watch the game at the OP bar in Craig may munch on spaghetti: All you can eat for free.

The free food is an enticement and a long-standing tradition to get fans in the door, said bar owner Delbert Knez.

Liquor sales have fluctuated during past Super Bowl games depending on which teams are playing and the intensity of the games, he said.

"The best Super Bowl ever would be a two-time overtime," he said, both for business and his own entertainment. "You don't want a runaway game. When it's a close game everybody gets tight in here."

Offering free food and raffling a television set, Knez estimates he'll probably break even after Sunday's big game. But the atmosphere, he promises, will be packed although the competing teams haven't generated an abundance of excitement for local fans.

After purchasing the bar in 1996, Knez's dream came true when he hosted back-to-back Bronco Super Bowl parties at the OP. The excitement those games produced was legendary and packed the bar with standing-room-only crowds, he said.

Knez expects a similar crowd on Sunday at the bar, which has 10 televisions, including one in each bathroom.

"It's a big weekend. We're pretty much known for being the Super Bowl bar," he said. "After the Super Bowl we'll be the soap opera bar."

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or by email at ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

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