Super Bowl 2022: Jemele Hill talks about getting into the party

Although the Super Bowl is the most-watched annual sporting event in America, the party scene is almost unreachable. During her 12-year tenure at ESPN, Jemele Hill has been able to take readers to the biggest packages of the NFL Championship game. Its lively, bouncy columns have become a must-read for football fans who can’t get past the velvet ropes.

“I created a very interesting business for myself: I would attend all the parties, give them, and then, at the end of the week, I would give a prize to the one with the best,” she said. “It was definitely one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done.”

The Los Angeles Times spoke with Hill about who gets in at these exclusive parties, how the landscape has changed over the past decade and why this year’s Los Angeles gatherings may be relatively silent. (This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

In a typical non-epidemic year, what does the Super Bowl party scene look like? Who attends these parties?

It’s all in the days leading up to the Super Bowl, not on the day. The party scene usually starts on a Wednesday, and with each night, the number of events each night increases steadily: a little more Thursday, a little more Friday. Saturday, the night before the Super Bowl, is the main party night. There are a large number of celebrities, former football players, and athletes who do not play in the Super Bowl who use parties as a way to promote the brands they represent. With a huge media presence, if you’re looking to promote or promote anything, the Super Bowl week is the perfect week to do just that.

What makes for a good Super Bowl party?

You’ve got to have a great performance, and that’s what DirecTV really made its mark. One year they had Kanye and Rihanna, another year they had Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z. They’re getting huge acts, top-notch artists. What’s also impressive about Super Bowl parties is that they generally get creative in places. At the Super Bowl in Tampa [in 2009]ESPN has set up a 22,000-square-foot tent in downtown Tampa for their Super Bowl party. I’m not saying this just because I worked there: It was one of the best Super Bowl parties I’ve ever been to. I remember very clearly that it was sponsored by Patrón, so you can imagine how much the drinks flowed in.

Some of the best parties I’ve been to don’t have an actual VIP section. This allows everyone to mingle and do what counts as fun party interactions with the people you’ve been watching for years. And you not only see how celebrities and athletes interact with each other, but also what their party personality looks like. Maybe you see someone you think is a huge wild party, and they are actually keeping to themselves. It gives you these fun slices of life that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to see. I will say, I have never had any kind of bad interaction at a party at all. They were usually very jovial.

How do non-famous people join these parties?

Unfortunately, events around the Super Bowl aren’t really designed for casual fans. Parties with tickets – You won’t experience being at a party with Diddy because he will likely be at the party where they only allow a certain number of people in. Party exclusivity is destroyed if you have to pay to enter true Exclusive parties, you don’t pay, you’re on the list. Super fans with big cash will surely still get this exclusive access because they will have some engagement on the business side; They will know someone at the sponsoring liquor company, or someone who does some favors at the party.

But while these parties aren’t necessarily for casual fans, one of the rules of my party is that the party is infinitely bigger if you sneak into it. Like, how I managed to get in is a story in itself. For years, Playboy has had the best party. The first Playboy party I went to, I totally snuck in because they wouldn’t give me access to the media. Then you sneak into any locked area of ​​the party: A friend of mine once snuck my VIP wristband, and I couldn’t get it back, so I strapped it together and quickly showed security and they let me in. The fact that I wasn’t supposed to be there made the party even better.

What are some of the most memorable things you’ve seen at these parties?

When Matt Casell, the former New England Patriots reserve quarterback, was at the ESPN Super Bowl party in Phoenix, I saw someone peeing on their shoe. And during the height of their rivalry, I saw Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens get into it. We were all in the same VIP area at a party and they definitely had a few words. People were wondering if the beef was real or not, and I can attest, the beef was actually real. You can also find out about goofy dancing celebrities, which is always fun. Like, “Wow, I really thought that beat Elle Manning more than that, but maybe not.” Oh, I remember accidentally hitting Regina King. That was very embarrassing.

What do you think people will talk about at parties this week? In your experience, are there any taboo topics?

I think that’s why sport in general is so tempting: we don’t do a lot of things in this country together. We are completely separated, whether it’s because of the economy, whether it’s because of race. And the great thing about the Super Bowl and a really good Super Bowl party is that once you’re all at the same party, those shared experiences and expectations about why you’re there become the things that bind you together. It’s like, “We’re all here, we’re all having a good time, we’re all thinking, How fast can I get a drink?” So, I don’t expect there to be a lot of talk about mutiny in the Super Bowl. It’s a very stressful time for a lot of people, so if the music is good and the alcohol flows, I think people just want to be happy and do something that will distract their minds from the fact that we’re in the middle of a deadly pandemic.

How can you say that the Super Bowl party scene has changed over time?

I think the scene is directly related to what is going on in the country. This was evident during the recession. There were a few years when the people who partyed usually didn’t, either because they couldn’t justify their expenses or because they felt like it was a bad look. Like, you’ve had a lot of people who were struggling financially and lost their homes, so what does it look like to see a brand you use throw a $3 million party? They were very aware of that. I think you’re going to get that this year with the pandemic: There are probably some brands that are afraid of how it looks like they’re throwing the party during the pandemic, especially since they know they can’t really guarantee a level of security.

From a social point of view, what often happens at a lot of these parties these days is that, surprisingly, there isn’t as much dancing as there was when I started going to these parties in the mid-2000s. Over time, I’ve seen the parties become product-based, and brands don’t really worry about how good the party is, because it was their chance to gain a foothold with a particular audience. One of the best parties is the Madden Bowl party – the games got so huge and the party became a way to capitalize on that. But it’s based on watching people play video games. That’s not really what you want at a party.

How do you think the location of the Super Bowl in Los Angeles will affect these parties?

The biggest benefit is the weather, because people love a warm Super Bowl. But being in a city with warm weather doesn’t always guarantee that it will be great there; The only thing people still complain about is the Jacksonville Super Bowl [in 2005] Because the setting was not good. This is an equally important challenge this year, because Los Angeles is a big city. I’ve found that Super Bowls work best when they mostly happen in one area where people can walk from one party to the next: New Orleans, Miami, and St. Louis.

It’s really hard to do that in Los Angeles because you have so many different areas. The Super Bowl is in Inglewood, but there will likely be parties in Downtown LA and West Hollywood, so people will spread out. This means that people will have to make executive decisions about which parties are worth going to.

Much of that may be determined by location – if I know three or four parties are in the same five to seven mile radius, I’m more likely to attend because I can get to multiple parties. So these brands and sponsors will try to do a solid job of making a fuss about who’s supposed to be at their party. But there may be some great parties that may not get the allure you might not otherwise have because Los Angeles is so huge. It will be interesting to see how different it is with the pandemic.

What are your Super Bowl plans?

I’m the OG in this game, I’ve been there and done it. I’ll be very strategic and try to limit that to a Friday, maybe a Saturday, and then that might be. There are a few things I would go for, but mostly it doesn’t work for me, it’s for my husband who has never had a Super Bowl. Unfortunately for him, he took her out of her age. I wish I could come back to it when I was going to five or six parties a night. But he’s not going to get that version, he’s going to get the seasoned version.

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