Before you settle in for the Bucs game at the Saints this afternoon, here's a point to ponder about the NFL season: One hundred forty-six days until Super Bowl XLIII hits Tampa. That's less than five months until Tampa — not Vegas, not Miami, not New York or L.A. — becomes the center of the sports and celebrity universe. One hundred forty-six days until the streets of Tampa Bay are flooded with big-name athletes, movie stars, rock stars and Playboy bunnies. (We're also told that there will be a game of some sort — not that anyone outside of One Buc Place cares about that.) So as the NFL season gets under way this weekend, we're looking ahead — way, way ahead — to Super Bowl week and some of the more entertainment-oriented events surrounding it. What can Tampa Bay residents expect to see when the Big Game hits the Big Guava on Feb. 1, 2009? Here's a preview, compiled by the party countdown staff at tbt*. (It'll be checking in every Friday about what's new, so find a copy at your favorite location.)
Where can I scope out the teams?
The AFC team is staying at the Intercontinental Hotel at Kennedy and West Shore boulevards in Tampa. The NFC team — that is, if the Bucs don't make it — will stay at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on the Tampa side of the Courtney Campbell Parkway. The Marriott Waterside in downtown Tampa is the NFL headquarters. Stalk accordingly.
Who's throwing the biggest Super Bowl parties?
The two biggest party players each year are Maxim and Playboy, though in recent years ESPN the Magazine has thrown a super-exclusive VIP party of its own. Sports Illustrated and Penthouse also throw exclusive parties. And earlier this year in Arizona, the Victoria's Secret party may have been the hottest of them all. Other parties to watch: the annual "Leather and Laces" party and a bash called "Vice the Party," organized by former Maxim party honcho Dan Parente.
How can I get into a party?
Take out a loan. Brokers were selling tickets to the most recent Maxim party for as high as $3,200, according to superbowlpartyhq.com. Tickets to the Playboy party started at $2,000, and skyrocketed from there. If you can't afford that, try one of the dozens of other parties hosted by celebrities and athletes. Bucs, Rays and even Yankees players could host their own events, and you could snag a ticket for $150 or less, especially closer to the event. But for Friday and Saturday night parties featuring more than one recognizable celebrity, you're likely to shell out $500 or more. If you've got the cash, search Craigslist, eBay or StubHub during the week leading up to the game.
What are some cool events going on?
Well, there are rumors floating around. We've heard the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino will host either the Maxim party or the Playboy party. We've heard Lil Wayne may be at Club Underground. But the truth is, few events are set in stone. This is partially because most contracts have yet to be finalized, and it's partially because party organizers want to maximize the amount of publicity generated by their event. In November or December, you'll get hit with a sudden glut of Super Bowl party info.
Who will play at halftime?
No one knows yet. The New York Post suggested it might be Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. We're not convinced yet, but we are told Bruce was in talks to play at the last Big Game, before Tom Petty got the gig. Garth Brooks, Eagles and Bon Jovi were also in the mix then, and could be this year as well. Other artists to watch: AC/DC (they're launching a tour this fall and singer Brian Johnson lives on the Gulf Coast); Jimmy Buffett (the Florida angle is impossible to ignore); and Kenny Chesney (he's headlined RayJay in the past). Expect an announcement by December.
Contributing: Susan Thurston, Dalia Colon, Jay Cridlin, Janet Zink.